LONDON -- The Olympic flame will be extinguished in 10 days, and with it America's love affair with swimming. Michael Phelps will retire, and we'll see the rest of the U.S. swimmers come the next Olympics.
That is not the Australian way. The sport is a national passion, commanding attention year in and year out. Americans just wouldn't understand.
But trash talk? Americans understand that perfectly well, and that is what made the men's 100-meter freestyle Wednesday so compelling.
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Nathan Adrian of the United States, who kept his mouth shut, won the gold. James Magnussen of Australia, who kept his mouth running, won the silver.
Or, as any good trash-talker would put it, he lost.
Magnussen had warned foreign swimmers to "brace yourselves," and he headlined an Australian relay team that billed itself as "weapons of mass destruction."
He failed to win gold. The relay team failed to win a medal of any kind. He all but said he choked.
"I felt pretty much bulletproof coming into this Olympics, and it is very humbling," said the 21-year-old Magnussen. "I have a lot more respect to guys like Michael Phelps who can come to the Olympics and back it up under that pressure."
The Americans have, and not just Phelps. Adrian won gold in the 100 free, giving the U.S. its first victory in the event since Matt Biondi in 1988. The U.S. women's 800-meter freestyle relay won too, thanks to a come-from-behind anchor leg by Allison Schmitt, who became the first swimmer here to win four medals.
Schmitt withdrew from college for a year to train with Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman.
"They're like brother and sister," Bowman said. "They tease each other all the time."
Rebecca Soni set a world record in the semifinals of the 200 breaststroke, with the time difference between first and second place in her race the same as the difference between second and eighth. Soni, who swims for the gold medal Thursday, said she did not exhaust herself in securing the record.
"There's still more in the tank," said Soni, a former USC star. "I'm really happy, but I'm not ready to celebrate yet."
Magnussen's boasts were not idle ones. He entered the Olympics with the fastest time in the world this year in the 100.
He led off the Australian 400 relay last Sunday, but the time for his leg was slower than two of his teammates and all four Americans, Adrian included. The gold-medal favorites won no medal.
"There were times after the relay that I just wanted to go away and hide somewhere and forget about these Olympics," Magnussen said.
He came back for the 100 on Wednesday, and he did well. Adrian beat him by a hundredth of a second.
But Magnussen did not win, and he did not consider that acceptable, as the representative of a swimming-mad country and a hometown that staged an Olympic viewing party -- live at 5 a.m.
The U.S. has won eight gold medals in swimming. Australia has won one, the same as Lithuania.
"Swimming is everything for the Olympics in Australia," Magnussen said. "The Australian community supports the swimmers probably like no other nation does, so there was a lot riding on my results.
"To have missed out twice now is pretty shattering."
Adrian said he would have been delighted to win a silver medal. The soft-spoken Adrian said he followed Phelps' suggestion that the Americans let their results speak for themselves this time around, and he was ambivalent about whether the Australian trash talk had motivated him.
"Yes and no," he said. "I honestly tried not to think about any of that. I think the best place for me is to be the fourth-grader on the playground, oblivious to it all.
"The weapons of mass destruction thing, if that's what gets them fired up, awesome. I don't think that is something I would necessarily label myself as."
Adrian and Magnussen exchanged good wishes on the way out of a news conference. Adrian then turned to Twitter to thank his friends and family for their support, mindful that some might have been waiting to watch the tape-delayed NBC broadcast.
"Spoiler alert," Adrian tweeted. "I win : - )"