- Wayne Drehs
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LONDON -- A quick look at the top stories from the London Aquatics Centre on Tuesday night:
An unlikely path to history
Although Michael Phelps had never come right out and said it, most believed he came back to London with his eye on becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time. He needed two medals to tie and three to pass Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won 18 medals from 1956 to 1964. On Tuesday night, Phelps passed Latynina, but did so in surprising fashion.
Phelps hadn't lost in his signature event, the 200-meter butterfly, at a major individual competition since 2000. But in Tuesday's final, he was out-touched at the wall after leading the entire race, losing to South Africa's Chad le Clos by .05 seconds. Le Clos, who swam the event in 1:52.96, described his victory as "the greatest moment of my life." Phelps entered the race with the top eight times in the 200 fly, as well as the top time this year. Le Clos' previous personal best was 1:54.34. While a sour-faced Phelps stood to receive his silver medal, le Clos was overcome with emotion.
Phelps' smile would return later in the night, though, as he, Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer and Ricky Berens helped the U.S. win gold in the 4x200 free relay, beating France by more than three seconds. Phelps swam the anchor leg and was all smiles after the race when it was announced to the crowd that he set the mark for the most medals ever by an Olympian.
Lost in the wake of Missy Franklin's rise to stardom this year has been the emergence of another young American swimmer, Allison Schmitt. Schmitt took a year off at the University of Georgia to train at the North Baltimore Athletic Club with Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, and she saw the ultimate results of that choice, winning Olympic gold Tuesday for the first time in the 200 freestyle.
"I couldn't be happier," Schmitt said. "I couldn't see anything other than the racer next to me, so I didn't know where I was or what the time was."
Schmitt was in fourth place after the first 50, but took control from there, blowing away a field that included world-record holder Federica Pellegrini, as well as Franklin, and cruising to the wall nearly two seconds faster than France's Camille Muffat, who finished second. Schmitt's time (1:53.61) was an Olympic record, nearly a second faster than her previous best and the second-fastest time in the event.
Silencing her critics ... or adding to them?
China's Ye Shiwen must have the thickest skin of any 16-year-old girl in the world. With a swirl of controversy surrounding her stunning success here this week, she won her second gold of the week, using yet another blistering split in her freestyle leg to win the 200-meter individual medley in an Olympic record 2:07.57.
Shiwen turned at 150 meters in third place, more than a second behind American Caitlin Leverenz, but then looked like she was shot out of a rocket on her last 50, beating Australia's Alicia Coutts by more than a half second to win.
Earlier Tuesday, her father criticized the Western media for suggesting Shiwen's success might be chemically enhanced. He told Chinese media outlet Tencent: "The Western media has always been arrogant and suspicious of Chinese people."
China's anti-doping chief also chimed in, insisting it isn't right for people to single out Chinese swimmers who produce good results. "We never questioned Michael Phelps when he bagged eight gold medals in Beijing," he told state news agency Xinhua.
LONDON -- A quick look at the top stories from the London Aquatics Centre on Tuesday night: An unlikely path to historyAlthough Michael Phelps had never come right out and said it, most believed he came back to London with his eye on becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time.