The buzz on deck coming into the first day of the 2012 Olympic swimming competition was the anticipated showdown between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the men’s 400m IM. The rest of the world reminded them in this morning’s prelims, however, that they were not the only two swimmers competing in this event.
They enter tonight’s finals of the as the third and eighth seeds, Lochte turning in a time of 4:12.35 and Phelps touching in 4:13.33. Japan’s Kosuke Hagino set the Asian continental record as the top seed in 4:10.01.
Phelps qualified for tonight’s finals by a narrow seven-hundredths of a second.
“When I saw the time, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a challenge,” Phelps said.
Here’s a look at what’s at stake in tonight’s finals:
- Phelps is the two-time reigning Olympic champion and world record-holder in this event.
- Lochte was the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and has won the 400 IM in every major international competition since the 2009 World Championships.
- Lochte and Phelps are the top two swimmers of all time in the 400 IM (4:03.84 and 4:06.08).
- If Phelps wins tonight’s finals, he becomes the first swimmer to win back-to-back-to-back Olympic titles in the same event.
- The last time an American swimmer did not win the 400m IM at an Olympics was 1992, when Hungary’s Tamas Darnyi took gold in 4:14.75.
- The last time an American swimmer did not win either Olympic gold or silver in this event was in 1984. In fact, there are only two times in Olympic history that American swimmers did not win either gold or silver in the 400 IM – in 1984 and at the boycotted 1980 games in Moscow.
So there you have it, in a nutshell. Can Lochte and Phelps pull it off and once again be the buzz on deck?
“We’re going to do everything we can to go 1-2,” Lochte said.
While all sights were focused on Lochte and Phelps Saturday morning, Team USA’s Dana Vollmer quietly made some noise, setting an American and Olympic record in the women’s 100m butterfly in 56.25. Teammate Claire Donahue made it into semifinals as the seventh seed in 58.06. The last time an American woman won this event at the Olympics was 1996.
Elizabeth Beisel cruised to the top seed of the women’s 400m IM, finishing about half-second off the American record in 4:31.68. Teammate Caitlin Leverenz snuck into tonight’s finals as the eight seed in 4:36.09.
It’s been a long dry spell for the American ladies in this event as well. The last American woman to win a gold medal in the 400 IM in Olympic competition was Janet Evans in 1988.
Peter Vanderkaay and Conor Dwyer put themselves in a good spot for tonight’s finals of the men’s 400m freestyle, qualifying second and third in 3:45.80 and 3:46.24. They will be swimming on either side of Chinese distance phenom and top seed Sun Yang in tonight’s race.
Both Brendan Hansen and Eric Shanteau advanced to the semifinals of the men’s 100m breaststroke as the 10th and 11th seeds in 59.93 and 59.96.
The women’s 4x100 freestyle relay (Lia Neal, Amanda Weir, Natalie Coughlin, Allison Schmitt) is the second seed for tonight’s finals of that event in 3:36.53. Their splits are as follows: Neal, 54.15 with an RT of .75; Weir, 54.37 with an RT of .48; Coughlin, 53.93 with an RT of .00; Schmitt, 54.08 with an RT of .29. The line-up for tonight’s relay will be released by the coaches by the start of tonight’s session.