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Lochte wins, Phelps fades at Olympics

July 28, 2012 at 5:32 PM   |   Comments

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LONDON, July 28 (UPI) -- The reign of Olympic gold medal record holder Michael Phelps was interrupted Saturday and China made its presence known as a potential world swimming power.

Ryan Lochte brought an end to Phelps' Olympic winning streak on the first day of swimming competition at the London Games, grabbing the gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley.

That was not a shock since Lochte defeated Phelps at the U.S. Olympic trials in the event. The fact that Phelps did not win a medal in the race, however, was stunning.

Phelps almost did not make it into the finals, qualifying in the eighth and last position during the morning heats. Although the 400 IM is far from Phelps' best race and is one he considered dropping from his Olympic program, the lackluster showing raised questions as to what might be expected of him during his other six competitions at the London Games.

Lochte's win came in the first race of the evening and Chinese swimmers then claimed two of the other three finals -- the women's 400-meter individual medley and the men's 400-meter freestyle.

China won one gold medal in swimming at the Beijing Olympics and now has doubled that total in just one day in London.

Lochte's victory was a one-sided one. He defeated silver medal winner Thiago Pereira of Brazil by 3.68 seconds, producing a gold-medal time of 4:05.18. Japan's Kosuke Hagino finished .34 of a second in front of Phelps for third.

Phelps' career medal total in three Olympics remained stuck at 16. He is two short of the all-time record held by Ukrainian gymnast Larysa Latynina, who set the mark 48 years ago while competing for the Soviet Union.

The Chinese wins in the pool Saturday were produced by 16-year-old Ye Shiwen with a world record time of 4:28.43 in the women's 400-meter individual medley and Sun Yang in the men's 400-meter freestyle.

American Elizabeth Beisel finished second to Ye and another Chinese swimmer, Li Xuanxu, wound up third.

The 400-meter freestyle had an odd twist when defending champion Taehwan Park of South Korea was disqualified for an apparent false start in the prelims. A look at replays showed Park did not move before the start of the race and he was reinstated for the finals, where he finished second to Sun. Peter Vanderkaay of the United States took the bronze.

Australia finished the program Saturday by winning the women's 400-meter freestyle relay, followed by the Netherlands and the United States.

American butterfly specialist Dana Vollmer hopes to win a gold in Sunday's final after dominating the heats and semifinals on Saturday. She will face two Chinese swimmers in the gold medal race.

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