London Olympics: Phelps falls short of gold in butterfly; Schmitt breaks Olympic record

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 | 2:15 p.m. CDT; updated 3:43 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 31, 2012
United States' Allison Schmitt reacts to her gold medal win in the women's 200-meter freestyle swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London on Tuesday.

LONDON — Michael Phelps flipped away his cap in disgust, having blown the race with a blunder at the end.

He hardly looked like the swimmer who had just equaled the record for most Olympic medals.

Phelps won his 18th career medal Tuesday night, but it was only a silver. Having led the entire way in the 200-meter butterfly, he tried to glide to the wall after his final stroke and was out-touched by Chad le Clos of South Africa.

Le Clos pounded the water when he saw the "1'' beside his name.

Phelps hung on the lane rope and buried his face in his hands, disgusted with himself for having squandered another chance to win his first gold of these games. He remained stuck on 14 golds after three events in London, to go along with two silvers and two bronzes.

Le Clos won South Africa's second swimming gold of the games in a time of 1 minute, 52.96 seconds. Phelps finished in 1:53.01, while Japan's Takeshi Matsuda took the bronze in 1:53.21.

Despite his mistake, Phelps tied Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina for the most Olympic medals after that race and then broke the record after the U.S. won gold in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

With 19 career medals spanning three Olympics, Phelps moved one ahead of Latynina, who got her haul in 1956, 1960 and 1964. And he finally got his first gold of these games, bouncing back from the disappointment of settling for silver when he glided at the end of the 200 butterfly earlier in the day.

The United States team of Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, Ricky Berens and Phelps on the anchor leg won in 6 minutes, 59.70 seconds. France took the silver in 7:02.77, while China was third in 7:06.30.

Phelps now has 15 golds, two silvers and two bronzes.

But he had hoped to take the mark down with a flourish, not back into it. In fact, his finish in the butterfly was a shocking mistake by a swimmer who won a memorable race at the Beijing Games when a rival made the very same error.

Four years ago, Milorad Cavic of Serbia thought he had the 100 fly in the bag after his final stroke. Phelps made the split-second decision to get in one more stroke and slammed into the wall — one-thousandth of a second ahead of Cavic.

This time, it was Phelps on the losing end. He was also denied a chance to become the first male swimmer to win the same individual event at three straight Olympics.

In the first final of the night, American Allison Schmitt won the 200 freestyle with a dominating performance that left everyone else, including teammate Missy Franklin, battling for the other medals.

Schmitt won with an Olympic-record of 1:53.61. France's Camille Muffat took silver in 1:55.58, almost a body length behind, while Bronte Barrett of Australia took the bronze over Franklin by a thousandth of a second. Barrett touched in 1:55.81. Franklin, who led after the first 50, was fourth in 1:55.82.

"I was just racing," said Schmitt, who is quietly becoming one of the stars of the pool. "I knew I had to kick it. I just look at that scoreboard and see 53 and first place. I couldn't be happier."

She captured her first career gold medal to go along with a silver in the 400 free and a bronze in the 4x100 free relay.

The 17-year-old Franklin was denied her third medal of the games, one night after her gutsy victory in the 100 backstroke earned her a tweet-out from pop star Justin Bieber.

"I was trying to do the best that I can," said Franklin, who still has four more events in London. "I was in an incredible heat. I really wanted to go best time."

After lingering in his lane for a few seconds, Phelps retrieved his cap, went over to congratulate le Clos, and hustled out of the pool to get ready for the relay, where he was matched against stiff opposition that included Yannick Agnel of France and Sun Yang of China.

The Americans were hoping to have a comfortable lead by the time Phelps went in the water, leading off with Ryan Lochte, followed by Conor Dwyer and Ricky Berens.

Before that, Phelps had to return to the deck for a medal ceremony.

He bit his lip, leaned over to have the silver medal draped around his neck, and forced a smile.

It sure didn't feel like a celebration.

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