Visa, Speedo and PowerBar rejoiced as their workhorse, Michael Phelps, smashed his 2 1/2-week-old world record in winning the 400-meter individual medley. Phelps touched in 4:03.84, 1.41 seconds ahead of his mark at the Olympic Trials in Omaha on July 29, the first gold medal in his quest for a record eight at these Games. He won six gold medals and two bronze in Athens in 2004.
Teammate Ryan Lochte led the race at the end of the third lap, the first of the two backstroke laps, but Phelps regained it as the swimmers touched at the end of the backstroke stage and began the fifth lap. From there, Phelps buzzed through the breaststroke and, in the freestlye leg, opened a sizable lead over Lochte and Hungarian Cseh Laszlo, who won the silver, 2.32 seconds behind Phelps. Lochte won the bronze, 4.25 seconds off the pace. It was his third Olympic medal, having won silver in the 200 IM and gold in the 4x200 relay in Athens.
As President George W. Bush and his father, the former President, looked on, Phelps, 23, said he looked to his right and smiled shook off his competition, which, he said, was surprisingly close early.
"I wasn't comfortable after the first 200. We were pretty close together," Phelps said. "That's not how it usually is after 200."