United States’ Matthew Grevers starts in a men’s 100-meter backstroke swimming heat at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Sunday, July 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) – Matt Grevers collected his first individual gold medal on Monday when he led an American one-two in the final of the men’s 100 meters backstroke at the London Olympics.

Using every inch of his 2.03 meter (6-foot-8) frame, Grevers stretched his long arms out to win in a time of 52.16 seconds, a new Olympic record and just 0.22 outside the world record set by Aaron Peirsol.

American Nick Thoman finished second in 52.92 while Japan’s Ryosuke Irie got the bronze medal.

Grevers is the latest in a long line of great American backstrokers, but like his predecessors, he had to bide his time, serving as the understudy to Peirsol before his retirement.

Grevers won two relay gold medals and a silver in the 100 at the last Olympics but this was the first time he climbed the top step of the podium alone.