Phelps answers back in some style

Tue, Jul 31, 2012, 01:00

Olympic swimming:Michael Phelps missed out on retaining his Olympic 200 metre butterfly crown by just five hundredths of a second tonight after being pipped by Chad le Clos, but the American went where no Olympian has before under an hour later when he and his compatriots blitzed the field in the 4x200m freestyle relay.

Defeat to Le Clos, when victory looked a certainty until the final stroke, meant the Baltimore man missed out on becoming the first male swimmer to win the same event at three successive Games, but the big pay-off came in the relay, when he anchored his team home to become the most decorated Olympian of all time.

With more finals to come this year, his medal tally now stands 19 - no less than 15 golds, two silver and two bronze.

“I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Chad," said Phelps of the man who denied him gold this evening. "He’s a hard working and a very talented kid. I was on the other end of that finish four years ago.

“The most important thing was coming back with this relay, with this group of guys. We did it."

The 27-year-old had already set the record for gold medals, winning six in Athens in 2004 and an unprecedented eight in Beijing four years ago. The relay victory was his first gold in London, while France took silver and China bronze.

Phelps still has the opportunity to claim that elusive three-in-row. Only two swimmers have ever won the same individual event at three Olympics, Australia's Dawn Fraser, in 100 freestyle in 1956, 1960 and 1964, and Hungary's Krisztina Egerszegi in 200 backstroke in 1988, 1992 and 1996.

It is a feat that has eluded generations of the best male swimmers until Phelps, who had the chance of doing it in four different events in London. He failed at his first attempt when he came fourth in the 400 individual medley, and again tonight, but still has the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly to come.

In defeat to Le Clos, Phelps equalled the previous record of Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, but having led all the way, he was denied gold by the South African, who came home in one minute 52.96 seconds, with Japan's Takeshi Matsuda finished in 1:53.21.

"It's been a dream of mine ever since I was a little boy," said le Clos afterwards. "I just wanted to race Phelps in the final and I've beaten him. I can't believe it. "Phelps is my hero and I love the guy. To beat him, I can't believe it. You don't understand what this means to me. This is the greatest moment of my life."

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