For a few seconds Michael Phelps seemed completely bemused. He just had completed a great race at the pool and yet had to settle with only a silver medal, his first in three Olympics.
There was a time when everything he touched turned gold. But London is turning out to be the end chapter of his beautiful stories that once saw smashing dozens of record.
He came here to defend his eight gold medals that he won in Beijing only to see him upstaged by team Ryan Lochte in his first race because Lochte’s fault let him down in the second race.
The defeat to Lochte in men’s 400m individual medley was not completely unexpected for Phelps as he was upstaged by him on couple of occasions earlier this year.
But the defeat to France in 4X100 freestyle relay was unacceptable, given that both Phelps and Lochte featured in the race for US. US have won this event 8 out of 10 times before they were beaten by Australia in Sydney 2000 and South Africa in Athens 2004.
Phelps helped them regained the crown in Beijing and was on his way to retain the title when Nathan Adrian gave the US the early lead, swimming the only sub-48 second first leg.
Phelps was second in for the US and showed that the fourth place finish in the 400m individual medley was not a true indication of his form. He swam the second leg in 47.15 seconds to maintain the lead and Cullen Jones did not allow the momentum to go in the third leg.
It came down to the final leg between France’s Yannick Agnel and Ryan Lochte, the new face of American men’s swimming, who came second best by a second.
‘Obviously we thought it was going to be tough, we knew Australians will be on our way, and French also would be tough,’ Phelps told responding to a New Age question in the mixed zone.
Phelps had no word for Lochte, the man responsible for his two letdowns in two days, first as a competitor and then as team-mates. Other US swimmers, however, empathised.
‘Ryan is just like any of us. He does not like to lose,’ Adrian told in the press conference. ‘He is our team-mate and we said, ‘You put yourself on the line for us as we did for you’. Let’s get ourselves up for the next race.’
The result was a sweet revenge for the French who lost in Beijing by just 0.08
seconds when Jason Lezak caught Alain Bernard with his final stroke to hand Phelps one of his titles.
Lezak was also in US team this time and competed in the heats before coaches preferred Lochte ahead of him for this anchor leg in the final. It was a blunder which came clear from Lochte’s post-race comments.
‘The 100 free?’ said Lochte. ‘I don’t really swim it, I haven’t swum the 100 free in a long time.’
French, who won the first gold from the pool earlier in the same evening when Camille Muffat narrowly edged Allison Schmitt to win the 400 freestyle final, was not surprised by the success.
The depth of the talent in the French camp is such that Olympic 100m freestyle champion Alain Bernard has not qualified for an individual swim this time and was only good enough to swim in the relay.
He was given a go only at the heat and for the final French brought in their 100m freestyle champion Agnel, who had his race of life to out-swim Lochte for their first ever relay gold.
-With New Age input