Sealed with a kiss (Getty Images)
Rio de Janeiro - Michael
Phelps captured his 20th Olympic gold medal in dramatic fashion
on Tuesday, sealing victory with a kiss from baby son Boomer, before adding
a staggering 21st before the night was over.
The American crushed fierce rival Chad le Clos to regain his 200m butterfly title in a dust-up bristling with tension, celebrating
by pointing to the sky and gesturing to the Rio crowd to "bring the
noise" - an order they duly obeyed.
Katinka Hosszu and Katie Ledecky struck further blows for girl power,
but again it was all about Phelps, who later anchored the American
4x200m freestyle relay team to gold as the clock edged toward midnight.
Milking the acclaim of the crowd, Phelps climbed, Wimbledon
tennis-style, past a bank of poolside photographers to kiss little
Boomer and fiancee Nicole Johnson after an emotional medals ceremony.
"That event is kind of like my bread and butter," Phelps told
reporters. "That was the last time I'll ever swim it. Having that come
to an end, it's weird, it's crazy to think about.
"There wasn't a shot in hell I was losing that race," he added. "And if I did I was leaving everything in the pool."
Entering the arena like a gladiator, his face a granite mask of
concentration, Phelps dominated a grudge final le Clos had billed as
"Ali versus Frazier" to become the oldest individual swimming gold
medallist in Olympic history at 31.
South African Le Clos, who won by a fingertip four years ago in
London to rob the American of a hat-trick of titles, faded badly down
the home stretch to miss out on a medal.
The world record holder and most decorated athlete in Olympic
history, Phelps clocked 1min 53.36sec to add to his staggering title
tally as Japan's Masato Sakai finished strongly for a surprise silver in
1:53.40. Hungary's Tamas Kenderesi took bronze in 1:53.62.
Competing in his fifth and final Olympics, victory was twice as sweet
for Phelps after clashing with le Clos in the media since losing to the
South African in their epic London tussle.
"I don't want him to win and
I'm sure he doesn't want me to win," said Phelps. "He is a very good
racer and he puts it on the line. I knew where he was all the time. The
last 10 metres were not fun, oh my gosh."
Still, Phelps was not done, putting the gloss on a fourth straight
American victory in the 4x200m free, cruising home almost two and a half
seconds ahead of Britain's James Guy in the swimming equivalent of
baseball's home-run trot around the bases.
Phelps won his 19th Olympic gold in the men's 4x100m freestyle relay
at the weekend and if he feels greedy, there is more potential gold for
him in the 100m fly and the 200m individual medley - events he has
incredibly won at the past three Olympics.
Hungary's "Iron Lady" Hosszu completed the individual medley double
by winning the 200m final in 2:06.58, making it three golds and counting
after also claiming the 100m backstroke crown.
"Coming into Rio I didn't have any Olympic medals so I would have
been okay with any colour," she said. "To have three golds, it's
Britain's Siobhan-Marie O'Connor took silver in 2:06.88. Bronze went to American Maya Dirado, touching in 2:08.79.
Ledecky scooped her second gold of the Games after holding off a
brave charge from Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom in the women's 200m freestyle.
The American phenom, who won the 400m title with a stunning world
record on day two, clocked 1:53.73 to win by 0.35 seconds from Sjostrom.
Australia's Emma McKeon took bronze.
"That was a really tough race and it hurt really badly," said
Ledecky. "I'm pretty sure that's the closest I've come to throwing up in
the middle of a race."