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 largely overshadowed by American stars such as Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, made a name for himself by winning the 100-meter Olympic freestyle 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 posting the best time ever in a textile suit back 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 to their American rivals as Schmitt chased down Alicia Coutts for gold in the 4×200 freestyle relay.
Schmitt dived in the water about a half-second behind but passed Coutts 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.
(Former University of Hawaii swimmer Melanie Schlanger was part of Australia’s quartet. Schlanger swam second and had the team in first place when she touched the wall at the end of her leg. Schlanger also qualified second for today’s 100-meter freestyle.)
Schmitt is turning into one of the biggest American stars of the games, picking up her second gold to go along 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 team.
"Allison is a fighter and she can push through anything," Franklin said. "We had total faith in her."
Chinese badminton player decides to quit the game
LONDON » A Chinese badminton star is apparently quitting the sport after she was one of eight players disqualified from the doubles tournament at the London Olympics for trying to lose.
A comment on a verified account for Yu Yang on the Tencent microblogging service read: "This is my last game. Farewell Badminton World Federation. Farewell my dear badminton."
Yu’s retirement could not be immediately confirmed with Chinese badminton officials.
Yu and Wang Xiaoli were one of four doubles teams that appeared to play poorly on purpose to secure a more favorable position in the next phase of the event.
Two teams from South Korea and another from Indonesia also were disqualified.
Like the Aussies, the record book also took quite a beating.
Daniel Gyurta and Rebecca Soni both set world records in the 200 breaststroke. The Hungarian won gold, while Soni set her mark in a semifinal heat, further proof that it’s still possible to go fast — really fast — even without the now-banned bodysuits. Five records have fallen over the first five days at the Olympic Aquatics Centre, defying those who felt 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, giving the U.S. its first title in swimming’s signature event since Matt Biondi at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Canada’s Brent Hayden took bronze in 47.80, his country’s first medal ever 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 4×100 free 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 4×100 free 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."