SPORTS

Surprising French upset Lochte's, Phelps' U.S. relay team

07/29/2012 04:24 EDT | Updated 09/28/2012 05:12 EDT
They say that revenge is a dish best served cold.

To the men’s French 4x100-metre freestyle relay team, that often-used line took on a whole new meaning on Sunday at the London Olympics.

France rallied in the final 50 metres to win gold in three minutes, 9.93 seconds, just 0.55 ahead of the 2008 Olympic champion Americans.

Russia (3:11.63) fended off the powerful Australians (3:11.63) for the bronze medal.

The race matched the 2008 event both in drama and intensity.

It appeared the U.S. men had gold in their grasp. Nathan Adrian, Michael Phelps and Cullen Jones were brilliant in their legs, building a solid lead for anchor Ryan Lochte.

Lochte, who destroyed Phelps en route to gold in the 400m individual medley on Saturday, started strong as he held an advantage on French anchor Yannick Agnel when the two swimmers made the final turn.

But the Frenchman wouldn’t be denied, making a surge to overtake Lochte in the last few metres for the upset win.

"I gave everything in the last 50 until he [Lochte] cracked," Agnel said. "In the last 10 metres, I saw that he was really cracking."

The race took on a delicious irony from four years ago.

Prior to the 2008 event in Beijing, the French were huge favourites to win gold, and they let their U.S. counterparts know it in the lead up.

Their bravado would prove costly. In the final leg, American Jason Lezak dragged off France’s Alain Bernard — then the world-record holder in the men’s 100m freestyle — to deliver a stunning gold.

The victory in 2008 also kept Phelps’ pursuit of a record eight gold medals in one Olympics intact.

“There’s nothing like losing a sure thing four years ago and it sits with you," said CBC Sports swimming expert Byron MacDonald. "It does one of two things: you either roll over and say, 'I can’t beat the big, powerful American machine.' or you do something about it.

“They’ve gone through a couple of different sprinters and they finally put together a strong team. I think they like being under the radar this time. They had a lot of machismo four years ago and it blew up in their face. This time they decided to take the low road, and you know what, the low road worked brilliantly.”

Despite finishing second, the silver pulled Phelps within one medal of Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s all-time total of 18.

Heading into the competition, the Aussies — featuring James "The Missile" Magnussen and James "The Rocket" Roberts — were the clear favourites.

The hype, however, didn’t match what took place in the water as the final came down to the French and Americans.

"We knew the Australians would be very strong, but they were very nervous, perhaps like us in 2008," said Clement Lefert, who swam the third leg for the French after Amaury Leveaux and Fabien Gilot, respectively. "We were very relaxed, like the Americans in 2008.

"And four years later," he added, "we got our revenge."

American Vollmer breaks 100m butterfly world record

American Dana Vollmer broke the second world swimming record of the London Olympics.

Vollmer erased an early deficit to touch the wall in 55.98 seconds — the first women to ever swim under 56 seconds in the 100m butterfly — to win her first career individual Olympic gold medal.

"I'm on top of the world right now." Vollmer said. "I still know I can go faster."

China’s Lu Ying won the silver medal in 56.87, followed by bronze medallist Alicia Coutts (56.94) of Australia.

Vollmer, who had heart surgery in 2003, broke Sarah Sjostrom’s world record that the Swede set at the 2009 world championships in Rome.

Sjostrom finished fourth with a time of 57.17.

She came close to breaking Sjostrom's record at the U.S. Olympic trials last month, and set an Olympic record in the semifinals to come in as the top qualifier.

Now she's an Olympic champion.

"I kept telling myself that my strength is my second 50," Vollmer said. "I kept really calm."

Van der Burgh eclipses men’s 100m breaststroke mark

For the first time since the 2000 Sidney Olympics, the men’s 100-metre breaststroke has a new champion.

South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh exploded to the lead and never looked back, breaking the world record in 58.46.

It was the second world mark of Sunday shortly after Vollmer's mark in the women's 100m butterfly. Australia’s Christian Sprenger earned the silver with a time of 58.93, while American Brendan Hansen won a bronze medal in 59.49.

Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima, who was looking to become the first male swimmer to win a gold medal in the same event at three consecutive Olympics Games, ended up fifth (59.79).

French swimmer Muffat wins 400m freestyle

France's Camille Muffat won the women's 400m freestyle, defeating American Allison Schmitt to take home the gold medal in Olympic-record time.

Muffat, the fastest women in the heats, held off Schmitt by clocking a time of 4:01.45, just 0.32 ahead of her U.S. foe. Brit Rebecca Adlington, the 2008 Olympic champion, battled back to win bronze in 4:03.01 to the delight of her hometown crowd.

Canadian Brittany MacLean, the first Canadian to get into a swimming final at the Olympic Games, finished seventh in 4:06.24.

The 18-year-old from Toronto posted the sixth-fastest time in Sunday's heats.

Canada’s Van Beilen loses swimoff

Canadian Tera Van Beilen failed in her attempt to advance to the women's 100m breaststroke.

Van Beilen, of Oakville, Ont., finished tied for fourth of the first semifinal heat in one minute, 7.48 seconds, the exact mark Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson touched the wall in. That forced a swimoff later on Sunday.

But the Canadian couldn't catch Atkinson, who took the early advantage all the way to victory.

While this isn't Van Beilen's best evet, the Canadian should take solace in the fact she started the day ranked 16th and moved up to ninth. The 19-year-old's performance should give her plenty of confidence heading into the 200m breaststroke, an event she won at the Canadian trials.

Other Canadian results

- Stratford, Ont.'s Julia Wilkinson finished a disappointing fifth in the women's 100m backstroke semifinal heat and didn't qualify for the final.

- Sinead Russell, from Burlington, Ont., failed to advanced after placing eighth in the semifinals of the women's 100m backstroke.

- Calgary's Jillian Tyler (1:07.87) failed to qualify in the women's 100m breaststroke, finishing seventh in the second semifinal heat.

- Charles Francis, of Cowansville, Que., was seventh in his semifinal of the men's 100m backstroke heat and failed to qualify for the final.

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