Team GB is celebrating its second medal of London 2012, after swimmer Rebecca Adlington claimed bronze in the women's 400m freestyle.

Adlington's third-place finish came just hours after cyclist Lizzie Armitstead opened Britain's medal account by claiming silver in the women's road race.

Although Adlington, who won gold in Beijing four years ago, was unable to defend her 400m freestyle title, she did become the first British female swimmer ever to win an individual medal at successive Olympic Games.

Event favourite Camille Muffat secured gold for France with a time of 4:01.45, while Alison Schmitt of the United States took home silver with a 4:01.77 finish. World record-holder Federica Pellegrini of Italy had to settle for fourth.

Rebecca Adlington
Rebecca Adlington holds her bronze medal

Adlington had only just qualified for the final, after finishing eighth-fastest in the heats. However the Beijing champion managed to edge out Pellegrini and Denmark's Lotte Friiswith in the dying stages, with a time of 4:03.98, to claim the bronze.

Adlington told ESPN: "I have to be honest and say I wasn't expecting a medal. I was in lane eight [reserved for the slowest qualifier] and I haven't been focusing that much on the 400m in training or racing. The 800m is my race and this definitely sets me up for that.

"I know it's going to be extremely tough but I am going to try my absolute hardest, just as I did on Sunday, and hopefully the crowd can pick me up as they did then and I can pick up that performance."

Rebecca Adlington
Rebecca Adlington in the women's 400m freestyle final

Earlier, Armitstead won Great Britain's first medal of the Games by earning second place in the women's cycling road race, as Marianne Vos of Netherlands claimed gold with Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia finishing third in a thrilling 140km race that ended on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.

Adlington said she used Armitstead's silver medal performance as inspiration heading into the final.

"I saw Lizzie Armitstead take the silver in the road race and I just thought, 'girl power, come on the girls!'

"Hopefully we can get the whole thing going now and more medals will follow for Great Britain. It's good to see the girls doing so well in the sport. The males have been ruling the roost for so long so I guess it's about time we got involved."