Phelps claims 21st gold as US win 4x200m relay
The American crushed fierce rival Chad le Clos to regain his 200 metres butterfly title in a dust-up bristling with tension, celebrating by pointing to the sky and gesturing to the Rio crowd to “bring the noise” — an order they duly obeyed.
Katinka Hosszu and Katie Ledecky struck further blows for girl power, but again it was all about Phelps, who later anchored the American 4×200 freestyle relay team to gold as the clock edged toward midnight.
Milking the acclaim of the crowd, Phelps climbed, Wimbledon tennis-style, past a bank of poolside photographers to kiss little Boomer and fiancee Nicole Johnson after an emotional medals ceremony.
“That event is kind of like my bread and butter,” Phelps told reporters. “That was the last time I’ll ever swim it. Having that come to an end, it’s weird, it’s crazy to think about.
“There wasn’t a shot in hell I was losing that race,” he added. “And if I did I was leaving everything in the pool.”
Entering the arena like a gladiator, his face a granite mask of concentration, Phelps dominated a grudge final le Clos had billed as “Ali versus Frazier” to become the oldest individual swimming gold medallist in Olympic history at 31.
South African Le Clos, who won by a fingertip four years ago in London to rob the American of a hat-trick of titles, faded badly down the home stretch to miss out on a medal.
The world record holder and most decorated athlete in Olympic history, Phelps clocked 1min 53.36sec to add to his staggering title tally as Japan’s Masato Sakai finished strongly for a surprise silver in 1:53.40. Hungary’s Tamas Kenderesi took bronze in 1:53.62.
Competing in his fifth and final Olympics, victory was twice as sweet for Phelps after clashing with le Clos in the media since losing to the South African in their epic London tussle.
– Home-run trot –
“I don’t want him to win and I’m sure he doesn’t want me to win,” said Phelps. “He is a very good racer and he puts it on the line. I knew where he was all the time. The last 10 metres were not fun, oh my gosh.”
Still, Phelps was not done, putting the gloss on a fourth straight American victory in the 4x200m free, cruising home almost two and a half seconds ahead of Britain’s James Guy in the swimming equivalent of baseball’s home-run trot around the bases.
Phelps won his 19th Olympic gold in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay at the weekend and if he feels greedy, there is more potential gold for him in the 100m fly and the 200m individual medley — events he has incredibly won at the past three Olympics.
Hungary’s “Iron Lady” Hosszu completed the individual medley double by winning the 200m final in 2:06.58, making it three golds and counting after also claiming the 100m backstroke crown.
“Coming into Rio I didn’t have any Olympic medals so I would have been okay with any colour,” she said. “To have three golds, it’s unreal.”
Britain’s Siobhan-Marie O’Connor took silver in 2:06.88. Bronze went to American Maya Dirado, touching in 2:08.79.
Ledecky scooped her second gold of the Games after holding off a brave charge from Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom in the women’s 200m freestyle.
The American phenom, who won the 400m title with a stunning world record on day two, clocked 1:53.73 to win by 0.35 seconds from Sjostrom. Australia’s Emma Mckeon took bronze.
“That was a really tough race and it hurt really badly,” said Ledecky. “I’m pretty sure that’s the closest I’ve come to throwing up in the middle of a race.”
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