Michael Phelps became the first male swimmer to win the same event at three successive Olympics when he clinched the men’s 200 metres individual medley gold medal at the London Games this morning (NZ time).
Phelps, who won the event at the Athens and Beijing Games, relegated compatriot and world champion Ryan Lochte to silver while Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh took bronze.
Phelps led all the way and got his giant hands on the wall first in a time of one minute, 54.27 seconds, just outside Lochte’s world record of 1:54.00 that he set last year in the final at the Shanghai world championships.
Lochte, close to exhaustion after winning bronze in the 200 backstroke half an hour before the medley, held on to finish second, just 0.63 behind his team mate. Cseh clocked 1:56.22 for the bronze.
Phelps had joined forces with Lochte on Wednesday (NZ time) to win gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay and claim a record 19th Olympic medal and the 200 individual medley victory today gave the 27-year-old his 16th Olympic gold medal and 20th overall.
Only two swimmers had ever won the same individual event at three successive Olympics, Australia’s Dawn Fraser, in 100 freestyle in 1956, 1960 and 1964, and Hungary’s Krisztina Egerszegi in 200 backstroke in 1988, 1992 and 1996.
It is a feat that had eluded generations of the best male swimmers until Phelps, who had the chance of doing it in four different events in London.
He came fourth in the 400 individual medley and looked to set to achieve the feat in his favoured 200 butterfly but was pipped by South Africa’s Chad le Clos on the final stroke.
Phelps still has the 100 butterfly to come on his programme and is fastest qualifier for the final in 50.86 seconds, ahead of South Africa's Chad le Cos in 51.42.