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.
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On Tuesday, however, South African le Clos was the predator.Skip to next paragraph
Is it even conceivable that someone would have caught Phelps in the last 25 meters in Beijing, as le Clos did here?
Milorad Cavic can answer that question. That race, it was Phelps's fingertip on the wall first – by 0.01 seconds.
To le Clos, Tuesday was his sundae – his eight-gold-medal moment, the validation of an entire career wrapped into 1 minute and 52.96 seconds.
“Phelps is my hero, and I love the guy,” he said. “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.”
This Olympics was supposed to be the golden age of the American all-arounder – the Phelpses and Ryan Lochtes and Missy Franklins who seemed poised to win seven medals a piece. Instead it has been a bumpy return to reality.
Phelps fourth on Saturday. Lochte fourth on Monday. Then Ms. Franklin fourth in the 200-meter freestyle Tuesday.
That reality is no disaster. It just looks different from Beijing.
And it looks a lot like Yannick Agnel, the French swimmer who roped Lochte in Sunday’s relay to win gold and then sent tremors through the Aquatic Centre with a nuclear last 50 meters in the 200-meter freestyle Monday – in front of French President François Hollande, no less.
Phelps’s only words to his teammates in the 4x200 relay Tuesday night? “I told them to give me the biggest lead that they could.”
He was facing against Agnel, who finished second and was closing rapidly.
“If I didn’t get a big enough lead, then who knows what would have happened,” Phelps conceded.
Yes, Tuesday was Phelps’s night, with a golden ending richly deserved.
But, like the rest of London Olympics, Tuesday was not all about Michael Phelps.
And perhaps that’s not all bad.