The London Olympics are still more than a month away, but fans of swimming were eager to see the 2012 edition of the rivalry between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte get started Monday, when the two Olympic gold medalists face off in the final of the 400-meter individual medley at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Update at 8:32 p.m. Lochte Beats Phelps
Lochte defeated Phelps at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.
Here's more from The Associated Press:
"The 27-year-old Floridian captured the 400-meter individual medley Monday night, taking command on the breaststroke leg and holding off Phelps in the freestyle for a time of 4 minutes, 7.06 seconds. Phelps claimed the second Olympic spot in 4:07.89. Tyler Clary, who took second at last year's world championships, won't even get a chance to swim the event in London. He faded to third in 4:09.92."
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Lochte won the medley at last year's world championship in Shanghai. But Phelps has won Olympioc gold in the event. And he seems to have put new effort into swimming it, despite his vows in the past that it's too demanding — especially when paired with his other events.
The AP reports, "Lochte... was the top qualifier in morning preliminaries with a time of 4 minutes, 10.66 seconds. Phelps was next fastest, cruising through his preliminary heat in 4:14.72."
Held in Omaha, Neb., Monday's race will decide which two Americans get to compete in the 400 IM in London this summer. And while it's tempting to assume Lochte and Phelps will finish 1-2 — and meet again at the Olympics — they're not the only swimmers in tonight's race.
Observers say Tyler Clary, who finished second to Lochte in Shanghai last year, might be able to take a spot away from either Phelps or Lochte.
You can follow the Olympic Trials at the Olympics site of NBC, which will be broadcasting the Summer Games.
After their early heats Monday, both Phelps and Lochte seemed to be looking forward to the matchup. But they, and other top U.S. swimmers, had their afternoon pre-race routine interrupted.
Phelps evidently took a nap — one from which he was awoken by a fire alarm in his hotel.
"Well I have always had a prob with waking up from naps," he tweeted. "But not possible to sleep through that fire alarm."
Other swimmers, including Lochte, were at the same hotel, believed to be the Hilton. They all seem to have tromped downstairs and out into the parking lot, according to a tweet from butterfly ace Dana Vollmer.