Nathan Adrian of the United States took out the Missile by a fingertip.
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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 slighest 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.
"I had no idea, to be honest," said Adrian, whose winning time was 47.52 seconds. "I’m a guy that has a lot of speed and I can go out fast and I die a little more than he does. It’s a little nerve-racking the second 50. I just had to really focus on it and stay strong."
Adrian gave a glimpse of his potential in the 4×100 free relay, going faster than Magnussen on the opening leg, a stunner given the Missile had looked unbeatable at last year’s worlds and set the fastest time ever in a textile suit (47.10) at the Australian trials in March.
Unfortunately for the Aussies, Magnussen hasn’t been at his best when it really mattered, and these Olympics are turning into a bit of a bummer for the swimmers from Down Under.
"I just felt pretty much bullet-proof coming into this Olympics," Magnussen said. "It is very humbling."
Adrian came through with the race of his life, giving the US 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."