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Florida's Ryan Lochte will face swimming team rival Michael Phelps Saturday in the 400-meter individual medley just after Phelps barely made it into the final spot of the gold medal round.
Lochte came in third for Saturday's hot-ticket race.
Phelps, the two-time gold medal winner in the event, came in surprisingly slow in the heats, hitting a 4:13:33 and placing eighth.
"That one didn't feel too good," he said.
Lochte, reigning world champ, swam a 4:12:35.
The final race, which will be replayed on NBC in prime-time at 8 p.m. ET/PT Saturday, pits the two fan favorites in one of the sport's most grueling events. The race is essentially a series of sprints using a different stroke for 100m each: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
A University of Florida graduate, 27-year-old Lochte is the reigning world champion and also defeated Phelps at the trials.
At the last Olympics in Beijing, Phelps won eight gold medals. And in London, Phelps is hoping to add to his impressive 14 gold medal collection – but Lochte may stand in his way.
Lochte won five gold medals at the 2011 world championships including two head-to-head races against Phelps. He is also a six-time Olympic medalist.
Out of the water, the pair has admitted they enjoy the rivalry.
“To me, Michael is just another swimmer,” Lochte said on the TODAY show Tuesday. “It’s just another person that I’ve got to go up against and race. He’s one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever had a race against, and I love racing against him.”
Phelps was quoted in the New York Times as calling it a “healthy competition.”
“When Ryan and I get in the pool, sure, I don’t want him to win, he doesn’t want me to win,” Phelps said. “But out of the pool we can sit there and all play our spades, and we can joke around and have fun.”
Sports Illustrated predicted Lochte would take the gold in the 400 meter individual medley and silver in the 200 meter individual medley.
Stay with NBC6.com for real time result s of the Olympic Games.