RIO DE JANEIRO: Michael Phelps captured his 20th Olympic gold medal in dramatic fashion on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), sealing victory with a kiss from baby son Boomer, before adding a staggering 21st before the night was over.
The American crushed fierce rival Chad le Clos to regain his 200 meters butterfly title in a dust-up bristling with tension, celebrating by pointing to the sky and gesturing to the Rio crowd to “bring the noise” — an order they duly obeyed.
Katinka Hosszu and Katie Ledecky struck further blows for girl power, but again it was all about Phelps, who later anchored the American 4×200 freestyle relay team to gold as the clock edged toward midnight.
Milking the acclaim of the crowd, Phelps climbed, Wimbledon tennis-style, past a bank of poolside photographers to kiss little Boomer and fiancee Nicole Johnson after an emotional medals ceremony.
“That event is kind of like my bread and butter,” Phelps told reporters. “That was the last time I’ll ever swim it. Having that come to an end, it’s weird, it’s crazy to think about.
“There wasn’t a shot in hell I was losing that race,” he added. “And if I did I was leaving everything in the pool.”
Entering the arena like a gladiator, his face a granite mask of concentration, Phelps dominated a grudge final le Clos had billed as “Ali versus Frazier” to become the oldest individual swimming gold medallist in Olympic history at 31.
South African Le Clos, who won by a fingertip four years ago in London to rob the American of a hat trick of titles, faded badly down the home stretch to miss out on a medal.
The world record holder and most decorated athlete in Olympic history, Phelps clocked 1min 53.36sec to add to his staggering title tally as Japan’s Masato Sakai finished strongly for a surprise silver in 1:53.40. Hungary’s Tamas Kenderesi took bronze in 1:53.62.
Competing in his fifth and final Olympics, victory was twice as sweet for Phelps after clashing with le Clos in the media since losing to the South African in their epic London tussle.