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Revenge is so délicieux for French relay

30 Jul

LONDON — One of the enduring images of the 2008 Beijing Olympics is the primal scream that Michael Phelps uttered on the pool deck when Jason Lezak, seemingly seized by an out-of-body experience, delivered a swim for the ages.
In overtaking France’s Alain Bernard, Lezak — who swam 100 meters in 46.06 seconds — secured relay gold for the United States and, not so incidentally, kept alive Phelps’ historic chase for eight gold medals.
That day in Beijing, Phelps threw his arms up toward the sky as if he were signaling a touchdown by his favorite team, the Baltimore Ravens. Garrett Weber-Gale, who had raced the second leg of that relay, grabbed Phelps from behind as if he were about to body-slam him to the deck, or punch him, or something. The French, just over to the side, looked on in stunned silence.
Revenge, you know, is so délicieux.
Yannick Agnel, who is just 20 years old, gave France its Lezak moment Sunday night at the Olympic pool, not just tracking down Ryan Lochte — Ryan Lochte! — but reeling him in and thrashing him by a full second to give France the victory in the men’s 4×100 freestyle relay.
The win is France’s first in the history of the event. Not only that — it’s France’s first relay victory of any kind, men or women, in the history of the Summer Olympics.
The winning time: 3:09.93.
The U.S. took silver, in 3.10:38.
Russia got the bronze, in 3:11.41.
Australia, which had widely been expected to not only contest for a medal but for the win, inexplicably finished fourth.
The silver serves as a marker of sorts for Phelps. It is his 17th Olympic medal. He needs one more to tie Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina, two more to become the most-decorated Olympic athlete of all time. It is also the first silver medal in his Olympic career; he has 14 gold medals and two bronze.
The 4×100 men’s free relay is a key touchstone for the U.S. national program, laden with history and tradition. The swimmers and coaches take it tremendously seriously, and after the Australians thrashed the Americans at the 2011 world championships in Shanghai, great care and thought was given to 2012 race plan and strategy.
Last year in Shanghai, the Australians won the relay. France took second, the U.S. third.
The Americans had won the 400 free relay at the 2005, 2007 and 2009 world championships — Adrian bailing them out in Rome in 2009 with a stirring anchor leg — and of course in Beijing in 2008.
In recent years, Phelps typically had gone first in the relay. That’s the leg he swam in Beijing, for instance.
Here, though, he went second.
The reason: James Magnussen, the Aussie lead-off man, is the open 100 world champ. The Americans countered with Nathan Adrian, the fastest U.S. 100 sprinter.
Magnussen went 48.03 Sunday night. Adrian gave Phelps the lead, with 47.89.
Phelps then ripped off a 47.15, which would prove the fastest U.S. time Sunday evening, and ought to put an unequivocal and immediate stop to the ridiculous talk after the 400 IM about whether he was through.
“I felt a lot better today than I did yesterday. i mean, I was happy,” Phelps said, meaning about his swim itself. “I was able to put yesterday behind me and kind of move on t today. hopefully we can just move forward from here and keep heading in the right direction.
Cullen Jones went next. He was on the 2008 relay, too. Here he went 47.6.
When he jumped in, Lochte had a lead of 55-hundredths of a second.
This was not Lochte’s only swim Sunday evening. Roughly 85 minutes earlier, he had raced the semifinals of the 200 free, easily qualifying for the final.
At 350 meters, Lochte still had a lead — but it was down to 30-hundredths of a second.
Over the final 50 meters, it was déjà vu all over again. Just this time, it was a French guy running down an American guy.
And a few seconds later, on the deck, it was a bunch of French guys screaming for their lives.
Lochte swam his 100 in 47.74. There’s zero shame in that. Anything under 48 is more than world class.
Agnel just did it in 46.74.
“We knew the Australians would be strong, but they were very nervous, perhaps like us in 2008,” Clement Lefert, who swam the third leg for the French, said, according to Associated Press. “We were very relaxed, like the Americans in 2008.
‘And four years later, we got our revenge.”
Lochte offered no excuses. He said, “I mean, the 100 free, I don’t really swim it — haven’t swum it in a long time, so I think I was really excited. I think I over-swam the first 50, which kinda hurt me the last 50.”
He also said, “You would think, doing distance events, I wouldn’t get tired. But sprinting definitely takes a lot out of you. I made that mistake. We were able to get a medal. I guess that’s good.”
Just not good enough. nbcolympics

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Posted by on July 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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