LONDON -- Ryan Lochte has turned in two straight disappointing performances after opening the games with a dominant win in the 400-meter individual medley. He finished fourth and off the podium Monday night in the 200 freestyle, which France's Yannick Agnel won by a full body length against a field with gold medalists galore.
On Sunday, Lochte anchored the U.S. in the 4x100 free relay, taking over with a seemingly comfortable lead. But Agnel chased him down on the final leg, giving France the gold.
Now, another defeat.
"I did my best," Lochte said. "I guess sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I gave it 110 percent. There's probably some things I messed up on, but you live and learn. (Agnel is) a great racer. There's no doubt about it. He's quick, and he showed it last night and tonight. I'm happy for him. He did good."
Agnel showed that his brilliant swim on the Olympic relay was no fluke. The baby-faced, 6-foot-6 Frenchman led from start to finish in perhaps the most star-studded race of these games -- even without Michael Phelps, who passed up a chance to defend his Olympic title.
That might have been a good move by Phelps. It was hard to see anyone beating Agnel on this night, as he pulled away to win by a full body length in 1 minute, 43.14 seconds. No one came close to challenging him, and he looked just as strong at the end as he did at the beginning.
"I really didn't expect that time," Agnel said. "I had
a race plan in my head, but this is above my expectations and hopes. I'm delighted. It's a childhood dream come true. I had to start quickly over the first 100 meters. I did that. Then I worked on keeping my speed and putting all my guts into the last 50. I don't know what to say. It worked."
The 6-foot-8 Grevers rallied on his return lap, winning the event in an Olympic-record 52.16 -- the fifth straight games, dating to Atlanta in 1996, that the U.S. men have won the backstroke. Thoman joined his teammate on the medal podium at 52.97, a 1-2 finish they were thinking about all along and reiterated just before the final.
David Marsh, Thoman's coach, brought it up right moments before they went out to the pool, saying "1-2."
Grevers said he and Thoman knew they "weren't jinxing anything," and they were right, though Grevers didn't notice right away that Americans took the top two spots.
"I must be selfish because it took me a good 10 seconds to realize he got second," he quipped. "That's something I should do right away. But when I noticed, that moment became much more special. To know that we can go 1-2 in that event, again really shows the USA's dominance in backstroke right now when we're able to step up."
Japan's Ryosuke Irie was third in 52.97.
"I've been watching the Olympics for as long as I can remember," Thoman said. "The first one I really remember is the '92 Barcelona Games and just watching guys back then. Seeing Lenny Krayzelburg, my idol, and then Aaron Piersol, again my idol, who I got to train with for a little while. Just being able to carry on that tradition, it's a great thing."
Soni tried to follow teammates Grevers and Missy Franklin to the top of the podium, but the 2008 Olympic silver medalist came up eight-hundredths of a second short. Japan took yet another bronze with Satomi Suzuki touching in 1:06.46.