Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Michael Who? Nathan Adrian Leads US on a Night for the Underdogs

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Michael Who? Nathan Adrian Leads US on a Night for the Underdogs

Article excerpt

On a night when Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Missy Franklin had no individual races, Nathan Adrian led the American undercard to a stunning night at the London Olympics.

Nathan Adrian is officially all grown up now.

Back in May, before the London Games began, Mr. Adrian sat before a room of journalists and reminisced about his Beijing experience. The first thing that came to his mind was watching Jason Lezak, the man who saved Michael Phelps's race to eight golds by clawing the US 4x100 relay team back from what seemed certain defeat.

That night, he said, "I saw something that I wanted to be able to do when I grow up."

Wednesday night in the 100-meter freestyle at the Aquatics Centre, he did it. In touching the wall 0.01 seconds ahead of heavy favorite Aussie James Magnussen, he added to the Legend of America's 2012 Aquatic Orphans.

During the past five days, the Americans not named Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Missy Franklin have tried everything short of swimming with "HELLO: MY NAME IS" stickers on their suits in an effort to get a fingertip in the spotlight.

Wednesday night, Adrian's fingertip got the spotlight all to itself.

With none of the American Big 3 in individual medal races Wednesday, America's overlooked overachievers were for the first time not the undercard, but the main event itself. And they proved that they were worth the price of admission.

First, Adrian won gold in swimming's blue-ribbon event. Next, Rebecca Soni broke a world record in the semifinal of the 200-meter breaststroke - apparently, just because she could (no one was within 2.4 seconds of her). And for the final act, Allison Schmitt proved once again that she is the best swimmer that no one is talking about by grinding up Aussie Alicia Coutts over the last 100 meters of the 4x200 relay to take gold for the US women.

If Ms. Schmitt were British, they would be taking down that Nelson chap from atop his Trafalgar Square column to make space for a golden statue of her.

To be honest, the relay was all about her - which is saying something, considering that Ms. Franklin was in it, too.

"I knew [Schmitt] was going to pull off something amazing, and the rest of us had to be at least even with everyone else," said second-leg swimmer Dana Vollmer, another member of the American Orphans (gold medal and world record in the 100-meter butterfly . …

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