U.S. swimmer Nathan Adrian celebrates after winning the men's 100m freestyle final swimming event at the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 1, 2012 in London. / GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GettyImages
(CBS News) Nathan Adrian has finally emerged from the shadows.
Eclipsed in London by his high-profile teammates Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, the U.S. Olympic swimmer made a name for himself Wednesday by winning the 100-meter freestyle swim, and he did it by just a fingertip.
That's how far ahead (one-hundredth of a second) Adrian was from the closest competitor, James "The Missile" Magnussen of Australia. Magnussen had been the favorite for the individual title coming into the London meet. Adrian's time was 47.52 seconds.
The 23-year-old swimmer later told Reuters that he always tries to get his hand extended as far as he could.
"So I kind of touched the wall and thought, 'Oh sweet, I won'," he said. "It takes about 10-15 seconds and then 'Holy crap, it's the Olympics' and I've been watching this since I was a kid."
This isn't the Washington State athlete's first gold medal - he won gold in Beijing for the 4x100-meter freestyle. Nor is it his first medal of the London Olympic games - he took a silver earlier this week in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.
But it is the first time he's gotten the kind of headlines and news coverage that seem to come so effortlessly to Phelps, who set a record for most-decorated Olympic athlete Tuesday, and to Lochte, who beat Phelps to claim the team's first London medal on Saturday.
And even with Wednesday's victory, Adrian was overshadowed.
As he was talking to the press, he looked up at the TV screen and noticed Rebecca Soni had broken the women's 200-meter breaststroke world record.
"Oh, Soni just set a record," he said. "It feels good now that I've been overshadowed by Soni setting a world record."