American swimmers settle for silver in relay
LONDON Payback. This time, it was France chasing down the United States—and Ryan Lochte, no less—to win another riveting relay at the Olympics.
With Michael Phelps looking much stronger than he did the night before, the Americans built a commanding lead over the first three legs of the 400-meter freestyle relay Sunday and never really had to worry about the defending world champions from Australia.
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 nearly 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 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 one second faster than Lochte over the last 100 meters. Lochte and the Americans dropped to silver in 3:10.38, while Australia—the favorite—didn't even get a medal. Russia took the bronze in 3:11.41, edging the team from Down Under by 0.22 for the last spot on the podium.
"We knew the Australians would be very strong, but they were very nervous, perhaps like us in 2008," said Clement Lefert, who swam the third leg for the French. "We were very relaxed, like the Americans in 2008.
"And four years later," he added, "we got our revenge."
Phelps settled for his 17th career medal—and first silver—to move a step closer to becoming the most decorated Olympian ever.
"At least I'm in a medal today," Phelps said ruefully, referring to a fourth-place finish in Saturday's 400 individual medley—his first race of the London Games.
But silver was a bitter disappointment for the Americans, who now know how the French felt four years ago.
Phelps put up the fastest time among the American swimmers, covering the second 100 in 47.15. Nathan Adrian swam the leadoff leg in 47.89. Cullen Jones was solid, too, in the third spot (47.60).
Lochte was handed a lead of more than a half-second, but he couldn't hold it. Agnel covered the final leg in 46.74, while Lochte finished in 47.74.
DAY 2 HIGHLIGHTS
North Korea's Om Yun Chol said he wanted to lift a big weight and make the other athletes nervous. He definitely nailed that strategy.
Om, standing all of 5 feet and 123 pounds, won a gold medal by confidently lifting an Olympic-record 370 pounds in the clean and jerk at the London Games.
Only a handful of people have lifted more than three times their body weight, and this one came out of nowhere.
Om was in the "B" group with lower-ranked competitors and lifted weights of 160 and 165 kilograms on his first two attempts early in the day.
RHODE, VOLLMER TRIUMPH
Kimberly Rhode also put on a show at the Royal Artillery Barracks, winning the gold medal in women's skeet shooting to become the first American to take an individual-sport medal in five consecutive Olympics.
Rhode tied the world record and set an Olympic mark with 99 points. She also set an Olympic record in qualifying, missing only one of her 75 shots.
Swimmer Dana Vollmer also had a triumphant return to the Olympics, setting a world record while winning gold in the 100 butterfly.
Vollmer, who made the Olympics as a 16-year-old in 2004, was a huge disappointment when she failed to make the team in Beijing in 2008.
US MEN DOMINATE
Kevin Durant scored 22 points, LeBron James added eight assists and the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team opened tournament play with a rough-and-ragged 98-71 win over France on Sunday.
Seeking a second straight gold medal to match the one they won in Beijing four years ago, the Americans expected—but didn't receive—a tough test from a French team featuring San Antonio guard Tony Parker and five other NBA players.
The U.S. women had the top score in qualifying, but the big story was world champion Jordyn Wieber.
The 17-year-old Wieber, a heavy favorite, is out of the all-around competition after finishing behind teammates Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas. Countries are limited to two gymnasts in the all-around and event finals.
Russia was 1.4 points back with a score of 180.429.
Marianne Vos of the Netherlands won the gold medal in the women's road race in a rain-drenched sprint, leaving Britain's Elizabeth Armitstead with silver and the home country's first medal of the London Olympics.
Vos, the former world champion, made a daring move past Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya to emerge from the three-rider breakaway. Zabelinskaya won bronze after a frantic finish through a driving rain that was reminiscent of four years ago in Beijing.