By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, June 29. THE opening script for the first evening of finals at the United States Olympic Trials couldn't have been written any better. Battling side-by-side throughout the 400-meter individual, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte gave the crowd at the Qwest Center a show, with both men going under the world record.
In the end, it was Phelps who came out victorious, smashing his former global standard with an eye-popping time of 4:05.25. Lochte touched in second in 4:06.08, under the former world mark of 4:06.22. When they get to Beijing in August, it's pretty much a certainty that they'll mine gold and silver for the United States.
Phelps took the lead from the start, splitting 55.38 on the butterfly leg to the 56.87 effort of Lochte. Phelps maintained his edge during the backstroke leg, but Lochte slightly ate into the advantage as they touched in respective marks of 1:57.32 and 1:58.27. During the breaststroke leg is where Lochte made his biggest move, pulling to with .02 of Phelps after the third leg.
But, as has been the case so often during his career, Phelps turned put it in overdrive on the freestyle leg. With Lochte right with him, Phelps started to pull away on the final lap, driving through the water and amid the loud cheering of about 15,000 fans. Following the race, Phelps and Lochte showed one another clear appreciation for what was a phenomenal duel.
"That was one of the most painful races I've had," Phelps said. "Everything was left in the pool. I couldn't have done that without Lochte. He's a great friend and great competitor."
Lost in the epic battle was Robert Margalis' third-place finish of 4:13.85, an effort that held off fourth-place finisher Tyler Clary (4:14.13) and fifth-place finisher Alex Vanderkaay (4:16.14). The rest of the top eight included Dustin McLarty (4:18.90), Clark Burckle (4:19.24) and Jack Brown (4:22.89).
Phelps' previous world-record splits: 55.05, 1:58.18, 3:09.33 (36.03), 4:06.22.
Video Footage Removed Due to NBC Restrictions
Go to Swimming World's 2008 Olympics Landing Page for the most comprehensive coverage of the meet on the Internet.