Phelps claims 17th gold medal
BY PAUL NEWBERRY Associated Press
Saturday, August 04, 2012
8/04/12 at 5:50 AM
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LONDON - Michael Phelps is turning his final Olympics into quite a victory lap, and don't fret about American swimming after he's gone.
Led by a pair of high-schoolers, the post-Phelps era will be in very good hands.
In what amounted to a symbolic changing of the guard Friday, Phelps claimed the 17th gold medal of a career that has just 24 hours to go - on the same night one teenager, Missy Franklin, broke a world record in the backstroke and another, Katie Ledecky, took down a hallowed American mark that was set nearly eight years before she was born.
"This has sort of turned into the youth Olympics," Franklin said. "There's so many members of the team that are coming up this year that are going to carry on this incredible generation."
His long arms whirling through the water, Phelps was seventh at the turn in 100-meter butterfly - it always takes him a while to get up to speed - but he brought it home like a champion. That, in a sense, sums up his Olympics farewell. He got off to a sluggish start but has three victories in the past four days, and it's almost certain he will take home one more gold Saturday.
That's a relay.
This was the final race he will do alone.
"I'm just happy that the last one was a win," said Phelps, who will likely fade into retirement with twice as many golds as anyone else. "That's all I really wanted coming into the night."
He will finish up swimming the butterfly leg of the 4x100 medley relay, an event the U.S. men have never lost.
That streak should carry right on with the Americans sending out an imposing quartet that includes three gold medalists (Phelps, freestyler Nathan Adrian and backstroker Matt Grevers), plus a guy who won bronze (breaststroker Brendan Hansen).
It's unfathomable to think the Phelps era could end with anything less than a performance that puts him atop the podium one last time, gold medal No. 18 around his neck.
"I don't think Michael is going to let anything go wrong in that race," said Eric Shanteau, who swam the relay for the U.S. in the prelims.
Just minutes before Phelps took center stage at the Olympic Aquatics Centre, Franklin set a world record in the 200 backstroke, the 17-year-old's third gold in London. Another American teen, 19-year-old Elizabeth Beisel, claimed the bronze in that race.
"I can't believe what just happened," said Franklin, who had dedicated her Olympics to victims of the theater shooting not far from her Colorado home. "In that last 25, I knew I was giving it everything I had because I couldn't feel my arms and legs and I was just trying to get my hand to the wall as fast I could."
Right after Phelps was done, Ledecky - the youngest member of the U.S. team at 15 - nearly broke the world record to win gold in the 800 freestyle, denying Britain's Rebecca Adlington a repeat before her home fans.
Ledecky finished in 8:14.63, smashing Janet Evans' American mark of 8:16.22, set in Tokyo on Aug. 20, 1989.
Michael Phelps displays his gold medal next to South Africa's silver medalist Chad le Clos (center) and Russia's bronze medalist Evegnu Korotyshkin after the men's 100-meter butterfly final Friday in London. MATT SLOCUM/Associated Press