Ryan Lochte reacts after winning the men's 400m individual medley final. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages)
By Erik Brady, USA TODAY
LONDON - Ryan Lochte has been telling everyone for months: This is his time.Saturday night, he showed the world.
Lochte won the men's 400-meter individual medley as his ballyhooed showdown with Michael Phelps never materialized, with Phelps fading to fourth, his first time out of the medals in an Olympic race since his first Olympics in 2000, when he was 15.
Phelps' verdict: "It was just a crappy race."
Lochte won the USA's first gold of the Games. He looked up at the scoreboard from the water and smiled a crooked smile.
"I think I'm in kind of a shock," he told reporters moments after.
Winning couldn't have been a shock for Lochte, the favorite going in. Winning by 3.68 seconds surely was.
Thiago Pereira of Brazil won silver and Kosuke Hagino of Japan took bronze.
"They just swam a better race than me, swam a smarter race than me and were more prepared," Phelps said. "That's why they're on the medal stand."
Lochte's 4:05.18 was the second-fastest 400 IM ever, behind Phelps' world and Olympic record of 4:03.84 when he won gold in Beijing.
"Going into these Games I knew I was always capable of getting the win," Lochte said. "I'm happy I was able to do that. I heard the fans screaming all throughout the whole race, definitely had my family right there. Definitely helped me a lot."
Lochte now has won a medal in every Olympic event in which he has swum and his five individual medals put him in the top five all-time for male swimmers.
Lochte held his hand over his heart as the anthem played at his medal ceremony, looking serious for a man who'd just won gold and vanquished a rival, but he broke into a big grin as the last bars played.
Then he invited Pereira and Hagino to join him on the top level of the podium. The surprise was who wasn't on the podium at all.
"I know he gave it everything he has," Lochte said of his friend and rival. "I guess that's all you can really ask for. I'm going to go talk to him, see how he felt about that."