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NEWS FEATURE Most-decorated Olympian Phelps adds extra chapter to legend By Derek Wilson, dpa

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Michael Phelps captivated the audience in Rio de Janeiro as he delivered his 20th and 21st Olympic gold medals in grand style.

Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - When Michael Phelps retired after the 2012 London Games, he did so as a swimming legend and the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.

But some people just aren‘t built for retirement.

Phelps - only 27 when he packed it in - is one of them, and two years later he was back in the pool like nothing had changed.

In Rio de Janeiro late Tuesday he added a new chapter to his legacy by winning his 20th and 21st Olympic gold medals.

Phelps first reclaimed his 200-metre butterfly title, snatched from him by Chad le Clos in London 2012 after wins in 2004 and 2008, in what might be one of the most satisfying wins of his career.

"I told (coach) Bob (Bowman) when I came back how much I wanted that 200 fly," Phelps told a news conference in the early hours of Wednesday. "I came to the pool on a mission and that mission was accomplished."

"I didn‘t say it to anyone else, but there wasn‘t a shot in hell I was losing that today."

Upon winning, he waved his finger in triumph, egging on his ecstatic fans for louder cheers, and then waded into the crowd to greet his family. For a second it even looked like he would carry baby son Boomer, just a few months old, off with him before his fiancee seemed to persuade him against it.

"I wanted to hold him longer," he said. "I Facetime with them every night. It was good to see him awake. He usually just sleeps all the time."

"It was really going through the last 16 years (since his first Olympics in Sydney)," he said of his thoughts on the podium. "That event was my bread and butter, that‘s the last time I‘ll swim it."

"Just being able to see the number one next to my name one more time in the 200 fly, I honestly couldn‘t have scripted it any better."

Just minutes after an emotional butterfly victory ceremony, he returned to the pool to contest the 4x200m freestyle.

Phelps was presented with a winning position by his teammates as he started the anchor leg and, though he claimed "doing a double like that is a lot harder than it once was," victory was never in doubt.

It was his third gold in Rio after the butterfly and the 4x100m relay earlier in the week, where he delivered the fastest 100m of his career - leading Fabien Gilot of the beaten French team to describe him as an "extraterrestrial."

A butterfly specialist, Phelps has dominated the discipline for more than a decade following his first Olympic victory in Athens 2004 but it was his freestyle strength, which has allowed him to rack up the medals - a total of 25 of them at the Games - by gaining him a spot on the 100-metre and 200-metre relay teams.

And with a backstroke and breaststroke strong enough to deliver medley honours as well, Phelps truly is a complete swimmer, as he proved emphatically at Beijing 2008 when he collected an unprecedented eight golds from eight races.

London brought a diminished haul as age seemed to be taking a toll but, post comeback, his medal collection could - realistically, will - increase further before the end of the week in Rio, with the 100m butterfly, the 200 medley and the medley relay still to come.

Picked as the American flag bearer for the opening ceremony at his fifth Games, Phelps is now one of those athletes who transcends his own sport - he is top of the list for photo hunters in the Olympic village and several stars from the US basketball team were in the crowd cheering for him on Tuesday.

Other swimmers lined up to praise the man his team-mate Maya Dirado called "the greatest of all time."

Katie Ledecky said: "I cannot tell you how much of a leader he has been. It‘s crazy what he has pulled off. I cannot wait to see what he will do the rest of the week."

Neither can anyone else.



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(24.11.2020 01:56)

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