• London 2012 - Swimming

Phelps earns record Olympic medal haul

ESPN staff
July 31, 2012
Michael Phelps has medal No. 19 © PA Photos

Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time on Tuesday night, despite suffering an agonising defeat in the men's 200m butterfly final as Chad Le Clos snatched victory on the last stroke.

Medal Table

Phelps saw his favourite individual event falter as he only managed silver, but he returned for the 4x200m freestyle relay, where he picked up gold. Anchoring the US squad home, it was fitting that medal No. 19 - a record-breaking feat in Olympic competition - proved to be gold on a historic night of swimming.

Starting in the individual 200m butterfly, Phelps surged to the front and led for the majority of the race until, tiring, he was beaten to the wall by a storming late burst from South African Le Clos who won in a time of 1:52.96.

Speaking after his sensational victory, Le Clos told BBC Sport: "That's been my dream, ever since I was a little boy. Michael is my hero. I just wanted to race in the final and now I've won it. I can't believe it, I really can't."

It was looking good for Phelps after he took the lead after 50m, a lead he continued to hold on the final length. Clearly running out of steam, the American appeared to have done enough, but Le Clos hunted his rival down and won the race on the finish after timing his last stroke to perfection.

However, a silver medal saw Phelps move level with Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina as the most decorated Olympian of all-time with 18 medals. And he soon set a new record when he returned for the relay.

Operating in a strong 4x200m freestyle squad, Phelps had a huge lead as he leapt in for the anchor leg. Swimming to a standing ovation, the legendary American completed the job, picking up medal No. 19 with France second and China third.

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