Nathan Adrian: 100-Meter Freestyle Win Is Biggest Upset in London so Far

Sam R. Quinn@SamQuinn_Senior Analyst IIIAugust 1, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01:  Gold medalist Nathan Adrian of the United States celebrates with his medal on the podium during the medal cermony for the Men's 100m Freestyle on Day 5 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on August 1, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

You may have forgotten about American swimmer Nathan Adrian after he helped the United States qualify for their gold-medal effort in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay in Beijing, but the 23-year-old Washington native came back with a vengeance at the 2012 London Olympics.

Adrian scored an upset of epic proportions—the biggest upset we've seen thus far at the London Olympics—by winning the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle over Australia's James Magnussen.

In the closest possible finish, Adrian touched the wall 0.01 seconds ahead of Magnussen, who has been endlessly touted as the world's best 100-meter freestyle swimmer.

When I say that Magnussen is "endlessly touted," I mean it. All swimming experts pegged the 21-year-old World Champion to win this one.

He was so heavily favored that one of the choices in ESPN's Streak for the Cash read, "Who will win the gold medal?" The choices were, James Magnussen, or any other competitor.

Adrian was the clear second favorite in the pool on this day, but he wasn't expected to challenge Magnussen for the gold medal. Of course, anything can happen in Olympic competition, but Magnussen was supposed to be far and away the best swimmer in this crop.

Magnussen put up the fastest time ever (47.10) in a textile suit back in March at the Australian selection trials (via His nickname is "The Missile," and everybody believed that he would live up to that title at the 2012 Games.

This must be the most satisfying win of Adrian's career, as he is often overlooked by the American public thanks to his fellow countrymen Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

Obviously, Adrian didn't put up a lead at the beginning and coast to a victory. He was neck and neck with Magnussen down the stretch, making his win all the more improbable, as Magnussen is highly regarded as one of the best finishers in the sport—if not the best.

It wasn't just the top-two finishers that went down to the wire. All eight swimmers touched the wall within 0.92 seconds of each other.

Adrian shocked the swimming world with his unexpected triumph, winning his second medal of the 2012 Games, and keeping Magnussen from his first gold.