LONDON (Reuters) - Matt Grevers continued the tradition of American one-twos in the backstroke when he piped compatriot Nick Thoman in the final of the men’s 100 meters at the London Olympics and won his first individual gold medal on Monday.
Using every inch of his 2.03 meter (6-foot-8) frame, Grevers stretched his long arms out to win in a time of 52.16 seconds, a new Olympic record and just 0.22 outside the world record set by Aaron Peirsol.
Grevers is the latest in a long line of great American backstrokers, but like his predecessors, he had to bide his time before he took the top spot.
He served as the understudy to Peirsol, winning silver behind in Beijing and he hoped to follow the tradition with Thoman, whose grandfather once held the world record, finishing in 52.92.
Americans have finished 1-2 in nine of the 23 Olympics 100 backstroke finals.
“I saw I won and I was celebrating and Nick hit me and I saw second and it was a whole new celebration and it felt even better,” said Grevers. “I got second to Aaron in 2008...it’s the great cycle of swimming.”
With Japan’s Ryosuke Irie taking the bronze, there was disappointment for world champion Camille Lacourt, who had high hopes of a medal after missing out on Beijing due to a back injury.
Just minutes after French compatriot Yannick Agnel won gold in the 200 meter freestyle, and with French President Francois Hollande watching from the stands, Lacourt could only manage fourth.
“I will try to pick myself up,” a visibly shaken Lacourt said. “Do what I’ve got to do. My only regret is that we can’t find what we’ve got to do to make it work.”
Reporting by Julian Linden and Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Greg Stutchbury