Saturday, August 04, 2012

Phelps, Franklin lead U.S. in pool

Associated Press
London --

Michael Phelps is turning his final Olympics into a victory lap, and don't fret about American swimming after he's gone.

Led by two high schoolers, the post-Phelps era will be in very good hands.

In what amounted to a symbolic changing of the guard Friday, Phelps claimed the 17th gold medal of a career that has just one day to go - on the same night one teenager, Missy Franklin, broke a world record in the backstroke and another, Katie Ledecky, took down a hallowed American mark that was set nearly eight years before she was born.

"There's so many members of the team that are coming up this year that are going to carry on this incredible generation," Franklin said.

Incredible, indeed.

Phelps was seventh at the turn in the 100-meter butterfly - it always takes him a while to get up to speed - but he brought it home like a champion. That, in a sense, sums up his Olympics farewell. He got off to a sluggish start but has three victories in the past four days, and it's almost certain he'll take home one more gold Saturday. That's a relay. This was the final race he'll do alone.

"I'm just happy that the last one was a win," said Phelps, who will probably fade into retirement with twice as many golds as anyone else. "That's all I really wanted coming into the night."

He'll finish up swimming the butterfly leg of the 400 medley relay, an event the U.S. men have never lost. That streak should carry on with the Americans sending out an imposing quartet that includes three gold medalists (Phelps, freestyler Nathan Adrian and backstroker Matt Grevers), plus a guy who won bronze (breaststroker Brendan Hansen).

It's unfathomable to think the Phelps era could end with anything less than a performance that puts him atop the podium one last time, gold medal No. 18.

"I don't think Michael is going to let anything go wrong in that race," said Eric Shanteau, who swam the relay for the U.S. in the prelims.

Right after Phelps was done, Ledecky - the youngest member of the U.S. team at 15 - nearly broke the world record to win gold in the 800 freestyle, denying Britain's Rebecca Adlington a repeat before her home fans. Adlington settled for bronze in a race Ledecky dominated from start to finish, falling off record pace only in the last 15 meters.

But no one has dominated like Phelps, who increased his career overall medal total to 21.

"He's the king of the Olympics Games," said his butterfly rival, Serbia's Milorad Cavic, who swims for Cal.

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