Saturday's 400-meter individual medley will be a race for the ages. Michael Phelps hasn't been in a race with so many question marks swirling around his ability to win since the 200-meter freestyle in 2004 and 2008. This will be the first race of two head-to-head Michael Phelps/Ryan Lochte matchups in London.
Lochte defeated Phelps in the event at the U.S. Olympic Trials but completed the race less than a second ahead of Phelps and over three seconds behind Phelps' world-record time.
Michael Phelps's signature stroke is butterfly. In order to defeat Lochte, Phelps will need his fly to propel him to a big lead in the 400-meter individual medley. Butterfly is the first leg of the race, followed by backstroke—Lochte’s best stroke.
Phelps holds world records in the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly.
Ryan Lochte’s strongest event is the 200-meter backstroke. He took home the gold medal in the event at the 2008 Olympics, setting a world record that has since been broken.
Lochte needs his backstroke to get him even with or ahead of Michael Phelps in the 400-meter individual medley in order to pick up a big enough lead in the breaststroke portion to hold Phelps off in the final freestyle leg of the race.
Neither Phelps nor Lochte is a world-class swimmer in breaststroke, but Lochte is the better swimmer in this stroke.
In the past, Phelps would get out to a lead in the butterfly and Lochte would look to make up time on backstroke and pass Phelps on the breaststroke. Then the race would be won by whoever managed to save enough gas for the final leg of freestyle.
If Lochte is going to win the 400-meter individual medley, he will need to be even with or ahead of Phelps going into the breaststroke and build up a big enough lead that Phelps is unable to pass him in the freestyle portion.
Phelps, the 2008 gold medalist in the 200-meter freestyle, will likely need to play catch-up with his freestyle in order to beat Lochte in the 400-meter individual medley. Phelps is a one-time world record holder in the 200-meter freestyle and in the past has been a better freestyler than Lochte.
This trend should continue since Phelps had a better 100-meter freestyle time than Lochte and thus will be part of Team USA’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay, unlike Lochte, who failed to swim a top-six 100-meter freestyle time.
Prediction: Phelps comes from behind in the last 50 meters to win the event but fails to beat his Olympic and world record.