Ryan Lochte wins second Pan Pacs gold
IRVINE, Calif. -- Ryan Lochte flirted with the world record in the 400-meter individual medley before settling for a gold medal and the year's fastest time at the Pan Pacific championships on Thursday night.
The American led all the way and touched in 4 minutes, 7.59 seconds, lowering his own meet record of 4:08.77 set in the morning heats.
Lochte came back later to anchor the Americans to a blowout victory in the 800 free relay, capping a night in which the U.S. won five gold medals, giving them a leading total of 12 through the first two days of the meet.
Michael Phelps, Peter Vanderkaay, Ricky Berens and Lochte won in 7:03:84 -- a whopping 7.17 seconds ahead of second-place Japan. Australia was third.
"I told them before the race to give me the biggest lead possible because I'm going to need it," Lochte said. "I'm lucky I had clean water."
In the IM, Lochte was under the pace of Phelps' world record through 150 meters of the grueling four-stroke race. But he fell off it on the breaststroke leg.
"I just went out fast and tried to hold on for dear life," Lochte said. "I'm just going out there, having fun and racing. Whatever the outcome is, I'll take it."
Phelps had the fourth-fastest qualifying time, but he didn't make the final because Lochte and Tyler Clary were quicker. Only two swimmers per country are allowed in the finals at Pan Pacs, the year's biggest international meet.
Clary earned the silver in 4:09.55. Thiago Pereira of Brazil was third in 4:12.09.
"It's absolutely the hardest event you can do in the pool," Clary said. "It's on top of the pain charts. You have to put in the work to swim it at a sub-4:10 level."
It was Lochte's second gold of the meet, having won the 200 freestyle on Wednesday.
"He's having an amazing year," Clary said.
Nathan Adrian of the United States won the 100 free with the world's fastest time this year. Teammate Natalie Coughlin claimed the women's event for the third time.
Adrian rallied from fourth at the turn to touch first in 48.15 seconds, lowering his own meet record of 48.41 set in the morning heats.
"I did a good job of swimming my own race and not letting what everybody else was doing affect me," he said. "The goal all season was to kind of step up internationally and that has happened here. Maybe next year I can do something special at worlds leading up to the Olympics."
Brent Hayden of Canada was second in 48.19, also going under the meet record with the world's No. 2 time. World champion Cesar Cielo of Brazil, who led at the turn, earned the bronze medal in 48.48 swimming in lane eight.
He won gold in the 50 butterfly on Wednesday night but eked into the final when other countries reached their two-swimmer limit.
"I didn't feel I deserved to be in the final," he said. "I was trying to take my second opportunity as the last one of my life."
American Jason Lezak, still competing at age 34, was fourth in 48.57.
"Tired, but I'm happy with coming back almost as fast as this morning," he said. "I got two more years to work for the Olympics and hopefully get a medal there."
Coughlin, an 11-time Olympic medalist, touched in 53.67, lowering the meet record of 53.76 set by American Amanda Weir in 2006. Coughlin won the event that year and also at the 2002 Pan Pacs.
American Dana Vollmer and Emily Seebohm of Australia tied for the silver medal at 53.96. Aussie Yolane Kukla, who led at the turn, was fourth.
Coughlin's time was third-fastest in the world this year.
World champion Rebecca Soni of the U.S. led all the way in winning the 100 breaststroke in 1 minute, 4.93 seconds, quickest in the world this year and third-fastest ever. She lowered the meet record for the second time Thursday.
Two-time Olympic medalist Leisel Jones of Australia took the silver in 1:05.66. Aussie Sarah Katsoulis was third. Four-time Olympian Amanda Beard of the U.S. was fifth.
Soni and Jones hadn't raced each other in two years because Jones took an extended break after Beijing.
"I couldn't ask for it to go better," Soni said. "After the turn I knew we were right together so I just tried to look in my own lane and sprint to the end. I've been practicing keeping my eyes in my own lane."
In the men's 100 breast, two-time Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima of Japan won in 59.35, slower than his meet-record of 59.04 set in the morning heats.
"It was great that I was able to swim two races under one minute," he said through a translator. "I feel really calm and have really good motivation."
Kitajima has been living and training in Los Angeles since April. His coach, Dave Salo, had encouraged him to try to lower Brenton Rickard's world record in the final.
"I really don't have the power at this stage," he said.
Christian Sprenger of Australia was second in 1:00.18. American Mark Gangloff was third in 1:00.24. Rickard of Australia was fifth.
Elizabeth Beisel of the United States won her first international title, taking the 400 individual medley in 4:34.69. Samantha Hamill of Australia was second. American Caitlin Leverenz earned the bronze.
Aussie Sophie Edington won the women's 50 backstroke, while Junya Koga of Japan won the men's race.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press