MICHAEL Phelps won his 22nd Olympic gold medal and fourth consecutive 200 metres individual medley title on a historic night in Rio.
The 31-year-old American won gold in one minute 54.66 seconds to take his second individual title and fourth gold of the 2016 Games. He also became the first person to win the same event at four consecutive Olympics.
Kosuke Hagino of Japan, the 400m individual medley champion, was second in 1min 56.61secs and Wang Shun of China third in 1:57.05.
Ryan Lochte, Phelps’ team-mate, could only finish fifth in 1:57.47, while Britain’s Dan Wallace was eighth 1:58.54. The Scot, who won 400m IM gold and 200 IM silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, had performed brilliantly to reach the final after only being selected in the GB squad as a wildcard and relay reserve. He went on to win a silver in the 4x200m freestyle.
The crowd at the Aquatics Stadium were still digesting Phelps’ latest landmark when they witnessed yet more history as Simone Manuel became the first black woman to win an individual Olympic swimming title in the 100m freestyle. To add an extra layer of spice to the mix it was an incredible joint gold as the 20-year-old Texan could not be separated from 16-year-old Canadian sensation Penny Oleksiak.
Where the imaginary Republic of Michael Phelps would figure on the all-time Olympic medal table for Summer Games is muddied by defunct countries like USSR, Yugoslavia, East Germany but it would be around the top 30.
Last night’s 22nd gold took him one above Ethiopia and one behind South Africa, the nation of his rival Chad le Clos who he reclaimed the 200m butterfly title from earlier in the week. That is also five more golds than Jamaica, the nation of Olympic sport’s other megastar Usain Bolt.
Swimming presents vastly more opportunities to medal than athletics and few would argue that Phelps’ star shines quite as brightly as Bolt’s but he is certainly close in the constellation of Olympic greats and modern sporting phenomenons.
In what was billed as the final showdown between two of America’s greatest swimmers, Phelps blew away Lochte - and everyone else - for his 26th Olympic medal.
Phelps has an opportunity for another gold tonight in one of his favourite events.
Phelps won the 100m butterfly title at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Games and will go for a fourth straight win after qualifying fifth fastest.
He had to dash from the medal presentation to the call room and placed second in the first semi-final, clocking 51.58.
Joseph Schooling of Malaysia was the fastest qualifier in 50.83, while Le Clos advanced in 51.43.
Britain’s James Guy finished in 52.10 to place 14th and miss out on the final.
The national anthems of the United States and then Canada rang out during the medal ceremony as Manuel and Oleksiak both clocked 52.70 seconds - a new Olympic record - in the women’s 100m freestyle. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom took bronze.
The race had been set up as a showdown between the Australian sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell, who had teamed up earlier in the week for 4x100m freestyle gold. In the end, they were washed away as world record holder Cate slumped to sixth and Bronte was edged out into fourth.
Australia have been enjoying a better start to the Games than the disastrous campaign they endured in London four years ago. In a country which holds its swimming team in such high regard that blow to national pride led to a review by the governing body which put the failure down to a “toxic culture” in the team.
Things have gone better in Rio but the failure of the Campbells will have hurt.
Tough for Tutton
Chloe Tutton finished an agonising fourth in the women’s 200m breaststroke final.
The 20-year-old from Pontypridd finished in 2:22.34 as Rie Kaneto of Japan won gold in 2:20.30.
Tutton was 0.06s off the podium as Yulia Efimova of Russia finished second in 2:21.97 and Shi Jinglin of China third in 2:22.28. Molly Renshaw was sixth in 2:22.72.
Tutton’s time was 0.01 off the British record Renshaw set in qualifying for the final in third place.
Tutton expressed frustration at being so close to the podium and at finishing behind controversial Russian Efimova, a convicted drug cheat.
She said: “Being in fourth place is a bit gutting, no matter who is in front of you. I would’ve preferred it to have been a completely clean Games.
“I couldn’t help who was here. I’m not happy with it, but it’s just the way it is.
“People just have to get on with it. I would’ve preferred to have a medal.”
Ben Proud earlier advanced to Friday’s 50m freestyle final in fifth place.
The Plymouth speedster clocked 21.54 as defending champion Florent Manaudou of France progressed fastest in 21.32.
Britain’s Jazz Carlin, who won silver in the 400m freestyle, qualified third fastest for tonight’s final in the 800m heats, with Katie Ledecky predictably leading the way. Perth 21-year-old Camilla Hattersley was third in her heat and finished 15th overall.