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Ryan Lochte captured the United States’ first gold medal of the 2012 Olympic Games on Saturday, soundly defeating rival swimming great Michael Phelps in a highly anticipated men’s 400-meter individual medley, while China blazed past its rivals throughout the day to secure a Games-best four gold medals.

Brazil’s Thiago Pereira secured silver in the individual medley, while Phelps did not medal, coming in fourth place. Japan’s Kosuke Hagina won bronze.

“I put the work in,” Lochte said Saturday after the race. “I’m just going out there and having fun, and doing what I do best.”

Both men had made it through qualifying heats to the final — Phelps only by a whisker.

His subpar performance put the former champion in lane 8 rather than in the preferred middle lanes, where there’s less chance of disruption from other swimmers’ waves.

Lochte was in lane 3.

The 27-year-old Phelps, who already has 14 gold medals from previous Games, had been looking to add to his pot of Olympic gold, and will get another shot when he likely faces Lochte in the 200-meter individual medley, as well as the 200-meter and 100-meter butterfly.

But the Games’ attention quickly shifted on Saturday to Lochte’s dominating performance.

“I know it’s my time and I’m ready,” he said after his win.

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