RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Michael Phelps has to clear out more space in his medal case.
Time to make room for gold No. 19.
With yet another dazzling performance, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history added to his staggering haul Sunday night in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, giving the United States a lead it never relinquished.
Defending Olympic champion France was leading when Phelps dove into the water on the second leg, taking over for leadoff swimmer Caeleb Dressel. Even though the 100 free isn’t one of his specialties — he’s never swam it at the Olympics — he blazed down and back in a stunning 47.12 seconds, a time that was faster than all but the three anchors on the medal-winning teams, three of the best in the world at that distance.
Ryan Held protected the lead before giving way for Nathan Adrian, America’s best sprinter.
At that point, it wasn’t really in doubt.
But Phelps wasn’t taking any chances, pounding the starting block and shouting toward Adrian as the anchor made the turn for home.
When Adrian touched the wall first, posting a winning time of 3 minutes, 9.92 seconds, Phelps thrust his right arm in the air and looked toward his infant son Boomer, nuzzling in the arms of his mother Nicole Johnson, the roaring crowd blocked out by noise-canceling headphones.
Little Boomer won’t remember what his daddy did this night.
But that gold medal will never let him forget.
France took the silver in 3:10.53, while Australia claimed the bronze in 3:11.37, holding off a Russian team that was booed during the introductions — a reminder of the drug scandal that has rocked the nation. Vladimir Morozov, initially banned from the Olympics, was one of Russia’s relay swimmers.
It was quite a night for the Americans, who were shut out on the golds on the opening night of swimming.
Racing nothing but the clock, Katie Ledecky gave the U.S. its first victory by crushing her own world record in the 400 freestyle.