Michael Phelps tied the record for medals won by an Olympic athlete at 18 while missing the gold when he was outreached by Chad le Clos of South Africa on the final stroke in the 200-meter butterfly at the London Games.
Phelps got the silver medal and tied the mark set by former Soviet Union gymnast Larissa Latynina. This is the fourth Olympics for the 27-year-old American swimmer.
“Michael’s my hero and I didn’t expect to win,” Le Clos, 20, said in a poolside interview after winning in 1 minute, 52.96 seconds. “I just wanted to race against him in the final, but I can’t believe it. I really can’t.”
Phelps can become the most decorated Olympian if the defending-champion U.S. wins a medal in the 800-meter freestyle relay later today.
The world record-holder in the 200-meter butterfly, Phelps finished in 1:53.01 today at the Aquatics Centre, failing in his bid to become the first man to win three consecutive Olympic swim titles. Takeshi Matsuda of Japan won the bronze medal in 1:53.21.
Phelps has a record 14 gold medals, including eight four years ago in Beijing, the most in a single Olympics. That haul was accomplished with the help of a final-stroke reach in the 100-meter butterfly over Milorad Cavic of Serbia.
This time, Phelps tried to glide to the finish and le Clos kept stroking.
Phelps had dominated the event at every Olympic Games and world championships he took part in since 2000. The American swimmer, who will retire after these games, had qualified for the final in fifth place.
He led the final until the last stretch, and was almost a body length ahead of the field midway through the race. Le Clos raced past Matsuda and got to the wall first.
Phelps had a disappointing start to the Olympics, losing his 400-meter individual medley crown to his friend and U.S. teammate Ryan Lochte, 27, on the first night of swimming at the London Olympics. He finished fourth, without a medal, the first time that had happened since his first Olympics in Sydney in 2000, at 15.
A day later, he won his first silver medal in London when the U.S. was beaten by France in the 400-meter freestyle relay.
Phelps tied a record that’s stood for 48 years. Latynina, now 77, is the only woman to have won nine gold medals. Born in Ukraine, Latynina’s title rush took place between 1956 and 1964. In total, she won nine gold, five silver and four bronze medals.
Phelps’s medal haul stretches over 12 years. Before today, he’d won 14 gold medals, two bronze and one silver.
Phelps took two years off after Beijing before returning to the pool in 2010. He said London is his last Olympics.
In an interview last week, he said he’d prepared himself for an emotional final week of Olympic competition. He also said he hasn’t had second thoughts about quitting.
“I knew that I wanted to swim for another four years after 2008 and I don’t have that feeling now,” Phelps said.
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