LONDON: Payback. This time, it was France chasing down the United States — and Ryan Lochte, no less — to win a riveting relay at the Olympics.
With Michael Phelps looking much stronger than he did the night before, the Americans built a commanding lead over the first three legs of the 400-meter freestyle relay Sunday and never had to worry about the defending world champions from Australia.
When Lochte dived into the water on the anchor leg, he was a half-body length ahead of the field and looking to add a gold medal. Not so fast.
Yannick Agnel, playing the chaser role that Jason Lezak did for the Americans four years ago in the same event, sliced through the water and was right on Lochte’s shoulder as they made the flip at the far end of the pool. With about 25 meters to go, they were stroke for stroke. But Lochte, who had already competed in 1,200 meters of racing over the first two days, didn’t have enough left to hold off the towering, 20-year-old Frenchman, one of the sport’s real rising stars.
“I gave everything in the last 50 until he cracked,” Agnel said. “In the last 10 meters, I saw that he was really cracking.”
Agnel touched in 3 minutes, 9.93 seconds. Lochte and the Americans dropped to silver in 3:10.38, while Australia — the favorite — didn’t even get a medal. Russia took the bronze in 3:11.41, edging the team from Down Under by 0.22.
Phelps settled for the 17th medal of his career — and his first silver — to move a step closer to becoming the most decorated Olympian ever.
“At least I’m in a medal today,” Phelps said ruefully.
North Korea’s Om Yun Chol said he wanted to lift a big weight and make the other athletes nervous. He definitely nailed that strategy.
Om, standing 5 feet and weighing 123 pounds, won a gold medal by confidently lifting an Olympic-record 370 pounds in the clean and jerk.
Only a handful of people, including Turkey’s Halil Mutlu and Naim Suleymanoglu, have lifted more than three times their body weight.
Kimberly Rhode won gold in women’s skeet shooting, making her the first American to take an individual-sport medal in five consecutive Olympics.
Rhode tied the world record and set an Olympic record with 99 points. Wei Ning of China took silver with 91 points and Danka Bartekova of Slovakia got bronze by beating Marina Belikova of Russia in a shootout after they tied at 90 points.
Rhode won a gold medal in double trap at Atlanta as a teenager in 1996, took bronze in that event four years later at Sydney, re-claimed the gold at Athens in 2004 and won the silver in skeet at Beijing in 2008.
“It’s just been an incredible journey,” Rhode said.
Britain, Ireland and the revitalized American team are all off to a perfect start in the Olympic boxing tournament.
Jose Ramirez and Errol Spence won their opening bouts to improve the Americans to 4-0, while Freddie Evans and Josh Taylor rode the home crowd’s raucous cheers to a 3-0 start for Britain. Welterweight Adam Nolan then added a win in the late session, pushing Ireland’s record to 3-0.
Welterweight Custio Clayton notched Canada’s first Olympic win in eight years.
Spain was booted from the men’s tournament after losing 1-0 to Honduras in Cardiff, Wales, while Brazil and Japan booked their places in the quarterfinals with victories.
Host Britain had a 3-1 victory over United Arab Emirates that knocked the Middle Eastern team out of the tournament. Mexico rebounded from a first-round loss by beating Gabon 2-0. Uruguay lost 2-0 to Senegal. Egypt played to a 1-1 draw against New Zealand, while South Korea beat Switzerland 2-1.
The defending champion U.S. men’s team opened play by sweeping Serbia behind Matt Anderson’s 18 points.
Captain Clay Stanley added 13 points in the 25-17, 25-22, 25-21 victory at Earls Court.
Bulgaria swept Britain, 25-18, 25-20, 26-24, and Russia defeated Germany 31-29, 25-18, 25-17. Australia lost to Argentina 25-21, 25-22, 25-20.
Americans Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser, defending beach volleyball gold medalists, opened the 2012 tournament with a straight-set win over Japan’s Kentaro Asahi and Katsuhiro Shiratori.
Americans April Ross and Jennifer Kessy also won their match Sunday, beating Ana Gallay and Virginia Zonta of Argentina 21-11, 21-18.
The U.S. women had the top score in qualifying, but the big story was world champion Jordyn Wieber.
Wieber, a heavy favorite, is out of the all-around competition after finishing behind teammates Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas.
Wieber, 17, sobbed as she made her way past reporters, so distraught she couldn’t speak to them.
Russia was 1.4 points back with a score of 180.429. Beijing Olympics champion China was third (176.637), followed by European champion Romania (176.264) and Britain (170.656).
Wu Minxia and partner He Zi won the first diving gold medal, moving China a step closer to a sweep of the eight events in London.
They led throughout the five-dive round and totaled 346.20 points in the 3-meter synchronized event.
Abby Johnston and Kelci Bryant finished second with 321.90 points. It was the first Olympic synchro medal for the U.S.
Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel earned the bronze with 316.80 for Canada’s first medal of the games.
Zara Phillips did her royal family proud. In her Olympic equestrian debut, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II rode her horse, High Kingdom, to a respectable finish in the eventing dressage competition. Phillips’ grandfather, Prince Philip, and her mother, Princess Anne, looked on. Anne clapped politely.
Ding Ning and Li Xiaoxia of China won their opening matches, beginning a road that is expected to bring one of them gold in women’s singles.
Li, seeded No. 2 in the tournament, ended the dream of American Ariel Hsing, 16, struggling to win in six games against the upstart Californian.
• Peter Varellas had three goals to lead the United States to an 8-7 win over Montenegro in water polo.
• Cyclist Marianne Vos of the Netherlands won gold in the women’s road race in a rain-drenched sprint, leaving Britain’s Elizabeth Armitstead with silver.
• South Korea won gold in women’s team archery for the seventh straight time. Ki Bo-bae, Lee Sung-jin and Choi Hyeon-ju hugged after their 210-209 win over China. Japan took bronze.
• Fencer Aron Szilagyi of Hungary won gold in the men’s individual saber by defeating Diego Occhiuzzi of Italy 15-8. Nikolay Kovalev of Russia earned bronze with a 15-10 victory over Rares Dumitrescu of Romania.
• The Netherlands beat newcomer Belgium 3-0 in women’s field hockey while Argentina dominated South Africa 7-1.
• An Kae Um won North Korea’s first gold in London in the women’s 52-kilogram category in judo, and Lasha Shavdatuashvili of Georgia took the men’s 66-kilogram category.