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 slighest 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.
"I had no idea, to be honest," said Adrian, whose winning time was 47.52 seconds. "I'm a guy that has a lot of speed and I can go out fast and I die a little more than he does. It's a little nerve-racking the second 50. I just had to really focus on it and stay strong."
Daniel Gyurta set his world record in the 200 breaststroke, needing every bit of it to hold off Michael Jamieson's furious bid for Britain's first gold at the pool. The Hungarian touched in 2 minutes, 7.28 seconds, shaving 0.03 off the previous mark set by Christian Sprenger of Australia at the 2009 world championships in a now-banned bodysuit.
Rebecca Soni showed plenty of speed in the women's 200 breast — and it wasn't even the final. Swimming a semifinal heat, the American touched in 2:20.00 to break yet another of the bodysuit records, a time of 2:20.12 set by Canada's Annamay Pierse at the '09 worlds, the fifth world mark to fall at the London Games and further proof it's still possible to go fast — really fast — in textile suits.
"Whoa, Rebecca just set a world record," Adrian said as he watched Soni's race on television while talking to reporters in the mixed zone. "I'm overshadowed by Rebecca setting a world record."
He should be used to that by now, swimming for a team that includes Phelps and Lochte.
But Adrian gave a glimpse of his potential in the 4x100 free relay, going faster than Magnussen on the opening leg, a stunner given the Missile had looked unbeatable at last year's worlds and set the fastest time ever in a textile suit (47.10) at the Australian trials in March.