Cullen Jones (second from right) shows his silver medal to photographers along with his relay teammates. (Photo courtesy of David Marsh) LONDON -- In a dramatic 4x100 freestyle Olympic relay that was almost the exact opposite of one that had occurred at the 2008 Olympics, France chased down the USA in the final 50 meters to win the gold medal Sunday.
Ryan Lochte had a 0.55-second lead when he began the anchor leg of the relay after Charlotte's Cullen Jones had swum the third leg. But Lochte couldn't hold it against France's Yannick Agnel, who blazed to a time a full second faster than Lochte to win by 0.45 seconds. Agnel's time of 46.74 seconds was the fastest of the 32 relay swimmers in the race.
In 2008 in Beijing, France had led in the final 50 meters in the same event before anchor leg Jason Lezak chased down the lead in the last few strokes of the race.
Sunday's result meant Jones got his second Olympic medal -- he was on the 2008 relay, too -- but this time it was a silver. Jones said later he was happy with the time he had swum but that he felt sorry for his close friend, Lochte.
"He's beating himself up, I know," Jones said, "and he doesn't need to. That French guy swam a superhuman race."
Two other N.C. swimmers were in the water in London Saturday night, too. Nick Thoman qualified for Monday night's final in the 100 backstroke by finishing fifth in the semifinals. Ricky Berens did not qualify for the 200 free final -- the top eight advance out of the semifinals, and Berens was ninth.
However, Berens also gets a silver medal for his work Sunday. He was part of the U.S.'s preliminary 4x100 relay in the morning, and everyone who swims either in the prelim or the final gets the same medal. The entire team was switched out between morning and evening, with Nathan Adrian, Michael Phelps, Jones and Lochte swimming for the U.S., in that order.