LONDON – Ryan Lochte faded again, and this time it cost him the medal stand.
In his second straight final – this time in the final of the men’s 200-meter freestyle – Lochte faded in the final 50 meters of a race. But rather than his 4x100 freestyle relay withering, which left the U.S. with a silver medal, Lochte was outpaced by three swimmers and finished in fourth place. France’s Yannick Agnel, who caught Lochte in the last leg of the 4x100, dominated the final 50 meters again and took the gold medal in 1:43.14.
Swimming in the second lane, Lochte came off his final turn in second place but labored considerably down the stretch. That allowed South Korea’s Park Tae-Hwan and China’s Sun Yang to make up ground from third and fourth position. The pair finished in a dead heat for second, going 1:44.93. Despite two big turns that advanced him and moved him up in the swimming order, a fast front 50 meters may have once again drained Lochte’s ability to finish.
[ Photos: Ryan Lochte loses steam in London ]
“I guess I did take it out a little too fast,” Lochte said. “I’m a back-half swimmer, but I wanted to get into the race. I’ll live and learn, but I don’t want to make that mistake again.
“That last lap hurt. I put everything into it, and I guess it just wasn’t there.”
One night earlier, Agnel overtook Lochte on Sunday night in the final leg of the 4x100 freestyle relay, delivering a dramatic win and a measure of revenge for the French, who lost the same relay to the U.S. on the final leg in the Beijing Games. Only 20 years old, the 6-foot-8-inch Agnel has relentless speed and stamina and is being looked at by many as the next great superstar in the world of swimming.
The U.S. team has been acutely aware of Agnel since he dominated the European junior championships in 2010, winning five gold medals and a silver. Phelps said as much after the relay loss, saying the U.S. knew it would have to get a wide margin of open water going into Agnel’s anchor leg for the French. As the world saw, it wasn’t enough.
Lochte opened the Games by winning gold in the 400 individual medley.
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