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LONDON, England, July 29. THE French have had to sit through countless replays of Jason Lezak's legendary anchor leg that delivered Team USA a remarkable victory in the men's 400-meter freestyle relay in 2008, and four years of frustration was cast aside with Yannick Agnel's anchor leg at the 2012 London Olympics.
Trailing by .55 seconds at the final relay exchange, Agnel blistered the field with a scintillating anchor of 46.74 to deliver the French foursome of Amaury Leveaux (48.13), Fabien Gilot (47.67) and Clement Lefert (47.39) a gold-medal time in 3:09.93. The win is France's first victory in the event's history, after taking second last Olympiad, and is the country's first relay victory of any kind, men or women, in the history of the Olympics.
Team USA's Nathan Adrian (47.89), Michael Phelps (47.15) and Cullen Jones (47.60) delivered Ryan Lochte a lead on the anchor, with a 2:22.64 to 2:23.19 advantage, but Locthe's 47.74 was a full second behind Agnel's anchor, leaving the U.S. with a silver medal time of 3:10.38.
With the second-place finish, Phelps earned his first Olympic silver medal ever. He has won 14 golds, and two bronzes. With 17 total medals, he now moves one step closer to the overall medal mark owned by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina. She owns the career mark with 18 total medals. Lochte, meanwhile, picked up his second medal of the meet, and eighth all time. He now has four golds, two silvers and two bronzes over the course of the 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games. His eighth medal moved him into a tie for 13th all time amongst swimmers. One more medal will push him into a tie for ninth.
“The thing about the relay is that it's the whole race (so it can't be judged on individual legs),” Phelps said. “At least I'm in a medal today.”
Russia's team of Andrey Grechin (48.57), Nikita Lobintsev (47.39), Vlad Morozov (47.85) and Danila Izotov (47.60) rounded out the podium with a 3:11.41. The much hyped Australian team of James Magnussen (48.03), Matt Targett (47.83), Eamon Sullivan (47.68) and James Roberts (48.09) settled for fourth in 3:11.63.
South Africa (3:13.45), Germany (3:13.52), Italy (3:14.13) and Belgium (3:14.40) completed the finals finish.
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