Phelps eager to extend record haul further before retiring for good
Michael Phelps has to clear out more space in his medal case. Time to make room for Olympic gold No.19.
With yet another dazzling performance, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history added to his staggering haul early yesterday morning in the 4x100m freestyle relay, giving the USA a lead it never relinquished.
"When on the block, I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest," Phelps said. "I was so hyped and excited."
Defending Olympic champions France had the lead when Phelps dived into the water on the second leg, taking over for lead-off swimmer Caeleb Dressel. Even though the 100m free isn't one of Phelps' specialities, he blazed down and back in a stunning 47.12 seconds, a time that was faster than all but the three anchors on the medal-winning teams.
"Coming off the wall I thought my kickout was great," Phelps said. "I just wanted to hammer it, hit the touch and give them a bigger lead." That he did.
Ryan Held kept the Americans in front before giving way to Nathan Adrian, the nation's best sprinter. When Adrian touched the wall first in 3 minutes and 9.92 seconds, Phelps thrust his right arm in the air and looked toward his infant son Boomer, nuzzling in the arms of his mother Nicole Johnson.
Phelps will likely take his medal count to heights that may never be reached by the time he's done in Rio. He has still got three individual events, and will surely swim two more relays. Given the form he showed on his Rio debut, five more golds are within reach. As it stands, he's got 23 medals overall.
"That's the fastest 100 free I've ever done, so I hope that's a good sign," Phelps said. "We'll see over the next couple of days. But I'm pleased with the start."
For Phelps, it was the fastest relay time he's ever produced at the Olympics. Faster even than 2008, when his Great Haul of China - a record eight gold medals that broke Mark Spitz's long-standing record - included a time of 47.51 in the 4x100 free relay. At 31-years-old, the guy can still amaze.
France took the silver in 3:10.53, while Australia claimed the bronze in 3:11.37.
Taking that familiar victory lap around the pool, a tear ran down his cheek. He was no doubt remembering the ups and downs of the last four years. A second drink-driving arrest. Six weeks of therapy. Giving up alcohol. Getting engaged to Johnson. Reconnecting with his estranged father. Becoming a father himself.
Phelps retired four years ago, only to return for what he calls his real farewell, the one that will send him out the way he really wants to go.
"It felt good to get the last 400 free relay of my career with this thing around my neck," he said. "It feels good to get it back." Now, to make more room in the case.
Michael Phelps' incredible 19th gold medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay early on Monday morning means if the American swimming superstar was a country he would sit joint 35th in the all-time medals table