Lochte Tops Phelps at U.S. Olympic Trials to Set Up London Duel

Ryan Lochte beat Michael Phelps in the final of the 400-meter individual medley at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, setting up another showdown between the Americans at the London Games next month.

Lochte finished in 4 minutes, 7.06 seconds in the opening final of the eight-day trials in Omaha, Nebraska. Phelps was second in 4:07.89 to earn the other Olympics berth.

“The biggest thing and hardest thing for us is coming to trials and making the team,” Phelps said in a televised interview. “This is just a baby step. Ryan knows this just like I do, the race that counts happens in a couple weeks.”

While Phelps, 26, captured a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the 27-year-old Lochte has received the American Swimmer of the Year award the past two years and won five golds at the 2011 world championships, including both of his events against Phelps.

“Ryan and I have had a lot of tough races with one another,” Phelps said. “We have a couple weeks to get ready for London and hopefully we can have another good one.”

Phelps, who won the 400m individual medley at the past two Olympics, said after the 2008 Games in Beijing that he may not swim the race again. Yesterday, he said he’ll definitely go for a third straight gold medal at the event in London.

Lochte took the bronze medal in the 400m individual medley in Beijing, where Phelps set a world record.

Clary Leads

In yesterday’s race, Lochte and Phelps trailed Tyler Clary at the midway point following the butterfly and backstroke legs. Lochte moved in front on the breaststroke element and maintained his lead on the finishing freestyle segment as Phelps pulled away from Clary, who was second to Lochte in the discipline at the past two world championships.

“The big picture is the U.S. trying to take over the world in a couple weeks,” Lochte said. “We have the two best swimmers right now and we’re going to go out there and show the world something.”

Phelps and Lochte will participate in other individual events at the trials in Omaha and may go head-to-head again in the 200m medley and 200m freestyle. Phelps will probably also race in the 100m and 200m butterfly and would be a member of three U.S. relay squads, which could give him the chance at winning another eight gold medals.

Peter Vanderkaay earned his third trip to the Olympics by winning the men’s 400m freestyle final in a time of 3:47.67. Conor Dwyer gained the second spot in London in 3:47.83.

Elizabeth Beisel, who was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic swim team in 2008 at age 15, won the women’s 400m individual medley in 4:31.74. Caitlin Leverenz was second in 4:34.48.

There are three finals scheduled for today: the women’s 100m butterfly, men’s 100m breaststroke and women’s 400m freestyle.