Michael Phelps wins record 19th medal, but did you see Chad le Clos?
Michael Phelps is now the most decorated Olympian ever after winning gold in the 4x200 relay Tuesday, but his silver-medal race in the 200 fly might have been the highlight of the night.
Now, perhaps we can all understand a bit better what 19 Olympic medals means.Skip to next paragraph
But it was not in the way we might have expected. Already, there had been a fourth place finish and a second. Then, at the Aquatics Centre Tuesday, he came in second again, in the 200-meter butterfly, before (at last) finishing first as anchor of the 4x200 freestyle relay.
Surely, some will find a few of those colors in his new medal collection strange. Before London, Phelps had never had a silver. Coming in second in the 200-meter butterfly – an event he had not lost at a major international competition since 2000 – could seem like a little tarnish on the end of a golden career.
But did you see Chad le Clos’s face when he touched the wall 0.05 seconds ahead of Phelps? Think back for a moment. Wasn’t that Phelps’s face in Beijing? Weren’t those Phelps’s fingertips touching the wall in Beijing?
And there you have the story of these Games – one in some ways far more engrossing than a repeat of Beijing.
Now, we have an inkling of just how hard it is to beat a world that has trained four years toward the sole goal of making you look silly. In 2008, sometimes though sheer force of will, it seemed, Phelps foiled the world. This time, however, it is not just the Michael Phelps Show.
How many toppings?
These Games are different, Phelps has said. He got his sundae in Beijing. Now, it's more a question of "how many toppings I want" – like the Olympic medal record. And that has made for a kinder, gentler Phelps here.
After his silver-medal performance Tuesday, he said: “I got a bit too serious two days ago. So I just got to relax and smile and have fun.”
Two days ago, if you’re counting at home, was Sunday, the day after Phelps finished fourth in the 400-meter individual medley. It was the day he swam in the second leg of the 4x100 relay. And it was also the only time that the Phelps we came to know in Beijing has made an appearance here. For 100 meters, he was the predator again – the well-earned smile of satisfaction replaced by a snarl of wounded pride.