Olympic Games, London: Day 3 Finals
Men's 200 freestyle final
A year ago, headlines suggested a Race of the Century Part II would unfold in London as Ian Thorpe, of Australia, made his return to face the American stars Michael Phelps in the mix. Two did not make the race, Ryan Lochte the last superstar standing - but not for long.
Yannick Agnel, the 20-year-old from Nice who yesterday killed off Phelps, Lochte and the US with one stone as he brought France home to glory ahead of the US in the 4x100m freestyle, drove the blade deeper with his second crown in 24 hours.
Like a wolf leading sheep to sloughter, Agnel controlled the pace: a 24.55 opener, the field tight, Sun in 6th on 24.86, was followed a half-way 50.64, Agnel holding sway, Park a stroke away, Lochte on 51.19 in third and looking set to pounce.
The world champion piled on the pressure but the Frenchman had a strong lead, turning in 1:17.16, Lochte next through in 1:17.79. That's when Agnel took a sledgehammer to nail his second Olympic gold medal in two days after 4x100m victory with France teammates yesterday.
The predator in the pack then sank his teeth in with a stunning turn of speed and a thunderous, Thorpe-like kick down the home lap on his way to a 1:43.14 maiden Olympic crown. For the first time in swimming history the silver was shared, Sun Yang (CHN) and Park Taehwan (KOR), on 1:44.93, world champion Lochte locked out in 1:45.04.
Lochte tweeted: "Not so happy about that swim tonight ... you live and learn. Tomorrow I will be better." Count on it, getting back up from the hard knocks the stuff that sets the very best apart from the rest of the best.
Agnel's time, though shy of the other-worldy 1:42.00 world mark from a time of booster bodysuits now banned, is the best ever by a man in a textile suit, more than half a second quicker than Phelps, 2008 champion, ever went. Lochte, having seen his teammate Phelps miss the podium for the first time in three Games finals over 400m medley on the first day of action last Saturday looked stunned. “I can go alot faster than that. I don’t know what fell out.”
"I did my best," he added. "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."
There to witness the first French victory in the event and only the third time since 1896 than a swimmer of Gaul has claimed gold in the Olympic pool was President Francois Hollande, who declared: "He is a very big champion … I chose the right day to come here."
Agnel claimed bronze on Saturday was delighted to have “realised my childhood dream ... I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t have plan for the race and this exceeds my expectations and hopes, especially in a race with competitors like Lochte.”
The Frenchman, whose training partner is Camille Muffat (winner of the 400m freestyle final in which Britain’s Rebecca Adlington) is guided by Fabrice Pellerin, a man who has his charges listen to The Beatles and Mozart for mood in training. It all seems to have hit the right note just in time for the biggest score of them all.
In 2001, Ian Thorpe clocked 24.81; 51.45; 1:18.26; 1:44.06 for the world title and record.
To qualify for the final it took: