London Olympics: Men’s & Women’s Individual Medley Race Previews

By Jim Donahue


Individual medley consists of a single swimmer swimming equal distances of four different strokes within one race: the butterfly, then backstroke, then breaststroke and finishing with freestyle. Only in medley races will Americans Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte compete head-to-head. Bet on every race here.

Men’s 200 IM: In Beijing, the 200m IM final was won by Michael Phelps, who beat Laszlo Cseh and Ryan Lochte. Phelps’ world-record time of 1:54.23 was more than two seconds faster than Cseh’s result. Lochte has since taken ownership of the race, as he won it at the last two World Championships (Lochte broke the world record in 2011). Phelps beat Lochte at Olympic Trials, which didn’t mean anything more than that – both will swim the final in London and the race is expected to be one of the best at the Olympics . It’s one of two events Phelps and Lochte will go head-to-head (the 400m IM is the other one).

Men’s 400 IM: Michael Phelps set the world record time of 4:03.84 in this event in winning one of his eight golds in Beijing. Ryan Lochte, the man Phelps used to leave in his wake, won the 400-meter individual medley at the U.S. Olympic swim trials, though Phelps finished second and qualified for the U.S. team. Lochte won the punishing 400 IM in 4:07.06, fastest time in the world this year. Phelps was second in 4:07.89. That means the 400 IM that matters, the one for Mount Olympus, will pit Lochte and Phelps vs. each other.

Women’s 200 IM: In Beijing, Australian Stephanie Rice broke the world record to beat Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry by 0.14 seconds. Rice lost the event to American Ariana Kukors at the 2009 Worlds, and in 2011 China’s Ye Shiwen took the title. In London, Rice, Kukors, Ye and Australian Alicia Coutts will contend for gold. It’s hard to bet against Rice because of her history in the race, but she’s been upstaged in recent years. Kukors has a chip on her shoulder after failing to qualify for the Beijing team. She finished second to Caitlin Leverenz at this year’s Olympic Trials and cannot be counted out. Ye’s resume is filled with 200m IM victories; any of the aforementioned swimmers could emerge victorious here.

Women’s 400 IM: This event could be one of the most-hotly-contested disciplines, thanks to an incredibly deep and tightly packed fields. If there is a favorite, that distinction currently goes to the United States’ Elizabeth Beisel, who won the world title last summer by more than two seconds with a clocking of 4:31.78. En route to that triumph, Beisel had to fend off challenges from Australia’s Stephanie Rice and Great Britain’s Hannah Miley. Rice won gold in Beijing four years ago.

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