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Phelps wins 22d medal, 18th gold in final race

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 4, 2012 02:33 PM

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LONDON -- The final tally after Michael Phelps's final race:

Twenty-two medals. Eighteen golds. And a place in Olympic lore all his own.

In what he insists will be his last competition as an Olympian, Phelps authored a memorable ending, putting the United States ahead on the third leg of the 4x100-meter medley relay en route to the gold medal.

The United States finished in 3 minutes 29.35 seconds, a mere 1/100th of a second from tying its own Olympic record. Japan took silver, while Australia claimed bronze.

Phelps stands atop a figurative podium that no athlete in history has approached. He has more gold medals than any other athlete in Olympic history has total medals, and he has twice as many gold as anyone else.

There was some uncertainty around the outcome of this one, at least until he took the pool.

Matt Grevers gave the United States a small advantage over Japan on the first leg, finishing the backstroke in 52.19 seconds. But the US dipped to second in an event it has traditionally dominated when Brendan Hansen gave up the lead in the breaststroke, with China leading at 1:50.26 after 200 meters.

That only set the stage for one more fantastic Phelps moment, and it was only right that he swam the pivotal leg. No other script would suffice.

So the four-time Olympian, who now has four gold and two silver medals in London after hauling in a record eight in Beijing four years ago, performed like what he is: The best swimmer the world has ever seen.

When his leg was through, the US was in first at 2:40.48.

Nathan Adrian blazed through the final freestyle leg to put the perfect cap on the race, and his teammate's swimming career.

Phelps savored the moment, grinning broadly, hugging his three teammates, and high-fiving Adrian. He has said he prefers the camaraderie of the relays to his individual pool pursuits, and the shared joy was evident in his final, victorious moment as an Olympian.

3:18 p.m. Considering the names and accomplishments of the members of the United States women's 4x100 medley relay team, a world record wasn't out of the question. Maybe it was even expected.

But it sure was impressive to watch them actually pull it off.

Missy Franklin (backstroke), Rebecca Soni (breaststroke), Dana Vollmer (fly) and Allison Schmitt (freestyle) won the gold -- and set that new world standard -- just moments ago, completing the race without suspense in 3 minutes 52.05 seconds. Franklin gave them the lead on the first leg, Soni and Vollmer built on it, and Schmitt touched the wall to set the new world mark.

It's the first time the US women have won the event since the Sydney Games in 2000.

The four US swimmers in the relay have combined for 16 medal in London, with Franklin leading the way with four golds and a bronze.

Up next: Phelps and friends, and his farewell.

2:50 p.m. After a strange false start, China's Sun Yang sets a new world record in the grueling 1,500-meter freestyle, winning in 14 minutes 31.02 seconds. That's three more than three seconds better than the old record, held by ... China's Sun Yang.

Connor Jaeger (Fair Haven, N.J.) finished sixth in the men's 1500m freestyle at the Aquatics Centre in London's Olympic Park Saturday evening. Jaeger's 14:52.99 was 21.97 seconds behind the world record time of 14:31.02 by China's Sun Yang.

Canada's Ryan Cochrane earned silver (14:39.63), while Tunisia's Oussama Melluili won the bronze (14:40.31.)

American Connor Jaeger was sixth.

Next up: The women's 4X100.

2:31 p.m.: The first, and briefest, race of the night is complete, and it ended in an Olympic record. Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands set a new standard in the women's 50-meter race, winning in a time of 24.05 seconds.

The silver medal went to Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Belarus won silver in 24.28, while Marleen Veldhuis of the Netherlands took bronze (24.29). American Jessica Hardy was seventh.

* * *

LONDON -- The eighth and final night of swimming is about to get underway at the London Aquatics Center. Four medals are at stake as the United States tries to build on its count of 28 so far in the pool.

The marquee event is the 4x100 relay, better known as the final event of Michael Phelps's Olympic career. (Presuming a stunning change of heart.) Swimming the butterfly leg, he'll be going for his 22d medal overall and his 18th gold. Should the relay team win -- and it is a heavy favorite -- he will have more gold than any other Olympian ever has total medals.

Also on the docket: the women's 50-meter freestyle, the men's 1,500-meter freestyle, and the women's 4x100 relay. Stay tuned for live updates.

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