American swimmer Ryan Lochte has turned two straight disappointing performances after he opened the Olympics with a dominant win in the 400-meter individual medley. He finished fourth and off the podium Monday night in the 200 freestyle.
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France’s Yannick Agnel won the 200 by a full body length against a field with gold medalists galore.
On Sunday, Lochte anchored the US in the 4×100 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 did it again in the 200 free, leading 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 won 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.”
French President Francois Hollande came to the mixed zone to congratulate Agnel, shaking his hand warmly in the chaos of reporters and cameras. He was dwarfed by the swimmer, who gave the country its third swimming gold of the games — its most ever.
And there’s still five nights to go at the pool.
”Remarkable, two gold medals two nights in a row,” Hollande said. ”It’s a big reward for French swimming, a proud moment for him and encouraging for the whole Olympic team.”
South Korea’s Park Tae-hwan and China’s Sun Yang tied for the silver in 1:44.93. But Lochte, the reigning world champion who seemed poised to have a huge Olympics just 48 hours earlier, faded out of the medals. So did world-record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany.
Lochte is looking more and more like a swimmer who took on too much of a workload. He already has raced six times in three events covering a total of 1,500 meters over the first three days in London. He has three more events to turn things around but definitely has the look of a tired swimmer.
If nothing else, it shows just how remarkable Phelps’ performance was when he won a record eight gold medals in 2008.
”This is just an incredibly fast Olympics,” Grevers said. ”To win six of them is a really hard thing to accomplish. Your body’s going to get tired. It’s not just a physical strain; it’s an emotional strain to try to get up and compete every time.”
Phelps didn’t have any medal races on this night, but he did advance comfortably through the prelims and semis of the 200 butterfly, going into Tuesday’s final with the fourth-best time in the semis.
This will be his second attempt at becoming the first male swimmer to win the same individual event at three straight Olympics. He failed in the 400 individual medley, and Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima came up short of the same feat in the 100 breaststroke.