Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Michael Phelps 'greatest ever Olympian'

Michael Phelps poses with his gold medal for the men's 4x200-metre freestyle relay swimming final (AP/Matt Slocum)
Michael Phelps made Olympic history winning his 19th medal (AP/Daniel Ochoa De Olza)
Queen Elizabeth II (left) makes a speech at the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Swimmer Michael Phelps stands alone at the summit of Olympic history after becoming the Games's most successful ever athlete.

The US star's gold in the men's 200m freestyle relay brought his all-time tally of Olympic swimming medals to a record 19, one more than Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.

Baltimore swimmer Phelps now owns 15 gold, two silver and two bronze medals. The 27-year-old still has three races to come in the Games and is odds-on to finish his Olympic career with 22 medals.

He paid tribute to his three relay team-mates after clinching the record. "I told those guys I wanted a big lead in the last leg and they gave it to me," he said. "I just wanted to hold on, I just wanted to thank them for allowing me to have this moment."

The phenomenal personal feat came on the day when the Olympics witnessed another piece of history when Zara Phillips became the first royal medal winner. The Queen's granddaughter said it was "amazing" to be presented with silver by her mother the Princess Royal.

Phillips received a rapturous reception from the home crowd at Greenwich Park, which also included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry as members of her family turned out in force to support her.

She beamed and kissed the Princess Royal, who is herself an Olympian, on both cheeks after receiving her medal.

As Chariots Of Fire played in the background, Zara could be seen mouthing "oh man, oh man" as her mother began presenting medals to Team GB's eventing team, including Nicola Wilson, Mary King and Kristina Cook and William Fox-Pitt.

The last time a British eventing team won gold was when her father Mark Phillips, now US coach, competed in Munich in 1972. He also won a silver in 1988, but he was not then a member of the royal family. In 1976, the Princess Royal came 24th in the individual eventing and the team came ninth.

The team's success today came despite Zara admitting "I messed up" after a disappointing round in the showjumping - but her team-mates came to the rescue to ensure the silver medal. "We wanted the gold but to get an Olympic medal is incredible anyway," Zara said.

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