Michael Phelps made the biggest splash at the London Olympics on a day dominated by headliners including teenage Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, British royal Zara Phillips and the gold-medal U.S. women’s gymnastics team.
Phelps broke the record for medals by an Olympic athlete yesterday with his 19th on the winning U.S. 800-meter freestyle relay squad. It was the first gold medal of these games for the 27-year-old American, and the record 15th of his career.
“I told them to give me the biggest lead they could,” Phelps told reporters. “It’s very special.”
Sixty-five minutes earlier, Phelps tied the mark of 18 set by former Soviet Union gymnast Larissa Latynina by taking silver in the 200-meter butterfly. He was beaten in the final stroke by South African Chad le Clos.
Medals will be awarded in 20 events today, including the men’s individual all-around title in gymnastics. There also are four medal races in the pool, with 17-year-old Missy Franklin of the U.S. seeking her second gold of the games in the women’s 800-meter freestyle relay.
Phelps, who is swimming in his fourth Olympics and has said he will retire after the London Games, still has three races left -- two individual and one relay.
His record-breaking 19th medal came when the U.S. relay squad -- Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, Ricky Berens and anchor Phelps -- won in 6 minutes, 59.7 seconds to successfully defend its Olympic title. France won the silver medal and China took the bronze.
Set on Gold
“We all wanted to do our part, we all wanted to make sure we got the biggest lead for him,” Lochte, 27, said of Phelps. “So when he dove in, he didn’t have to work, he knew he was set solely on gold.”
Phelps came within one stroke of another gold in the butterfly before having to settle for second place behind 20-year-old Le Clos, who reached for the wall as Phelps tried to glide in and become the first man to win a swimming event in three consecutive Olympics.
“Michael’s my hero and I didn’t expect to win,” Le Clos, said in a poolside interview after winning in 1 minute, 52.96 seconds. “I just wanted to race against him in the final.”
Phelps, the world record-holder in the 200 butterfly at 1:51.51, finished yesterday in 1:53.01. Takeshi Matsuda of Japan won the bronze medal.
Ye Wins Again
Ye, 16, won her second gold medal of the London Games by winning the 200-meter individual medley in an Olympic-record time of 2:07.57, breaking the mark she had set a day earlier. She set a world record while winning the 400-meter medley crown three days earlier.
Ye was made the 1-66 favorite by bookmaker William Hill Plc, and she led from start to finish. Alicia Coutts of Australia won the silver in 2:08.15 and Caitlin Leverenz of the U.S. took bronze in 2:08.95.
“I didn’t expect the others to swim so fast,” Ye told reporters. “I was surprised.”
The fourth medal event yesterday at the Aquatics Centre was the women’s 200-meter freestyle, won by 22-year-old American Allison Schmitt in a Olympic-record 1:53.61. Camille Muffat of France took silver, Bronte Barratt of Australia won the bronze medal and Franklin came in fourth.
After four full days of competition, China continues to lead the standings with 13 golds among its 23 medals. The U.S. also has 23 medals, nine of them gold. The Olympics opened July 27 and run through Aug. 12.
The U.S. women won their first gymnastics team gold since the 1996 Atlanta Games. Russia was second and Romania, which has won a women’s gymnastics team medal in 10 straight Olympics, took the bronze. The Americans won the silver the past two Olympics in Beijing and Athens.
“This is my ultimate goal to be part of this team and win that gold medal,” U.S. team member Jordyn Wieber said. “I’m really happy.”
The U.S. scored 183.596 in the four-part gymnastics final to beat the Russians by 25 points. The team, captained by 18-year-old Alexandra Raisman, also is composed of Wieber, 17; Gabrielle Douglas, 16; Kyla Ross, 15, and McKayla Maroney, 16.
Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, helped Germany win the gold medal in the equestrian team eventing when she was penalized for hitting a fence and a slow ride.
Phillips, riding High Kingdom, cost the British team seven points at Greenwich Park in southeast London. Germany took gold with 133.70 penalties, compared with 138.20 for Britain. New Zealand won bronze with 144.40.
The host nation is still awaiting its first gold medal.
“I messed up at the start, but I told myself I had to get on with it,” Phillips, 31, told reporters. “I’m very disappointed for the team.”