OMAHA, Neb. -- Though his top time in this morning's preliminary heat for the 400-meter individual medley was more than four seconds faster than Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte knows it won't be that easy Monday night.
"That was the easiest 4:14 that he's ever done, that I've ever seen in the whole entire world," Lochte said. "It looked really, really smooth. Tonight is definitely going to be a dogfight, and it's not just me and Michael; it's Tyler Clary too."
The top two finishers in Monday night's final will be the first two members named to the U.S. team that will head to London next month.
Though he insists his body is not yet in top swimming form, Lochte won his heat with a time of 4:10.66. Phelps won the third-to-last heat in 4:14.72, just one second off his trials prelim time before Beijing in 2008.
"I knew I couldn't let anybody get close," Phelps said.
Clary, seeded second in the event, logged the fourth-best time of the morning with 4:15.88. He has said his goal in the final is 4:08.
"As you could probably tell from the last 100, I was just chilling out this morning, seeing what everyone else was gonna do,'' Clary said. "Backstroke felt good. I want to negative split my breaststroke [in the final]."
Lochte was scheduled to swim in the 400-meter freestyle Monday, but he said after the 400 IM that he wouldn't swim the event and that it was just a backup in case he "messed up" in the IM.
"Good thing I didn't mess up," he said.
There had been much suspense leading up to Monday as to whether Phelps would swim the event. After Beijing, he said he'd never swim the IM again. Over the weekend, Lochte predicted Phelps would swim the event at trials, while Clary suggested he wouldn't. Phelps said after Monday's prelims he had known for a while that he'd be swimming.
"It'll be a more interesting race now," Clary said. "It doesn't change my game plan. All I can do is control myself."