Phelps sets new Olympic medal record

US swimmer Michael Phelps (AFP PHOTO / Fabrice Coffrini)
On Tuesday night, Michael Phelps swam into history with his 19th Olympic medal – beating the all-time record by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.

Not without help from his friends, Phelps took down the last major record that wasn't his alone, swimming the anchor leg for the United States in a gold medal-winning performance of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay on Tuesday night.

Consequently, the American finally broke the record held by Latynina. The legendary gymnast was awarded the last of her 18 medals in 1964, and was among the first to congratulate Phelps on Tuesday night. The 77 year old even offered her candidacy to present the record-breaking medal to Phelps, but the International Olympic Committee rejected it.

“I saw him swim, and I saw my record swim away,” AP quotes the gymnastics legend as saying.

“He's very talented, no doubt about that,” Latynina added.

Speaking about her feelings, she stressed she had “normal human emotions, because finally there's a strong, capable sportsman, who has taken that record”.

“Forty-eight years, that's a very long time!” she pointed out.

The extraordinary achievement sweetened the pill of Phelps' earlier blunder – as a much younger and uncelebrated rival, Chad le Clos of South Africa, stripped away the American's old invincibility.

It produced arguably the biggest disappointment at this Olympics’ swimming tournament so far, with Phelps settling only for silver in his signature event – the 200-meter butterfly.

Phelps has won15 golds at three Olympics, six more than anyone else, to go along with two silvers and two bronzes – a dozen of them being individual. Latynina claimed nine golds, five silvers and four bronzes from 1956-64, with 14 individual ones. Well, the American has yet two attempts in London to equal this individual achievement before he retires.

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