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2012 london olympics

Michael Phelps Now Most Decorated Olympian of All Time

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31:  Gold Medallist Michaell Phelps of the United States smiles prior to receiving his medal on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men's 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay final on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 31, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

The four stories from this afternoon's Olympic swimming business, with the one you care about the most right at the top.

The Americans easily won the 800 free relay, and Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian ever.

Ryan Lochte led the American men's 800 free relay team and got the team a full body length ahead of the pack to start. Conor Dwyer, the second leg, increased the lead to over two seconds. Ricky Berens further solidified the team's first-place standing; by the time he touched, the only race in this event was for second place. Phelps more than held on as the anchor; the win -- by more than three seconds, pretty incredible in this sport -- gave Phelps his nineteenth Olympic medal (and his fifteenth gold), more than any athlete in history. It's pretty amazing.

Allison Schmitt dominates the 200 free.

Schmitt was an obvious winner in the event, touching almost two full seconds ahead of the other swimmers in the race, including Missy Franklin — who stayed near Schmitt for most of the race and placed fourth, touched out of the podium by just a single hundredth of a second by third-place Bronte Barratt. This year, the American swimmers seem markedly jovial-- even on obviously disappointing swims, the athletes have mostly refused to show if they're upset-- and intent on having a good time (see: that admittedly awesome "Call Me Maybe" parody. Schmitt (who swims for the University of Georgia but has been training for the Games with Bob Bowman) was no exception here: As she left the podium, she threw the bouquet she'd been given to her fans in the stands, who were all wearing T-shirts with an outline of her face printed on them.

Ye Shiwen solidified her standing as an individual-medley supergirl. 

Ye Shiwen (yes, that's the 16-year-old who won the 400 I.M. with a final 50 that was faster than Ryan Lochte's final 50 in the same event) won the 200 I.M. with a similarly strong final length. American Caitlin Leverenz, who led by .30 at the breast-to-free turn, placed third; her teammate Ariana Kukors, whose world record in this event will still stand, touched fifth.

Michael Phelps takes second in the 200 fly.

Second place is not where Michael Phelps is used to being. And it seemed for almost the entire 200 butterfly final he was finally back where it felt most normal — in the lead, ready for yet another gold medal. But in the last 10 meters, South Africa's Chad Le Clos pushed ahead and touched just .05 seconds ahead of Phelps.

We've become somewhat accustomed to watching Phelps pull away for a win easily, so much so that his races can be boring; but this was the kind of race that made you hold your breath and practically scream as the number 2 popped up on the screen over Phelps's lane. However you feel about Phelps, it's disappointing to see him have such a so-so meet at the Games; nevertheless, this will certainly be remembered as one of the more exciting races of the meet, and it also marked Phelps's eighteenth career medal.

And besides: He was about to make history, just a few minutes later.

Mary Jane Weedman is writing about Olympic swimming for The Sports Section. E-mail her at MaryJane.Weedman@nymag.com.

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Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images