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Published on Jul 28, 2012
Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are set for tonight's heavyweight showdown, although Phelps won't get an inside lane based on his slow time in preliminary heats. Phelps was the eighth and final swimmer to make tonight's final in the 400-meter individual medal, winning his heat in 4:13.33. Lochte posted the third fastest time in 4:12.35 behind Japan's Kosuke Hagino and South Africa's Chad le Clos.
Phelps didn't seem too concerned immediately after the prelim.
"I was slower this morning than I was four years ago," Phelps said. "The only thing that matters is getting a spot in. You can't win a gold medal from the morning."
Lochte said he didn't have a great race either.
"It didn't feel so good," he said. "But that was my first race and my first race never goes that well. I'm glad I got that out of the way."
When asked about Phelps, Lochte said, "It's hard. It's a tough field. But he's in. You can't count him out."
Phelps can be the first male swimmer to win the same individual event at three consecutive Olympics, but Lochte beat Phelps in this event at the Olympic trials and won gold in it at the world championships in 2009 and 2011. Lochte won bronze in the 400 IM in Beijing.
At trials, Phelps got off well in the butterfly leg but faded in the backstroke, Lochte's specialty (he is the defending Olympic champ in the 200 back). Lochte was almost two seconds clear of Phelps at the final turn and Phelps made up only about a second of that in the frantic final 50 meters.