International Olympic Committee supremo Jacques Rogge and athletes such as football legend Pele heaped praise on American swimmer Michael Phelps, who is now the most successful modern era Olympian in every aspect of the medal count.
A gold medal in the 4x200 metres freestyle relay and a silver medal in the 200m butterfly lifted Phelps’ tally since 2004 to 19: 15 gold, two silver and two bronze.
The 27-year-old moved past Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won 18 medals between 1956 and 1964, nine gold, five silver and four bronze.
Latynina, Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi, American swimmer Mark Spitz and sprinter/long jumper Carl Lewis are the next best gold medallists with nine each.
“To take part in an Olympic Games is an achievement for any athlete — to win a medal makes you a member of an elite band, but Michael Phelps has made Olympic history tonight by winning his 19th medal and I salute his unique achievement,” Rogge said.
“He breaks the record of Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina and by doing so he joins a group of athletes who have continued to strive for excellency in sport.” Pele tweeted: “Congratulations to @MichaelPhelps for his record breaking 19th #Olympics medal. A true champion.”
German basketball star Dirk Nowitzki, the 2011 US National Basketball League MVP, tweeted: “Phelps with his 15th gold medal. Crazy. Livin legend.”