Americans Grab More Gold In Swimming, Gymnastics

American swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte faced off for the last time Thursday at the London Summer Olympics. Phelps won that race, the 200-meter individual medley. Meanwhile, gymnast Gabby Douglas competed in the women's individual all-around final and took the gold. Tom Goldman talks to Audie Cornish.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

We begin this hour with news from the London Olympics, where American athletes made history today. In a few minutes, a new face on the medal stand in the sport of judo, but first to swimming and gymnastics. Today, Michael Phelps won his 20th Olympic medal, a gold. And gymnast Gabby Douglas won gold in the women's individual all-around final.

For more, NPR's Tom Goldman joins us from London. And, Tom, let's start with swimming a the race that was a showdown between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Tell us what happened.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It sure was. It was the 200-meter individual medley. Now this was the second head-to-head match, matchup between the two. Lochte took the first last Saturday, if you remember. He won big, and Phelps finished fourth. Well, tonight Phelps got even. He beat Lochte, who took the silver medal, by more than a half a second.

Now, Audie, it had been a quiet Olympics for Phelps, if you can call three medals quiet. Of course he set an impossible standard with his record eight golds in the 2008 Olympics. But tonight Phelps got his first individual gold, and he offered a little reminder of the dominance we've gotten used to seeing over the last three summer games.

CORNISH: So put this one in a historical context for Phelps.

GOLDMAN: Well, he set the record the other night for most medals by an Olympian ever: 19. And today he got number 20, so he's just adding to his total. He also became the first male swimmer to win the same event in three consecutive Olympic Games. So despite what I said about this being a quiet games, those are big, loud records, and he still could add to them before the swimming competition ends.

CORNISH: I want to talk about gymnastics and Gabby Douglas. Today, she became the first African-American woman to win the all-around title in gymnastics. Tell us about that.

GOLDMAN: She was fantastic. The competition is four-event. She took the lead on the first one, the vault, and then it was just a matter of could anyone catch her? Russia's Viktoria Komova tried. She performed beautifully on the uneven bars and the floor exercise.

Her final routine of the night, on the floor, was even better than Douglas', and Douglas' was really good. It was dazzling and athletic, and it prompted a lot of oohs and ahs with her runs across the mat and huge leaps and flips. And she had this big grin on her face when she struck her final pose.

But then Komova did her floor routine practically perfect. And then there was this tense moment - we love tense moments at the Olympics - with Komova staring at the scoreboard. It flashed her score, which left her three-tenths of a point behind Douglas. Komova's shoulders slumped. She cried. Douglas celebrated.

CORNISH: Oh. Well, at least a star is born with Gabby Douglas, right?

GOLDMAN: It is, but she better make the most of it. She's got two gold medals - he most important ones, team event and individual all-around. She could get more. But if history is any judge, the star shine in competition won't last that long, and here's a random but telling fact.

Since 1980, 59 different gymnasts have placed in the top eight of the Olympic women's all-around competition. Only five have placed in the top eight in consecutive games. So Gabby Douglas needs to line up those endorsements now. She's a dynamic athlete with a good personality. She shouldn't have a problem.

CORNISH: And, Tom, any other news from London?

GOLDMAN: Well, back to swimming, American Rebecca Soni set her second world record at this game. She did it winning the 200-meter breaststroke today. And big doings at the rowing venue, the U.S. women's eight rowing team. I don't have time to mention all eight, but - in the boat, but I'll mention their dynamo coxswain, Mary Whipple. They won the gold medal for the second straight Olympics. Well done.

CORNISH: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman in London. Thanks so much, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You bet.

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