Matt Grevers took gold in the event on Monday, making it a span of five straight gold medals – and 20 years – since someone other than an American has stood at the top of the podium in the event. Grevers and Nick Thoman made it the second straight Games in which the U.S. has taken gold and silver, after Grevers finished second to teammate Aaron Peirsol in Beijing in 2008. Grevers – who was expected to ascend to the 100-meter backstroke throne held by Peirsol for much of the last decade – set an Olympic record with Monday’s gold medal, going 52.16 seconds.
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Going into the turn in second place, Grevers throttled the final 50 meters and was the only swimmer to go under 27 seconds in that length. Thoman was close behind, pulling into second place and holding off Japan’s Ryosuke Irie in the final 10 meters and finishing at 52.92 seconds. Irie captured bronze at 52.97.
Grevers was so elated when the race ended, he didn’t immediately realize his teammate had captured silver – until Thoman crossed into his lane with an impromptu embrace and high-five.
“I might be selfish,” Grevers said. “It took me a good 10 seconds to realize he got a silver. That’s something I should realize right away.”
“He was grinning like an idiot,” Thoman added, “so I had to go over an give him a big hug.”
The silver marked Thoman’s first Olympic medal. Meanwhile, Grevers’ gold is his fifth Olympic medal – and his second in London after taking part in the United States’ 4x100 freestyle relay silver.
The pair become the latest in an impressive string of recent U.S. dominance in the event, stretching back to Jeff Rouse’s gold in the 1996 Atlanta Games. Rouse gave way to teammate Lenny Krayzelburg, who won gold in Sydney in 2000. Aaron Peirsol dominated the event for almost a decade after that, winning a gold in Athens in 2004 and then setting a world record in the event in Beijing in 2008.
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