Swimming: Kalisz wins 400m medley at US trials, Olympic champ Lochte denied Rio berth

Chase Kalisz (right) celebrates with Jay Litherland after winning the final heat for the Men's 400 Meter Individual Medley during the 2016 US Olympic Team Swimming Trials.
Chase Kalisz (right) celebrates with Jay Litherland after winning the final heat for the Men's 400 Meter Individual Medley during the 2016 US Olympic Team Swimming Trials.PHOTO: AFP

OMAHA (AFP) - Ryan Lochte will not defend his 400m individual medley title at the Rio Olympics after finishing third on Sunday in a final won by Chase Kalisz at the US swimming trials.

Lochte, who said he suffered a groin injury in the breaststroke leg of the morning heats, took the race out fast, but Kalisz roared past the 11-time Olympic medallist on the breaststroke and held on over the finishing freestyle to win the punishing event in 4min 9.54sec.

That makes him second-fastest in the world this year behind Japan's Kosuke Hagino.

Jay Litherland put himself on the road to a first Olympic appearance in Rio with a second-place finish in 4:11.02, while Lochte was third and out of the Rio running in 4:12.02.

Only the top two finishers in each event at the trials will secure tickets to Rio.

Lochte still has a chance to qualify for a fourth Olympics. He is entered in the 100m freestyle, 200m medley, 100 butterfly and 200m freestyle and said he would pursue treatment on the injury in a bid to keep his Rio bid on track.

World record-holder Michael Phelps, who has dropped the 400m medley from his programme as he pursues a fifth and final Olympic appearance, watched the race from the broadcast stand.

He was delighted for training partner Kalisz, but sympathised with his long-time rival Lochte.

"If you overdo it in the first 200m, you're not going to come back from it," Phelps said.

Meanwhile, Phelps will not swim the 200m freestyle at the trials, leaving the 18-time gold medallist with four events in his push to qualify for Rio.

"My first event will be the 2 (200) fly," Phelps said late Sunday.

After the 200m butterfly, which begins with heats on Tuesday morning, Phelps is also entered in the 100m fly, the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley.

Phelps, who turns 31 on Thursday, won the 200m free at the 2008 Beijing Games as part of his historic eight-gold haul. But he has not excelled in the event since coming out of the brief retirement that followed the London Games.

While a strong 200m free swim at the trials might boost Phelps' claim to a 4x200m free relay berth, it's not essential. Any swimmer on the Rio team can be selected for any relay, and Phelps' coach Bob Bowman, who will serve as head coach of the US men in Rio, said before the trials that a strong showing in other events would be enough to put Phelps in the relay mix.

"I think you have to weigh how he does in these trials," Bowman said. "If he's at his top level, you have to assume he's at his top level across the board.

"We'll see how things go and look at the field and look at what we've got."