SWIMMER Michael Phelps thanked his American team-mates after he became the most decorated Olympian of all time last night, as controversial Chinese teen sensation Ye Shiwen claimed her second gold of London 2012.
An emphatic victory in the 4x200m freestyle saw Phelps, 27, surpass Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina’s 18 Olympic medals, having equalled that tally with silver in the men’s 200m butterfly earlier in the evening.
“I thanked those guys for helping me get to this moment,” said Phelps, who will retire after these Games, of his relay colleagues. “I told those guys I wanted a big lead. I was like, ‘You better give me a big lead going into the last lap,’ and they gave it to me. I just wanted to hold on.”
His night’s only blemish was a shock defeat by Chad le Clos in the 200m butterfly, the South African finishing stronger to win by five hundredths of a second.
Ye, the subject of doping accusations since she grabbed the world’s attention by smashing the women’s 400m medley world record on Saturday, triumphed again in the 200m.
This time, however, the 16-year-old managed only to set a new Olympic record of 2:07:57, a barnstorming freestyle leg propelling her from third at the final turn to first, ahead of Australia’s Alicia Coutts and American Caitlin Leverenz. Britain’s Hannah Miley was seventh. In the men’s 200m breaststroke semi-finals, Britons Michael Jamieson and Andrew Willis qualified for tonight’s final as first and third fastest respectively.
Glaswegian Jamieson romped to victory in a British record 2:08:20, while Willis, roared on by a deafening army of British fans, finished second in his semi.
Team GB colleague Jemma Love finished sixth in the women’s 200m butterfly final as China’s Jiao Liuyang bagged gold, while Scot Caitlin McClatchey was seventh in a women’s 200m freestyle won by American Allison Schmitt in an Olympic record 1:53:61.
MOST OLYMPIC MEDALS
■ Michael Phelps, USA, 19
■ Larisa Latynina, Russia, 18
■ Paavo Nurmi, Finland, 12
■ Mark Spitz, USA, 11
■ Carl Lewis, USA, 10