The Americans won this gold in 3 minutes, 9.92 seconds—holding off France with Adrian’s brilliant closing leg of 46.97 seconds—with Australia 1.45 seconds back for bronze.Phelps put them in position to dominate, because when he made his turn after one length of the pool, he gave the Americans a cushion they wouldn’t give up. His leg was 47.12 seconds—remarkable for an athlete who doesn’t specialize in such short distances.
Four years ago in London, the French gained retribution. Phelps, swimming second after Adrian, turned in a leg of 47.15 seconds, fastest for the Americans on the night. Ryan Lochte, swimming the anchor leg, was handed a lead of more than half a second. And Yannick Agnel, anchoring the French team, delivered a leg of 46.74 seconds, a full second better than Lochte. The French took gold; the United States silver. In nine Olympic relays to that point, it was just the second time Phelps hadn’t taken gold.