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What A Legend! Michael Phelps Takes Gold Medal Tally To 21

Michael Phelps sat alone, thoroughly exhausted. He put his head in his hands and then motioned at his neck as though he had nothing left to give.

No need.

His work was done.

He had his 20th and 21st gold medals.

Phelps made up for one of the rare losses in his brilliant career by winning the 200-metre butterfly, a triumph that sent him climbing into the stands to kiss his three-month-old son Boomer.

An hour later, he returned to take what amounted to nothing more than a triumphant victory lap in anchoring the 4x200 freestyle relay, the crowd's deafening roar growing louder with every stroke.

This was another performance for the ages, but Phelps has done it so many times that nothing else would have been fitting.

It came on a night that American teammate Katie Ledecky picked up her second gold of the Rio Olympics on the way to what could be a historic run of her own in the pool.

Phelps now has 25 medals in all, and three more races in Rio to add to his almost unimaginable total.

The 200m fly was the one he really wanted, and it showed. With challengers all around, Phelps simply wouldn't be denied.

After touching the wall first - by a mere four-hundredths of a second - he held up one finger.

Then he sat on a lane rope, egging on the roaring crowd at the Olympic Aquatics Centre with both hands, before emphatically pumping his fist. Tears welled in his eyes during the medal ceremony - until somebody in the crowd cracked him up.

Then, during the customary stroll around the pool to pose for photographers, Phelps broke ranks and bounded into the stands to plant a kiss on Boomer, the son who symbolises just how much Phelps' life has changed since a second drunken-driving arrest two years ago.

Four years ago, Phelps mistimed his finish in the wind-milling stroke he does better than anyone, gliding to the wall a little too long after his final whirl of the arms.

That allowed Chad le Clos of South Africa to stunningly win gold in an event that Phelps had dominated for the better part of a decade.

But the South African could only manage fourth this time.

The relay was much less dramatic. He was handed a commanding lead and spent the next 100 seconds or so soaking up the cheers.

But let's not forget two other very impressive swimmers. Ledecky took the most challenging step toward a feat that's only been done one other time, holding off Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom to win the 200m freestyle.

Debbie Meyer is the only female swimmer to capture the three longest freestyle events at a single Olympics, winning the 200m, 400m and 800m at Mexico City in 1968.

Ledecky looks like a lock to match Meyer, having already won the 200m and 400m titles and an overwhelming favourite in the 800m. Katinka Hosszu is having quite an Olympics, too.

The Hungarian known as the "Iron Lady" earned her third gold medal of these games with a victory in the 200 individual medley.

This has been an Olympic of redemption for Hosszu, a long-time star at the world championships who always seemed to come up short on the biggest stage.

Not anymore.


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