FIRST GOLD: SWIMMER RYAN LOCHTE SHINES
Ryan Lochte won Team USA’s first gold medal of the London Games on Saturday (July 28),
taking the men’s 400-meter individual medley with a time of 4:05.18. It was one of four medals
for the U.S. on the first night of competition.
Also winning medals for the U.S. were Elizabeth Beisel with the silver in the women’s 400
IM and Peter Vanderkaay with the bronze in the men’s 400 freestyle. Missy Franklin, Jessica
Hardy, Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt also won a bronze and set an American record in the
women’s 4x100 freestyle.
Finalists for the U.S. included Michael Phelps with a fourth-place finish in the men’s 400 IM,
Conor Dwyer with a fifth-place finish in the men’s 400 free and Caitlin Leverenz with a seventh
place in the women’s 400 IM.
Heading into the evening’s finals, all eyes were on the much-anticipated matchup between
Lochte and Phelps in the men’s 400 IM. Phelps was the defending back-to-back Olympic
champion and world record holder in this event, while Lochte has been the top swimmer in
the world in the event since the 2009 World Championships.
But the match-up almost didn’t happen. Lochte and Phelps qualified third and eighth for the
final, with Phelps just making the field by seven-hundredths of a second.
As the race unfolded, Lochte began to distance himself from the pack during the backstroke
leg. He built a two-body length lead on the field at the 200-meter mark, and was about a
half-second ahead of world-record pace heading into the final 100 meters.
At that point, everyone else was racing for silver, which went to Thiago Pereira of Brazil in
4:08.86, followed by Kosuke Hagino of Japan in 4:08.94. Phelps finished fourth in 4:09.28.
Lochte’s win continued the streak of Olympic gold for Team USA in this event. An American
swimmer has now won the 400 IM at every Games since 1996.
“It feels amazing knowing the last four years I put in all the work and it finally paid off,” Lochte
said. “This is my year. I feel it deep inside my gut. There’s no better way to start than with a
gold. It’s definitely a great feeling. I could hear the fans screaming, and having my family here
helped a lot.”
Beisel swam a strong race in the women’s 400 IM. In eighth place after the first 100 meters,
she reeled in the field in the backstroke leg, and built a solid body-length lead after the
breaststroke. Just when it looked like she had the win all sewn up, China’s Ye Shiwen came
roaring from behind, splitting a 59.32 in the final 100 meters for the win in 4:28.43.
Beisel touched almost three seconds behind for silver – her first Olympic medal – in 4:31.27,
followed by Ye’s teammate Li Xuanxu in 4:32.91. Leverenz finished seventh in 4:35.49.
“It’s every little kid’s dream to have an Olympic medal and to have it finally happen, it feels
so great,” Beisel said. “I’m definitely not going to be able to sleep tonight, but I’m definitely
Gold and silver medalists Sun Yang of China and Park Taehwan of South Korea proved too
much for Vanderkaay in the men’s 400 freestyle, but Vanderkaay had a strong second half,
overtaking China’s Hao Yun in the final 100 meters for the bronze medal in 3:44.89. Conor
Dwyer was fifth in 3:46.39.
The American women put up a good fight in the 4x100 freestyle, with Franklin taking a slight
lead in the first leg, and Hardy and Neal keeping it close with the Australians through the
300-meter mark. As the Aussies pulled ahead in the final 100 meters and the Netherlands
surged, Schmitt held on for bronze in an American-record time of 3:34.24. Australia and
the Netherlands finished 1-2 in 3:33.15 and 3:33.79. The Australians’ time was an Olympic
Americans swimming in semifinals Saturday night included Dana Vollmer (1st, women’s 100
butterfly, 56.36), Claire Donahue (5th, women’s 100 butterfly, 57.42), Brendan Hansen (8th,
men’s 100 breaststroke, 59.78) and Eric Shanteau (11th, men’s 100 breast, 59.96).
Vollmer’s time of 56.25 from the morning’s prelims set an American record.
The top eight swimmers in the semifinals will advance to tonight’s finals.