LONDON — Ryan Lochte strolled the deck of the Olympic Aquatics Centre wearing diamonds in his mouth and lime-green sneakers on the feet that powered him through the water faster than anyone else. Beaming, he chomped playfully on his gold medal while Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” blared throughout the massive arena.
He was nowhere to be found.
Not during the race.
Not when it came time to hand out the medals.
On a stunner of an opening night at the pool in London, Phelps was routed by his American rival in the 400-meter individual medley, losing to Lochte by more than 4 seconds Saturday. That’s not all: The winningest Olympian ever didn’t win any medal at all, the first time that’s happened in a race of this magnitude since he was a 15-year-old kid competing in just one event at the Sydney Games, a dozen years ago.
“It was horrible,” Phelps told coach Bob Bowman when he climbed out.
Bowman’s reply: “It was.”
Lochte turned the much-anticipated duel with Phelps into a blowout, raising serious questions about whether the guy who has won 14 gold medals and 16 medals overall has anything left in the tank for his Olympic farewell.
Phelps is planning to retire as soon as he finishes the last of his seven races in London, but he looked ready to call it a career while struggling just to pull himself from the water when his first event was done.
He was totally spent.
He was thoroughly beaten, perhaps signaling a changing of the guard at the pool.
“This is my year,” said Lochte, who popped in his grillz — diamond-studded mouth jewelry — for the victory ceremony. “I know it and I feel it, because I’ve put in hard work. I’ve trained my butt off for four years … and there’s no better way to start this Olympics off than getting gold.”
For Phelps, the start of these games couldn’t have been more out of character.
He barely qualified for the evening final, a performance that hinted at trouble ahead. Trouble indeed. Phelps struggled to a fourth-place finish, blown out by Lochte and beaten by Brazil’s Thiago Pereira and Japan’s Kosuke Hagino.
“It was just a crappy race,” Phelps said. “I felt fine the first 200, then I don’t know. They just swam a better race than me, a smarter race than me, and were better prepared than me. That’s why they’re on the medal stand.”
Lochte took the gold with a time of 4 minutes, 5.18 seconds. Pereira (4:08.86) and Hagino (4:08.94) were well back but ahead of Phelps, who touched fourth in 4:09.28 — nearly 5 1-2 seconds off his world record from the Beijing Olympics and not nearly as fast as he went during the U.S. trials last month.
Since finishing fifth in his lone event at Sydney, the 200 butterfly, Phelps was 16-of-16 when it came to winning medals at the Olympics — 14 golds and two bronzes. That run is over.
The women’s 400 individual medley went to 16-year-old Ye Shiwen, who set a world record with a time of 4:28.43. It was the third mark to fall since high-tech bodysuits were banned at the end of 2009.
American Elizabeth Beisel took silver.
Sun Yang flirted with a world record in the men’s 400 freestyle. He took gold in 3:40.14, just off the mark of 3:40.07 by Germany’s Paul Biedermann in a rubberized suit three years ago.
American Peter Vanderkaay took the bronze in 3:44.69.
Australia finished the 400-free relay in 3:33.15, Netherlands won the silver and the Americans got bronze.
The U.S. finish was enough to deliver a 12th medal to Natalie Coughlin, who matched Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson for most decorated U.S. female Olympian. Coughlin swam in the morning prelims, but wasn’t used in the evening; everyone who swims on a relay gets a medal.
After hosting a dazzling opening ceremony Friday night, Britain got off to a shaky start on the first full day of action when favored cycling star Mark Cavendish finished 28th in the road race.
Kazakhstan’s Alexander Vinokourov, who has said he will retire from cycling after the games, won gold.
While perennial powerhouses China and Japan bobbled and wobbled their way through qualifying, the Americans proved they really do have the goods to contend for the gold medal. They didn’t count a single fall, and their final score of 275.342 is almost three points ahead of Britain.
The U.S. women clinched a spot in the quarterfinals and remembered an injured teammate in a 3-0 victory over Colombia.
Megan Rapinoe scored in the 33rd minute for the Americans. Abby Wambach made it 2-0 in the 74th, and Carli Lloyd scored in the 77th.
Maybe it was first-game nerves or a hangover from the opening ceremony. But the U.S. had to overcome a sloppy performance to post an 81-56 victory over Croatia in its first game.
The U.S., which got back to its hotel at 3 a.m. after the kickoff party, struggled for the first three quarters before winning its 34th consecutive Olympic game.
Wimbledon champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams each won their opening matches — one struggled, one didn’t.
Federer, a four-time Olympian, overcame a jittery patch and beat Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama watched from the front row of Williams’ box as the fourth-seeded American beat former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 6-3, 6-1 on Centre Court.
Destinee Hooker had 21 points and the United States held off late-charging South Korea 3-1 in their opening match.
The fans at Earls Court chanted “Des-tin-ee! Des-tin-ee!” at one point as she dominated in the 25-19, 25-17, 20-25, 25-21 victory.