U.S. Olympic Trials: Ryan Lochte Throws Down Gauntlet With Sterling Prelim Time to Lead Men’s 400 IM

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OMAHA, Nebraska, June 25. RYAN Lochte swam with a bit more effort in the morning than the rest of the big guns, looking to throw down the gauntlet early in the meet as he blitzed the final of 12 heats with a 4:10.66 to kick off the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Lochte, who has overtaken Michael Phelps as the best swimmer on the planet over the past two years, is looking to keep the moniker in the ever important Olympic year. Lochte's performance shot him to third in the world rankings this year behind only Kosuke Hagino (4:10.26) and Yuya Horihata (4:10.52), who posted their times in finals for Japan earlier this year.

Lochte's effort from prelims is just off Phelps' textile best at Trials of 4:08.41 posted in Long Beach in 2004, as Lochte is looking to knock off Phelps after taking second to him in 2008, 4:05.25 to 4:06.08.

Michael Phelps cruised to 4:14.72 in prelims of the distance medley in the first of the circle seeded heats. Phelps will be going for his third consecutive victory in the men's 400 IM at Trials after first winning with the biggest Trials margin of victory in 2004 over Erik Vendt (4:08.41 to 4:14.09), then besting Ryan Lochte, 4:05.25 to 4:06.08, in 2008. A threepeat at Trials is one of the few things Phelps does not have on his resume, even though he's likely to accomplish it in a few events to join Gary Hall Jr. as the only other man to do so. Janet Evans, Eleanor Holm and Mary T. Meagher are the three females to have accomplished the feat.

Should Phelps make the team in the distance medley on day one, it will set him up for a chance to become the first man to ever win three straight gold medals in an Olympic event with Kosuke Kitajima nipping on his heels looking for threepeats of his own in the 100 and 200 breast later in the schedule in London.

A victory in the men's 400 IM would also have another milestone attached, Phelps' 10th Trials triumph. He owns the record with nine career wins spread across 2004 and 2008, with former teammate Katie Hoff second with seven. But, an even 10 on the first day of competition in Omaha would be a nice addition to the legacy.

Meanwhile, Phelps also pulled NBAC training partner Chase Kalisz to a lifetime best out of heat 10 with a 4:15.78. That swim crushed his previous best of 4:16.86.

Tyler Clary, swimming for FAST, lead heat 11 with a 4:15.88 with no one pushing him throughout the heat. Clary, who finished a gut-wrenching third in the men's 200 back at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials to miss a spot on the roster, is looking for his first Olympic berth and has been lauded as the guy who could potentially breakup a Phelps-Lochte 1-2 lock in the event. Clary finished fourth in the 400 IM in 2008 behind Phelps, Lochte and Robert Margalis. Margalis, swimming in the same heat as Clary, finished well back in 4:19.33 to squeak into finals with the eighth seed.

The finalists:
Ryan Lochte — 4:10.66
Michael Phelps — 4:14.72
Chase Kalisz — 4:15.78 (lifetime best)
Tyler Clary — 4:15.88
Tyler Harris — 4:18.64
Michael Weiss — 4:19.05 (lifetime best)
Andrew Gemmell — 4:19.19
Robert Margalis — 4:19.33

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