France: We got our revenge in swimming relay
LONDON — Ryan Lochte grabbed at the edge of the pool, head down, staring at the water. Michael Phelps glared at the scoreboard, trying to digest the first silver medal of his Olympic career.
Right beside them, the French celebrated.
It was just like 2008 but with the roles reversed.
This time, it was France chasing down the United States — and Lochte, no less — to win another riveting relay at the Olympics.
“We got our revenge,” French swimmer Clement Lefert said.
The Americans built a commanding lead over the first three legs of the 4x100-meter freestyle relay Sunday with Phelps putting up the fastest time among the American swimmers, covering the second 100 in 47.15 and showing he still intends to be a force at these games after his disappointing start. Bremerton native Nathan Adrian swam the leadoff leg in 47.89, going out faster than Australian star James “The Missile” Magnussen to give the U.S. an early lead. Cullen Jones was solid, too, in the third spot (47.60).
When Lochte dove into the water on the anchor leg, he was a half-body length ahead of the field and looking to add another gold to his dominating victory Saturday in the 400 individual medley.
Not so fast.
Or, should we say, not fast enough.
Yannick Agnel, playing the chaser role that Jason Lezak did for the Americans four years ago in this same event, sliced through the water and was right on Lochte’s shoulder as they made the flip at the far end of the pool. With about 25 meters to go, they were stroke for stroke. But Lochte, who had already competed in 1,200 meters of racing over the first two days, simply didn’t have enough left to hold off the towering, 20-year-old Frenchman, one of the sport’s real rising stars.
“I gave everything in the last 50 until he cracked,” Agnel said. “In the last 10 meters, I saw that he was really cracking.”
Agnel touched in 3 minutes, 9.93 seconds, having gone exactly 1 second faster than Lochte over the last two laps. Lochte and the Americans dropped to silver in 3:10.38, while Australia — the favorite — didn’t even get a medal.
VOLLMER SETS WORLD RECORD IN 100 FLY
Two more world records fell earlier in the evening.
American Dana Vollmer took down the mark in the 100 butterfly, then Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa broke another in the 100 breaststroke — denying Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima an Olympic threepeat.
This was quite a night for France, and not just because of the relay. Camille Muffat won a riveting 400 freestyle duel with American Allison Schmitt, the two virtually stroke for stroke the entire way. Muffat held on to win by about half a stroke with an Olympic-record time, while Schmitt settled for silver — a sign of things to come.
Britain’s Rebecca Adlington brought out the biggest cheer when she touched third, the home country’s first swimming medal of the games.
Vollmer was third at the turn but powered to the wall for a time of 55.98, beating the record of 56.06 set by Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom at the 2009 world championships. Not bad for someone who didn’t even qualify for the last Olympics, her career sidetracked by injuries and illness.
“I’m on top of the world right now,” said Vollmer, who qualified for Athens as a 16-year-old but was a disappointment in 2008. “I still know I can go faster.”
Van der Burgh dominating the 100 breast in 58.46, Australia’s Christian Sprenger took the silver in 58.93, and American Brendan Hansen claimed bronze in 59.49.