Ryan Lochte thundered the opening night of swimming, “I am ready to rock this Olympics”.
It was his fourth Olympic gold, perhaps a few less for a man who has won 12 World Championship gold medals.
The swimming world was shocked to find Michael Phelps, with 14 gold medals in Olympics, not to win a medal for the first time in his career since he finished fifth as a 15-year-old in the Sydney Games.
It was not a surprise that Lochte won, for he was the favourite as the World champion. He had also said that there were other swimmers to worry about than Phelps. He was right.
“I was in kind of shock. I knew I was in good form going into these Games. I could hear the fans screaming and having my family here helped me a lot”, said the American.
Phelps himself had a hint of the challenge ahead, in the morning when he looked at his time. It was not in his favour.
“It is weird not having Michael with me on the medal stand. Michael to me still is one of the world’s greatest”, said Lochte, emphasising his admiration.
“We have probably one of the best rivalries in swimming ever. I am happy to be in the same race as him and from the same country. Win or lose at the end of the day we are still friends”, said Lochte who had made a symbol with his fingers after the triumph, to denote a combination of his initials R and L.
“For a swimmer, it is a little old, but I am having a blast”, declared Lochte, who will be 28, on August 3.
Analysing further Lochte said, “the 400 individual medley is hard. It is a long event. By history Phelps is good at shorter events. This is probably one of his hardest events. When we were back in the massage area, he came back to me. He congratulated me and said ‘way to go’. He was definitely proud of me. I know he was a little bit upset but proud of me”, said Lochte.
Phelps was understandably ‘frustrated’.
“I am not feeling that great. It is not the start that I would have like to have had. I just want to put this race behind me and move on. I was lucky to get into the final. The lane draw had nothing to do with me coming in fourth. It was just a crappy race’’, Phelps remarked.
“I was trying to find a gear that I couldn’t find. I felt fine for the first 200, and spent the last 100 struggling. I have swum better races, and been better prepared. It was a very frustrating finish’’, said Phelps.
His coach Bob Bowmann said that there was nothing wrong with Phelps’ fitness.
Thiago Pereira had not won an Olympic or World championship medal yet, but the Brazilian had tremendous faith in his training.
“I like the fact that I am racing with all these big guys. It is better that I won this medal with Phelps and Ryan beside me’’, said Pereira, who won Brazil’s second medal in the event after Ricardo Prado had won silver in 1984.
Summing up his attitude beautifully that there was no point getting intimidated by the idea of competing with Phelps and Lochte, Pereira said, “If you train to be third, you can come last. So, I was in the pool every day thinking about beating them every time’’, said Pereira.
He had trained as hard as anybody could, and that made him be ready for the moment.
“My body is in pain everywhere, but I am happy. I didn’t expect this’’, said Pereira.
The 17-year-old Kosuke Hagino of Japan won the bronze, to become the youngest medallist in the event since 1972, when 16-year-old Andras Hargitay of Hungary won the bronze.
“I went fast this morning and I thought I had a chance to get a medal’’, said Hagino, who won Japan’s 50th swimming medal in the Olympics.
Incidentally, Japan was the third country to reach the mark, behind United States and Australia.