LONDON -- Tyler Clary of the United States passed defending champion Ryan Lochte on the last lap and set an Olympic record to win the 200-meter backstroke at the London Games on Thursday.
Clary clocked a time of 1 minute, 53.41 seconds to improve on the previous mark of 1:53.94 set by Lochte at the 2008 Beijing Games.
"You always have big dreams in your head that you think you might be able to pull off something like that," Clary said. "The fact that it just came to fruition is something that hasn't even processed in my mind yet. The fact that I'm now an Olympic champion and Olympic-record holder is something that is very humbling. It's also very motivating for the next four years."
Ryosuke Irie of Japan touched in 1:53.78 to take the silver medal, and Lochte finished in 1:53.94 for bronze.
Clary got off to a sluggish start, making the first turn in fourth. But he steadily moved up. Third at the halfway mark. Second as they made the final flip. Then, coming down the stretch, he surged past Lochte, who had led all the way, and touched with an Olympic-record time.
"I can't think of anything that I could have done any better," Clary said. "The last couple of races I knew there were a couple things that were a little sloppy and everything just worked out perfectly tonight."
Until now, Clary was used to disappointment.
At the U.S. Olympic trials four years ago, he just missed out on a spot for the team in Beijing, finishing third in the 200 backstroke and fourth in the 400 individual medley. Only the top two go in each event.
Then, after winning a silver medal in the 400 IM at last year's world championships, Clary didn't even get to swim that event in London. Michael Phelps unexpectedly added the race back to his program this year, and he wound up beating Clary for the second spot on the team at trials, finishing behind Lochte.
Clary was third, but he bounced back to qualify in two other events. Then he caused a stir in a newspaper article that quoted him saying Phelps didn't really train that hard and basically got by on talent, which sounded like nothing more than sour grapes.
Clary apologized to Phelps, and the entire team for being a distraction.
Then he turned the 200 back into gold.
"It's complete redemption," Clary said. "The fact that trials didn't go the way I'd wanted and to kind of have everything that's been going on leading up to this and still be able to come out successful is a testament to me more than anything, that I can handle anything that gets thrown at me."
That means he'll put his other plans on hold. The 23-year-old Clary has long dreamed of becoming a race car driver, and he was even looking to give up swimming after the London Games to get behind the wheel.
Now he's staying in the water.
"I'm looking forward to Rio, especially now," Clary said.
After the celebration ended, he looked up and pointed a finger toward the roof of the Olympic Aquatics Centre. Clary was thinking about his high school coach, Kevin Perry, the one who "got me to where I am today."
Perry died of cancer a few years ago.
"He's definitely looking down and smiling," Clary said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.