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LONDON – Just one more.
One more medal, and the all-time Olympic podium will officially belong to Michael Phelps. And he’ll have an opportunity to achieve it in dramatic fashion – anchoring the United States’ 4x200 relay for the first time in Olympic competition. Phelps moved into position for the history-making moment with a second-place finish in Tuesday’s 200-meter butterfly, giving him 18 Olympic podiums and moving him into a tie with Russian gymnast Larissa Latynina as the most decorated athlete in the history of the Games.
Phelps looked poised to take gold in the race, charging out early and leading after all three of the turns, before he appeared to labor in the final 25 meters. That allowed South Africa’s Chad le Clos to close the gap, with the two going stroke-for-stoke in the last 10 meters. Le Clos stretched at the end, out-touching Phelps for gold, in 1:52.96 against Phelps’s 1:53.01. Phelps looked at the video board and said some words to himself, appearing disappointed with what was ultimately a wrist-length from gold.
Still, the moment gave Phelps his tying medal for the all-time record. He now has 14 gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze. Already competing with more gold medals than any other Olympian in history, the table is now set for a dynamic record-setter in the 4x200 freestyle relay Tuesday night. With the U.S. expected to dominate the event, some last-minute juggling has created an opportunity unlike anything ever seen in the Games. Not only will Phelps be anchoring to win gold, but he’ll also likely have an opportunity to set a new world record in the event while simultaneously becoming the more decorated Olympian ever.
[Photos: Michael Phelps]
And while some may argue it as grandstanding by the U.S., Phelps’s blazing 47.15-second split in the 4x100 relay actually makes him an ideal anchor candidate. This despite Phelps's long-standing history as a leadoff man in U.S. relays. But it's also clearly a nod of respect from the U.S. coaches, for a career that has rewritten American and Olympic record books while lifting U.S. swimming to unprecedented heights. If Phelps is going to be the greatest Olympian ever, it seems only fitting that he do it in a team event and on an anchor leg when he can provide the decisive swim.
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