Ryan Lochte delivered an emphatic performance in winning the 400 IM, but Michael Phelps shockingly finished out of the medals, raising questions about what went wrong.
Frankly, the race was over after the first 100 meters. The only suspense was whether Michael Phelps would win a medal at all.
He didn't. In fact, he didn't come all that close. And now we must wait until Monday – for the heats of the 200-meter butterfly – to begin to answer the question no one was asking before these Games began.
What happened to Michael Phelps?
From start to finish, the 400-meter individual medley was Lochte's race. He could have swum with the gold medal already around his neck, and he still would have finished first. By a lot. Billed as a showdown between two of the greatest swimmers ever, Lochte swam against only invisible competition – the golden world-record line on TV that just beat him to the finish.
Slightly ahead of the field after 100 meters of butterfly, Lochte needed rearview mirrors to see it after the backstroke and breaststroke. By the time he finished, the swimmer in second place was three body-lengths behind. [Editor's note: The original version misstated the first stroke of the IM.]
And that swimmer was not Phelps. It was Brazilian Thiago Pereira, who summed up the evening nicely in stating, "I didn't expect this."
Nor was Phelps the next one to touch the wall. That was Japanese Kosuke Hagino, a 17-year-old who, last year, finished third in the world junior championships.
Then came Phelps, 0.34 seconds later.
Of all the sportsmen who walk this earth, Phelps is perhaps most deserving of a mulligan and a measure of patience from fans. Then again, the man laboring in Lane 8 didn't look remotely like Michael Phelps.
Brazilian Luca Martin got a good look from Lane 7 next door, and he didn't think it looked like Phelps, either.
"It's so strange to see Phelps like that," he said.