In a highly-anticipated swimming showdown in the men's 400-meter individual medley, American Ryan Lochte swam to the gold, but teammate Michael Phelps lagged behind and finished a disappointing fourth in the grueling race.
Lochte swam a superb race, finishing the first three legs at a world-record pace before slowing a bit to finish in 4:05.18, off Phelps' world-record time in the event of 4:03.84, set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Thiago Pereira of Brazil touched the wall in the silver-medal position at 4:08.86, while Japanese teenager Kosuke Hagino secured a surprising bronze medal with a clocking of 4:08.94.
Phelps registered a time of 4:09.24, one also considerably slower than his performance at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials earlier this summer. He seemed to labor throughout the race and surprisingly was not even able to summon the strength for a strong final freestyle leg to earn a spot on the medal podium.
After qualifying for five individual events, Phelps decided to drop the 200-meter freestyle from his schedule. However, he also seemed ambivalent about competing in the 400-meter individual medley, and it now appears that he should have skipped it, too.
Lochte's brilliant performance in their first head-to-head showdown in London makes him the overwhelming favorite to also defeat Phelps in the 200-meter individual medley. Lochte is the current world-record holder in the event, set in a time of 1:54.00 in 2011. His mark eclipsed Phelps' previous world standard of 1:54.23, established four years ago in Beijing.
Their probable rematch on August 2 will make for some serious drama for those in attendance, as well as for millions of viewers around the world. Let's hope that Phelps is ready and able to put on a better performance next week.
Patrick Hattman covers the Olympics for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and looks forward to the continued drama and excitement from the swimming competition in London.