London - Michael Phelps suffered a scare
before booking his place in a 400m medley showdown with Ryan Lochte on
Saturday as Japan's Kosuke Hagino led the way into the first swimming
final of the Olympics.
GALLERY: London Olympics Opening Ceremony
Reigning Olympic champion and world
record-holder Phelps won his heat, but the leisurely pace of 4min
13.33sec saw him scrape into the final in the eighth and last spot.
Laszlo Cseh, who earned silver behind Phelps in Beijing and bronze in
Athens, was second in that heat and didn't make the final.
"I was slower here this morning than I was four years ago, but you can't win the medal from the heats," Phelps said.
who has established himself as a threat to Phelps in both the 200m and
400m medleys, was content to finish second in his heat behind South
African Chad le Clos.
Le Clos's 4:12.24 was second-fastest of the morning, and Lochte was third-fastest of the day in 4:12.35.
Meanwhile, Hagino was delighted to set a Japanese record.
already broke the national record in April, so I just beat my personal
best," he said. "There are a few things I want to improve on in the
afternoon, I can definitely improve in the last quarter of the race."
Despite Phelps' lowly qualifying position, Lochte said he'd be keeping an eye on his compatriot.
a tough competition, he's in the final and you can't count him out,"
Lochte said, adding that the heats in the grueling four-stroke event
were all about getting into the final.
Phelps isn't trying to
match his great haul of China - eight gold medals in eight events -
but he does have a chance to make more Olympic history.
two-time defending champion in all four of his individual events - the
100m and 200m butterfly and 200m and 400m individual medley he could
become the first male swimmer to win the same Olympic event at three
If he doesn't do it in the 400m medley on Saturday, Japan's Kosuke Kitajima could be the first.
the two-time defending champion in both the 100m and 200m breaststroke,
was due to open his campaign in the 100m breaststroke heats on
Other events on the opening day of competition at the
London Aquatics Centre included the men's 400m freestyle, the women's
400m medley, the women's 100m butterfly and the women's 4x100m freestyle
Phelps, whose 16 total Olympic medals include 14 golds,
needs just three medals to surpass Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina for
the most in an Olympic career.