American downs Australia's 'Missile' in 100 freestyle

Nathan Adrian pumps his fist after beating James "The Missile" Magnussen, the world champion, by one-hundredth of a second in the 100-meter men's freestyle.
Nathan Adrian pumps his fist after beating James "The Missile" Magnussen, the world champion, by one-hundredth of a second in the 100-meter men's freestyle. (MARK J. TERRILL / Associated Press)
Posted: August 03, 2012

LONDON - Nathan Adrian took out the Missile by a fingertip. Then Allison Schmitt dealt more heartache to the team from down under.

Adrian, a 23-year-old American largely overshadowed by stars such as Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, made a name for himself by winning the 100-meter Olympic freestyle on Wednesday. He lunged to the wall to edge James "The Missile" Magnussen by one-hundredth of a second - the slightest margin possible - and again deny Australia its first individual swimming gold of the London Games.

Adrian pounded the water, then put his hands over his eyes while dangling over the lane rope, as if he couldn't believe the "1" beside his name. Magnussen hung at the end of the pool, staring straight ahead at the wall in disbelief, the wall he got to just a fraction of a second too late.

"It's not who swims the fastest time this year," said Adrian, a not-so-subtle dig at Magnussen's posting the best time ever in a textile suit in March. "It's who can get their hands on the wall first here tonight."

The Aussies took another bitter defeat in the final event of the evening, again by their American rivals, as Schmitt chased down Alicia Coutts for gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay.

Schmitt dived in the water about a half-second behind Coutts but passed her on their first return lap and won going away in 7 minutes, 42.92 seconds. The Australians settled for another silver in 7:44.41, while France took the bronze.

Schmitt is turning into one of the biggest American stars of the Games, picking up her second gold to go with a silver and a bronze. Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin also claimed her second gold swimming the leadoff leg, and Dana Vollmer now has two golds in London. Shannon Vreeland rounded out the gold-medal-winning quartet.

Like the Aussies, the record book also took quite a beating.

Daniel Gyurta and Rebecca Soni set world records in the 200 breaststroke. The Hungarian won gold, while Soni set her mark in a semifinal heat, further proof that its still possible to go fast - really fast - even without the now-banned body suits. Five records have fallen over the first five days at the Olympic Aquatics Centre, defying those who thought it would take years, maybe even decades, to take down some of the marks set with technological assistance.

"If I feel good, I don't want to hold back. I shouldn't," Soni said. "I just went for the last 50, and I started to hear the crowd halfway through and just kept going with it.

"It's been four years since I swam close to that fast, so it's great to be back on top like that."

Adrian was on top of the world after touching in 47.52 seconds, giving the United States its first title in swimming's signature event since Matt Biondi in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Canada's Brent Hayden took silver in 47.80, his country's first-ever medal in the furious down-and-back sprint.

"We were in the ready room and we watched it and just went nuts," Lochte said. "We were screaming and everything. That was one of the greatest finishes. We're so happy for him."

Adrian watched Soni's record on television while chatting with reporters in the mixed zone.

"Whoa, Rebecca just set a world record," he said. "I'm overshadowed by Rebecca setting a world record."

He should be used to that by now, swimming for a team that includes Phelps and Lochte. But Adrian gave a glimpse of his potential in the 4x100 freestyle relay, going faster than Magnussen on the opening leg, a shocker given that the Missile had looked unbeatable at last year's worlds and went a stunning 47.10 at his country's national trials.

Unfortunately for the Aussies, Magnussen hasn't been at his best when it really mattered, and these Olympics are turning into a downright bummer for the swimmers from down under.

"I just felt pretty much bulletproof coming into this Olympics," Magnussen said. "It is very humbling."

Australia, which normally battles with the Americans for pool supremacy, has eight medals, but its only gold came in the women's 4x100 freestyle relay. The Americans are pulling away in the medal table with eight golds and 18 medals overall.

"I have a lot more respect for guys like Michael Phelps who can come to the Olympics and back it up under that pressure," Magnussen said. "It is a pretty tough time to learn you are human."

The Americans are feeling good about themselves, producing more of a team effort after Phelps dominated the last two Olympics.

"We've had a great week so far," Phelps said. "We are just starting to pick up more and more steam, so hopefully we can finish it."

Gyurta needed every bit of speed in his race to finish off Michael Jamieson, who made a furious bid for Britain's first gold at the pool. The Hungarian touched in 2:07.28, shaving 0.03 off the previous mark set by Christian Sprenger of Australia in the 2009 world championships in a suit that no longer is allowed.

Soni showed plenty of speed, too, and it wasn't even for a medal. She touched in 2:20.00 to break yet another of the bodysuit records, a time of 2:20.12 set by Canada's Annamay Pierse in the '09 worlds.

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