msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/9/2008 6:53:29 AM ET 2008-08-09T10:53:29

Michael Phelps lowered his own Olympic record as the fastest qualifier in the 400-meter individual medley preliminaries.

The American won his heat Saturday night in 4 minutes, 7.82 seconds, bettering his Olympic record of 4:08.26 set four years ago in Athens. Phelps was under his world-record pace after 150 meters of the four-stroke race, but eased off to save something for Sunday’s final.

Laszlo Cseh of Hungary, the bronze medalist in Athens, was second-fastest in 4:09.26. Luca Marin of Italy was third in 4:10.22, and American Ryan Lochte qualified fourth in 4:10.33.

Phelps is going after a record eight gold medals in the Beijing Games, and many expect his teammate Lochte to present the toughest challenge as he looks to break Mark Spitz's record of seven swimming golds set in Munich in 1972.

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