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LONDON, England, August 4. IN the final event of his career, if his promises to retire after this meet stay true, living legend Michael Phelps topped off his career with his 22nd Olympic medal and 18th of the gold variety as Team USA posted a textile best in the men’s 400-meter medley relay to end the 2012 London Olympics.
The U.S. traded the lead with Japan throughout the race until Phelps gave Nathan Adrian the lead for good at the final exchange with Matt Grevers (52.58), Brendan Hansen (59.19), Phelps (50.73) and Adrian (46.85) putting together a blazing fast 3:29.35. The swim just missed Team USA’s Olympic record of 3:29.34 from the 2008 Beijing Olympics during the techsuit era, but easily bypassed the textile best of 3:30.68 posted by the U.S. with its 2004 Athens Games victory.
“We’re united, we’re tough and we’re proud,” Grevers said. “Having Michael Phelps with us for his last swim is pretty tremendous.”
Phelps ended this week with four gold medals and a pair of silvers. His 18th gold medal rings even more remarkable as the previous record for total career Olympic medals of any kind had stood at 18 by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina heading into this meet. His gold-medal tally alone now equals that former record.
Michael Phelps Olympic Rundown
1 100m Butterfly 51.21
1 200m Individual Medley 1:54.27
1 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay 6:59.70
1 4 x 100m Medley Relay 3:29.35
2 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay 3:10.38
2 200m Butterfly 1:53.01
4 400m Individual Medley 4:09.28
1 200m Freestyle 1:42.96
1 100m Butterfly 50.58
1 200m Butterfly 1:52.03
1 200m Individual Medley 1:54.23
1 400m Individual Medley 4:03.84
1 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay 3:08.24
1 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay 6:58.56
1 4 x 100m Medley Relay 3:29.34
1 100m Butterfly 51.25
1 200m Butterfly 1:54.04
1 200m Individual Medley 1:57.14
1 400m Individual Medley 4:08.26
1 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay 7:07.33
1 4 x 100m Medley Relay 3:30.68
3 200m Freestyle 2004 1:45.32
3 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay 3:14.62
5 200m Butterfly 1:56.50
Grevers, meanwhile, now owns six Olympic medals including four of the gold variety as well as his first individual gold with the 100 back triumph. Hansen pushed his career tally to six overall including three golds, while Adrian now has four Olympic medals including three gold as well. The win continued the Americans unbeaten streak in the event since it began being contested at the 1960 Olympics. The only time the U.S. has not stood atop the podium came in 1980 when the U.S. boycotted the Olympics.
Japan’s Ryosuke Irie (52.92), Kosuke Kitjaima (58.64), Takeshi Matsuda (51.20) and Takuro Fujii (48.50) gave the U.S. all it could handle for three legs before Adrian dropped the hammer in the anchor leg. Japan finished with a 3:31.26 for silver. That’s the first time Japan has finished better than bronze after three bronzes in 1960, 2004 and 2008.
“We are very, very pleased,” Kitajima said. “This medal continues a tradition that stretches back eight years. We have to be very proud.”
In what is believed to be his final race, Kitajima extended his legacy of earning the most medals of any Japanese swimmer with seven. He won both breaststrokes in 2004 and 2008, and was part of the bronze medal relays both years. He also competed in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, finishing fourth in the 100 breast and 17th in the 200 breast.
Australia’s Hayden Stoeckel (53.71), Christian Sprenger (59.05), Matt Targett (51.60) and James Magnussen (47.22) finished in the bronze with a 3:31.58.
Great Britain (3:32.32), Hungary (3:33.02), Germany (3:33.06), The Netherlands (3:33.46) and Canada (3:34.19) completed a close finish at the back of the heat.
Shortly after the medal ceremony, Phelps was presented with a special award for his accomplishment in winning 22 medals across three Olympiads. He won six in 2012, eight in 2008 and eight in 2004.
Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt and Ryan Lochte each ranked second in medals in London with five each.
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