The American, however, ties with Latynina for the most medals overall
Iconic Michael Phelps suffered a rare defeat in his signature event — the 200m butterfly — on Tuesday even as he tied with the long-standing record of most medals overall in the Olympic Games held by legendary Russian gymnast Larissa Latynina since 1964.
Significantly, the 27-year-old Baltimore swimmer, who remains the greatest swimmer of all-time, lost out the chance to become the firstman to peat thrice in the same event at the Games as he was edged out by South African Chad le Clos in the closing few metres of the race which all along seemed to be going in favour of Phelps.
The American was in the lead right from the start and looked to be in firm control until his South African rival closed the gap withhardly 15m left for the finish and then overtook Phelps to a memorable gold at 1:52.96s.
Phelps, who is now into his fourth Games, had been the winner of the event at both Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008) and for a second time in three days missed an opportunity to emerge as the first male swimmer to win an event thrice. On the opening day, he had gone medal-less in the 400m individual medley, again an event in which Phelps had reigned supreme through the last two Games.
Nevertheless, the silver (at 1:53.21) helped Phelps clinch his 18th Olympic medal and get on par with Latynina. He now has thechance to go one better if the American quartet, including Phelps, gains a medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay.
Phelps, who failed to win a medal at Sydney, had won a total of eight medals (six gold and bronze) in Athens. In Beijing, as iswell-known, the American won a record eight golds — the most to be won ever at a single Games — one more than what compatriot Mark Spitz had won in Munich in 1972.
The day opened with a brilliant effort by Allison Schmitt storming to the women’s 200m freestyle gold in a race which the 22-year-oldAmerican, hailing from Pittsburg, holding herself back in the initial stages before unleashing a superb sprint.
It was compatriot, Missy Franklin, racing from the outside lane, who took the field through the first lap before Schmitt took over. In her second Olympics, Schmitt, who had won a silver and bronze at Beijing four years ago, was a picture of concentration as she powered her way to the front and held the lead right through the remaining part of the race.
There was none to challenge Schmitt as she hit the home stretch and touched the wall at a new Olympic Games record of 1:53.61. CamillaMuffat, the Frenchwoman who had won the 400m freestyle gold quite surprisingly on Sunday, added a silver to her collection, finishingsecond at 1:55.58, while Bronte Barratt (Australia) came in third at 1:55.81, overtaking Franklin in the final jostle.
On Monday, Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania shocked the world by winning the women’s 100m breaststroke gold, but the 15-year-old was speechless at her moment of triumph.
She had come closer to the Olympic record when she won the semifinals with a faster time of 1:05.21, a mere 0.04 second away from the Olympic record of Beijing gold medallist Leisel Jones of Australia, who finished fifth.
“The Olympics are full of surprises and I can’t tell you what will happen next. But I am going to do my best and win the race,” Meilutyte had said before the finals.
The reigning world champion, silver medallist Rebecca Soni of the US felt good about the race, and said, “I was not expecting to touch 50 first, but I expected to be in a position to get to the wall first.
“I cannot say I am completely satisfied, especially because it was so close. I gave it my all. I cannot wait to race the 200m,” said Rebecca, the defending 200m breaststroke champion.
Rebecca was all praise for the sensational young talent Meilutyte, who was the fastest qualifier, beating the European record.
“It was definitely a surprise. I guess after the prelims I knew she would be a great competitor. It was amazing to do that at 15. She looked great in all the rounds. She swam three amazing races,” Rebecca said