BEIJING - Maybe it didn't match his astonishing relay leg earlier this week for sheer drama. But the race that Jason Lezak swam Thursday morning was very important to him, too.
He ended up with a bronze in the men's 100-meter freestyle, with Frenchman Alain Bernard winning the gold. Lezak has been "Mr. Relay" for Team USA, but this was his first individual medal at the Olympics.
"That's what's been driving me the last four years," said Lezak, whose 47.67-second time trailed Bernard (47.21) and Australia's Eamon Sullivan (47.32). "Going into these Olympics, I was shooting for the gold medal, but to win any medal feels really good. It feels like everything I've done over my career has paid off."
It was Bernard that Lezak caught and out-touched Monday in the 4x100 relay for the United States' victory, preserving Michael Phelps' chances at eight gold medals. Thursday (Wednesday night in the United States) Phelps didn't have a final, so it was the rare day so far here that he hasn't picked up any hardware.
But he positioned himself to get more, as he won his semifinal heat of the 200 individual medley in 1:57.70. Fellow American Ryan Lochte won the other semifinal in 1:57.69.
Along with Lezak's bronze today, the U.S. team picked up one other medal: a bronze in the women's 4x200 freestyle relay, won by Australia. The United States swimmers - Allison Schmitt, Natalie Coughlin, Caroline Burckle and Katie Hoff - finished in 7:46.33.
It was Coughlin's fourth medal of these Games, and she's not done yet. She could still win two more.
Elsewhere, Yang Wei of China couldn't help himself after he landed a big dismount on the horizontal bar at National Indoor Stadium on Thursday.
Having just secured the men's gymnastics all-around gold medal despite a baby hop on his landing, Yang held his arms out to his side and nodded his head as the partisan hometown crowd screamed their approval and chanted, "China! China!"
Yang scored 94.575. Japan's Kohei Uchimura won the silver at 91.975. France's Benoit Caranobe, in tears after seeing the final results, earned the bronze at 91.925.
Backed by the most difficult start values in the meet, Yang took the lead after four rotations, extended it to near three points after the fifth and cruised home with a difficult high bar routine.
Jonathan Horton finished in ninth place (91.575) for the U.S. Teammate Alexander Artemev placed 12th (90.675).
— American Greco-Roman wrestler Dremiel Byers won his first two matches, but lost to Sweden's Jalmar Sjoberg in the quarterfinals. The defeat, which knocked Byers out of medal contention, was an upset. Byers was expected in the wrestling community to at least advance to the semifinals. But Sjoberg played defense the whole time and squeaked out the match in three periods.
"I could have brought a whole lot bigger fight," Byers said. "I'm kicking myself for that. I'm a lot better than what I showed today and I hope everyone knows that. I apologize for disappointing people."
— Kimberly Rhode took silver in women's skeet shooting, surviving a shoot-off between five finalists to determing the medal winners. Chiara Cainero of Italy won the gold, and Christine Brinker of Germany earned bronze.
— The U.S. baseball team (1-1) beat the Netherlands 7-0 in a game halted by rain in the bottom of the ninth. Steven Strasburg took a no-hitter into the seventh. Matt LaPorta and Matt Brown homered for the U.S., which faces Cuba Friday.
— The American women's table tennis team defeated Nigeria 3-0 to advance to the bronze medal bracket, which begins Friday. Jun Gao, Crystal Huang and Chen Wang each swept their opponent 3-0.
— The USA-Canada softball game was stopped by rain in the top of the fourth, with the U.S. trailing 1-0. The game will resume Friday after the completion of the U.S.-Japan game.
— Women's K1 kayak semifinals, men's C2 and K1W finals were also postponed by rain, as were the sailing races.
— Adam Wheeler won the bronze in 96kg Greco-Roman wrestling, beating Han Tae-Young of Korea 3-1, 4-1.