LONDON – Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time Tuesday at the 2012 Olympic Games. The superstar won gold in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay and silver in the men’s 200m butterfly to bring his career medal total to 19 – 15 gold, 2 silver and two bronze.
“It shows that hard work does pay off,” Phelps said. “(Coach) Bob (Bowman) has helped me get to where I got today. We put our mind to something – to do something no one has ever done before, and we did it.
“There are a lot of emotions that are going through me right now. I’m going to attempt to sleep tonight, but I don’t know if it will be possible. It’s a pretty good feeling and a great way to end the night.”
Allison Schmitt also had an outstanding swim on the fourth night of competition at the Aquatics Centre, winning gold and setting an American and Olympic record in the women’s 200m freestyle with a time of 1:53.61.
Other American swimmers winning medals Tuesday included Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer and Ricky Berens, who teamed with Phelps for gold in the 4x200m free relay, and Caitlin Leverenz with a bronze in the women’s 200m IM.
Their efforts brought Team USA’s total medal count through day 4 in the pool to 16 – six gold, six silver and four bronze.
Men’s 4x200m Free Relay
Earlier in the week, the Americans lost the men’s 4x100m free relay to France. Lochte, Dwyer, Berens and Phelps were determined not to let that happen again.
Team USA controlled the race from the start, with Lochte jumping out to a one-second lead over the field in the first leg and Dwyer building another second onto that margin. Berens increased that lead to two body lengths in the third leg, and Phelps brought it home.
France finished three seconds behind in 7:02.77, followed by China in 7:06.30.
“We all wanted to do our part,” Lochte said. “We all wanted to make sure we got the biggest lead for (Phelps), so when he dove in, he didn’t have to work. He could just have his mind set on getting gold.
“Getting a gold in a relay means so much because you’re not just swimming for yourself, you’re out there with three other guys trying to accomplish one goal, trying to get your hand on the wall first. That’s what we did tonight. It’s tremendous being on a relay, representing your country and having three other guys there. It’s pretty awesome.”
With that win, Phelps and Lochte have helped the American 4x200 free relay to three consecutive Olympic titles. Both swimmers have also won three medals so far this week – two gold and a silver for Lochte; a gold and two silver for Phelps.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Berens said. “I watched (Phelps and Lochte) from my couch in 2004 when they won.”
Men’s 200m Butterfly
Phelps actually tied Russian gymnast Larissa Latynina as the most decorated Olympian of all time earlier in the night, after he won silver in the men’s 200m fly, but he missed out on another opportunity to become the first swimmer to win three consecutive Olympic titles in an individual event for the second time this week.
Phelps pulled into the lead by the end of the second lap and looked to have everything in control until the last 10 meters or so. He appeared to hold a slight lead over Chad le Clos of South Africa heading into the finish, but as they swam stroke for stroke into the wall, Phelps was long on his touch. le Clos grabbed gold in 1:52.96, followed by Phelps in 1:53.01. Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda was third in 1:53.21. American Tyler clary finished fifth in 1:55.06.
Tonight’s race marked the first time since the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney that Phelps has lost the 200 fly in a major international competition. Overall, he has five world and two Olympic titles in this event and is the world record-holder. He has often referred to the 200 fly as “his baby.”
“I watched the race, and Chad was in the right place at the right time and got his hand on the wall first,” Phelps said. “I was a little frustrated, but after that I got it out of my head and put it behind me and got ready for the next race. I’m OK with it. It’s still fun for me. I love being here.”
Women’s 200m Free
Schmitt’s time in the women’s 200m free shattered the former American record of 1:54.40 – set by Schmitt at last month’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials – by nearly eight-tenths of a second.
She jumped out to a body-length lead over the field by the 100-meter mark and never looked back. Silver medalist Camille Muffat of France finished nearly two seconds behind in 1:55.58. Australia’s Bronte Barratt was third in 1:55.81, edging out Schmitt’s teammate Missy Franklin for bronze by one-hundredth of a second.
“At Trials, I was a little heavy on the legs,” Schmitt said. “So tonight I wanted to lay off the legs a little bit so I could bring it home faster.”
Tuesday night’s gold was the third medal of the meet for Schmitt, who now has one of each color after taking silver in the women’s 400m free and a bronze in the women’s 4x100m free relay.
“It still hasn’t sunk in,” Schmitt said. “I couldn’t be happier bringing home hardware to the USA, let alone a gold medal.”
Women’s 200m IM
The women’s 200m IM went to China’s Ye Shiwen, who also won the 400 IM earlier in the week. The race was a dead heat at the halfway point, with Ye pulling slightly ahead of the field. Leverenz jumped out in front by the end of the backstroke leg, but couldn’t keep up with Ye’s closing speed.
Ye and Australia’s Alicia Coutts went stroke-for-stroke down the homestretch, with Ye pulling ahead at the finish. Ye won gold in and Olympic record time of 2:07.57. Coutts won silver in 2:08.15, while Leverenz won bronze in 2:08.95. American Ariana Kukors, the world record-holder in this event, was fifth in 2:09.83.
Leverenz’s bronze was her first medal of the meet after finishing seventh in the 400m IM on the fourth night of competition.
“I just went into the race knowing that I could be in the hunt for a medal,” Leverenz said. “I just wanted to put myself out there and race and give it everything I got. This was my one shot, and I did it. I’m really, really happy with how it turned out. I was overjoyed when I turned around and saw that I had gotten third and got on the medal stand for my country. It was an amazing feeling.”
Americans swimming in semifinals Tuesday included Nathan Adrian in the men’s 100m freestyle (2nd, 47.97), Cullen Jones in the men’s 100m freestyle (48.60), Kathleen Hersey in the women’s 200m butterfly (1st, 2:05.90), Cammile Adams in the women’s 200m butterfly (7th, 2:07.33), Scott Weltz in the men’s 200m breaststroke (4th, 2:08.99), and Clark Burckle in the men’s 200m breaststroke (2nd, 2:09.11).
The top eight swimmers in each event will compete in tomorrow night’s finals.