AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And finally this hour, we're going to give you some news about the Olympics. So avert your ears now if you're trying to avoid the details. OK. American swimmer Michael Phelps has become the most decorated Olympic athlete ever. Phelps won his 19th medal, a gold, in his second race of the day. NPR's Howard Berkes was there, and he's with us now from London. Hi there, Howard.
HOWARD BERKES, BYLINE: Hi.
CORNISH: So the day ended well for Phelps, more on that in a minute, but how did it begin?
BERKES: Well, you know, it began with him needing two medals to have the most Olympic medals ever. And he was scheduled in two events today, and he was favored in the first of the two races, the 200-meter butterfly. He's the world record holder in that event, he's the Olympic champion, and he did lead the entire race until the very end when Chad le Clos of South Africa caught up, barely touched the wall first. And you may remember that four years ago in Beijing, the same thing happened, only it was Phelps who out-touched his opponent for the gold. So it was silver for Phelps. He was clearly upset about that.
CORNISH: Now, his record-setting race was the relay, right? Tell us about it.
BERKES: Yeah. The relay, which, this was a relay that involves four swimmers, each swimming 200 meters of freestyle. And Phelps had told us that he told his teammates: Give me a good lead, and, boy, did they. Teammate and rival Ryan Lochte swam the first leg. He shot right out at the dive, and he led it at a world-record pace. And by the time it came to Phelps, who swam the anchor leg, he was two-body lengths ahead of his nearest competitor.
That happened to be French swimmer Yannick Agnel who closed the gap. But Phelps held on for the gold, and, you know, that was his record, 19th medal. Phelps was asked if that's an untouchable record. He said nothing's untouchable.
CORNISH: And how long had that record stood?
BERKES: It's been 48 years. It was 1964 when a Ukrainian gymnast named Larisa Latynina - sorry, Larisa - 18 medals she had. And Phelps and Latynina had met a few months ago, and she encouraged him, you know, to break that record.
CORNISH: So what's next for Michael Phelps from London? What are the other races coming?
BERKES: Well, Phelps noted that himself after he broke the record. He says it's been an amazing career, but we have a couple of races left. And there are two coming up, the 200 individual medley on Thursday with some preliminary heats tomorrow. He's got a 100 meter butterfly on Friday. That's a race he usually does pretty well in.
I should say that he really looked relieved and loose tonight. He says he's relaxed, he's ready to tackle these final two races of his career, and they will be the final two races of his career. He's made it clear he's not going to do another Olympics. So even though he suffered a terrible loss earlier in the games, finishing fourth in a race, something that hasn't happened to him in the last two Olympics, he says he's ready to compete and maybe add to his record - his record-holder medals.
CORNISH: NPR's Howard Berkes talking with us about Michael Phelps' record-setting 19th Olympic medal. Thanks so much, Howard.
BERKES: You're welcome, Audie.
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