LONDON — Michael Phelps lingered on the blocks, not wanting to make another shocking blunder. The 19th medal was his. All he had to do was avoid a DQ, then set off on what amounted to four victory laps.
Down and back, then down and back again, the roars getting louder with each stroke.
When Phelps touched the wall, he finally had gold at his final Olympics.
And a record for the ages.
Phelps swam into history with a lot of help from his friends, taking down the last major record that wasn't his alone. He took the anchor leg for the United States in a gold medal-winning performance of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay Tuesday night, earning the 19th Olympic medal of his brilliant career, and the 15th gold.
Chad le Clos has grown friendly with Michael Phelps over the past year and gleaned some pointers from the American standout.
He was hoping the advice would help him win an Olympic medal. He just didn't expect it to be of the gold variety.
But that's what Le Clos had around his neck after a stunning come-from-behind victory over Phelps in the 200-meter butterfly Tuesday.
"He has always been an inspiration to me and a role model," Le Clos said. "I've watched all his races a million times and I've run the commentary over and now I guess I can watch my race."
Phelps has been so dominant in the 200 fly over the past decade that Le Clos wasn't even contemplating contending for victory.
Phelps probably wasn't expecting it either. Otherwise, why would he have offered Le Close free advice last year?
This was supposed to be the race where Phelps became the first man to win the same event at three consecutive games and tie Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina as the most decorated Olympian of all
Well, Phelps got the medal he needed for the record — then got his record-breaking 19th medal in a later relay — but it wasn't the one he wanted.
With golds in swimming, synchronized platform diving and fencing, China built its Olympics-leading total to 13, with the United States second with nine golds. Both countries are tied with 23 medals overall.
— Swimming: gold medal finals in men's 200-meter breaststroke, men's 100-meter freestyle, women's 200-meter butterfly, women's 4x200-meter freestyle relay.
— Men's gymnastics: all-around gold medal final.
— Women's beach volleyball: May-Treanor/Walsh (U.S.) vs. D. Schwaiger/S. Schwaiger (Austria).
— Men's diving: synchronized springboard gold medal final.