American Nathan Adrian wins photo finish in 100 free to beat ‘The Missile’

For the second straight Olympics, an American swimmer won a race by the narrowest possible margin.

Nathan Adrian stormed past defending world champion James "The Missle" Magnussen of Australia with a furious final stroke to win the 100-meter freestyle by .01 seconds on Wednesday night at the Aquatics Centre in London.

The 23-year-old Washington native finished in 47.52. He became the first American man to win the 100 free since Matt Biondi in 1988.

[ Photos: American medal winners from the London Games ]

He and Adrian were in third and fifth, respectively, at the midway point of the race. Both accelerated off the turns, with Adrian pulling slightly ahead of the pack at the 75-meter mark. Magnussen, an Australian superstar who had lofty expectations entering London, powered past Adrian as they approached the wall. They went stroke for stroke into the flags and the Aussie looked in control. But on the final lunge, Adrian's fingertips shot past Magnussen's to hit the touchpad first, a sight that looked like a freestyle version of Michael Phelps' .01-second win over Milorad Cavic in the 100 butterfly in Beijing.

It's the second time at the Olympics that Adrian has gotten the best of the heavily favored Aussie. In Sunday's 4x100 relay, the two men swam leadoff for their respective countries. Adrian won that matchup by a comparatively huge margin -- .24 seconds. The Americans went on to win silver after Ryan Lochte was passed by France's Yannick Agnel. Hurt by Magnussen's slow leg, the Australians finished out of the medals.

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