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Nathan Adrian wins gold in 100 freestyle

United States' Michael Phelps swims in his men's

United States' Michael Phelps swims in his men's 200-meter individual medley heat at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (Aug. 1, 2012) Credit: AP

LONDON -- Nathan Adrian took out the Missile by a fingertip.

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 slightest 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.

"It's not who swims the fastest time this year," said Adrian, a not-so-subtle dig at Magnussen posting the best time ever in a textile suit back in March. "It's who can get their hands on the wall first here tonight."

Adrian was on top of the world after touching in 47.52, giving the U.S. 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," Ryan Lochte said. "We were screaming and everything. That was one of the greatest finishes. We're so happy for him."

Adrian wasn't the only male swimmer to make a big splash Wednesday. Hungary's Daniel Gyurta won gold while setting a world record in the 200 breaststroke.

Back to Adrian: He gave the world a glimpse of his potential in the 4 x 100 free relay, going faster than Magnussen on the opening leg, a shocker given that the Missile had looked unbeatable at last year's worlds and went a stunning 47.10 at his country's national trials.

Unfortunately for the Aussies, Magnussen hasn't been at his best when it really mattered, and these Olympics are turning into a downright bummer for the swimmers from Down Under. "I just felt pretty much bulletproof coming into this Olympics," Magnussen said. "It is very humbling.

"I have a lot more respect for guys like Michael Phelps who can come to the Olympics and back it up under that pressure. It is a pretty tough time to learn you are human."

The Americans are feeling good about themselves, producing more of a team effort after Phelps dominated the last two Olympics. One night after becoming the most decorated Olympian ever with his 19th medal, Phelps had a relatively light day, swimming the prelims and semifinals of the 200 individual medley. Lochte also competed in the medley, as well as the two rounds of the 200 backstroke -- one of his toughest days in London. He posted the second-fastest time in the backstroke semis, his time of 1:55.40 trailing only fellow American Tyler Clary's 1:54.71. Then, in the IM, he was fastest in 1:56.13, ahead of Hungary's Laszlo Cseh (1:56.74) and Phelps (1:57.11), whose mind might have been on other things.

On the way to the pool, Phelps got a call from President Barack Obama, congratulating him on becoming the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.

New York Sports