French get revenge on U.S. in 400 freestyle relay
After being passed in the final meters by the Americans in 2008, France returns the favor, but Bremerton's Nathan Adrian still wins a silver medal.
The Washington Post and The New York Times
LONDON — Who would have thought this could happen at consecutive Summer Olympics? Who would have thought the United States and France would duel just like four years ago in the men's 400 freestyle relay, with a massive lead obliterated on a furious, heart-thumping anchor leg that sent four stunned men, and at least a piece of an entire nation, into euphoria?
Only this time it was the French team members, not those from the United States, who looked at the scoreboard in wonderment and celebrated like children. And this time it was U.S. anchor Ryan Lochte who could not preserve a significant lead over the last 50 meters.
France's Yannick Agnel overcame a half-second deficit and touched the wall in 3 minutes, 9.93 seconds as Lochte came home in 3:10.38. Lochte's late touch secured the first-ever Olympic silver medal for Michael Phelps, the 15-time medalist who swam a blazing second leg.
"I don't think Ryan let anybody down," said Cullen Jones, who swam the third leg and handed Lochte a lead of 0.55 of a second. "He's beating up himself already. ... He is the type of person who will beat on himself until the next Olympics."
The outcome meant Lochte will not win the six gold medals he sought here; with one from the 400 individual medley Saturday night, the most he can claim is five. It meant Phelps is still seeking his first gold of these Games; on Saturday, he finished fourth in the 400 medley. Yet for Phelps, the race offered redemption of sorts. He swam the fastest leg of any U.S. team member (47.15) and second fastest of the night, behind only Agnel's 46.74.
Lochte tallied a 47.74 and Bremerton's Nathan Adrian managed a 47.89, fastest among the leadoff men. The United States, in fact, led until the last 50 meters, when Lochte was overtaken.
"We don't consider it necessarily a loss," Adrian said. "In my mind, we frame it as we won the silver medal. Whether or not that's good enough for some people, whatever. ... We went down fighting."
Vollmer gets gold
Dana Vollmer is an unabashed fan of the gymnasts Shannon Miller and Nastia Liukin, which makes sense. Miller and Liukin won Olympic medals and made memorable comebacks, and so did Vollmer, whose athletic renaissance reached new heights.
Vollmer, 24, set a world record in the 100-meter butterfly on the way to winning her first individual Olympic gold medal. She clocked 55.98 seconds.
"To be the first woman under 56, it's absolutely incredible," Vollmer said.
It was the highest peak in a valley-filled journey. In 2004, at age 16, Vollmer had won an Olympic relay gold. She failed to make the U.S. team four years later, finishing fifth in the 100 butterfly and seventh in the 200 freestyle at the Olympic Trials.
While many of her friends continued on to the Beijing Games, a disheartened Vollmer traveled to Fiji to teach children how to swim. She returned home with a changed outlook.
"Coming back from 2008, after trials, I didn't know if I was going to swim," she said. "I had worked for so many years to reach that one goal, but along the way I had a shoulder injury, a back injury and I was having to deal with fatigue and so much pressure that I just wasn't having fun with it at all."
|Turning the tide|
|Four years after the U.S. rallied for gold in the 400 freestyle relay in Beijing, France returned the favor in London. The relays legs and splits:|
|1.||France (Amaury Leveaux 48.13; Fabien Gilot, 47.67; Clement Lefert, 47.39; Yannick Agnel, 46.74), 3:09.93.|
|2.||United States (Nathan Adrian, 47.89; Michael Phelps, 47.15; Cullen Jones, 47.60; Ryan Lochte, 47.74), 3:10.38.|
|1.||U.S. (Michael Phelps, 47.51; Garrett Weber-Gale, 47.02; Cullen Jones, 47.65; Jason Lezak, 46.06), 3:08.24 (world record)|
|2.||France (Amaury Leveaux, 47.91; Fabien Gilot, 47.05; Frederick Bousquet, 46.63; Alain Bernard, 46.73) 3:08.32|