LONDON -- Michael Phelps was flanked by South African Chad le Clos and Russian Evgeny Korotyshkin at the next-to-last medal ceremony of his career after winning his next-to-last medal in his next-to-last race.
Le Clos, 20, grew up idolizing Phelps but never dreamed he would get to race against him, much less beat him, which he did in the 200-meter butterfly earlier this week. Korotyshkin, 29, spent his 12-year career wanting to finish second to Phelps and came close to quitting before achieving his goal Friday.
Le Clos and Korotyshkin tied for the silver and were quite content with finishing .23 of a second behind Phelps (51.21) in the 100 fly.
"As you know, Michael is, for all swimmers, like an idol," Korotyshkin said. "It's hard to compete with him. I'm really happy I'm here, and I was able to catch the medal."
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Swimming is going to miss Phelps; swimmers not so much.
Phelps, 27, swam the last individual race of his career Friday. He had no complaints for a change, and though his coach, Bob Bowman, called it a "mediocre" swim, the result was the same as it's been for most of Phelps' career.
If it sounds redundant, that's because it is. It was the 21st medal of Phelps' career, the 17th gold.
"I'm just happy that the last [individual race] was a win," Phelps said. "That's all I really wanted coming into the night. This one was a bigger margin of victory than the last two [Olympics] combined [in the event]. We can smile and be happy."
U.S. coaches couldn't have been happier. American swimmers showed Phelps is leaving the sport in good hands (and feet) as Team USA won three gold medals and two bronze medals in four races Friday.
If not for Phelps nearing the end of his illustrious career, teenagers Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky would have made a heck of a good story.
Franklin, 17, will leave these Olympics as the star of the women's side, having won her second individual event. She now has three gold medals and a bronze with the 4x100 medley relay left today. Franklin won the 200 back in world-record time, 2:04.06, as teammate Elizabeth Beisel took bronze in 2:05.55.
Katie Ledecky, 15, was the surprise winner of the 800 free, nearly setting a world record.
She beat world-record-holder Becky Adlington, who had the home-country crowd on her side. Ledecky, who went 8:14.63, is the second-youngest swimming medalist for Team USA, 77 days older than Beth Botsford was in 1996.
But royalty -- Prince William and Kate Middleton and an NBA contingent that included King James -- came to the Aquatics Centre to watch the real King being crowned yet again.
"I cannot believe Phelps," Serbian Milorad Cavic said after finishing fourth in the 100 fly. "I'm a one-trick pony, and he's the king."
It was the third consecutive Olympics' victory for Phelps in the 100 fly. No male swimmer ever had won the same event three Olympics in a row until Thursday night when Phelps accomplished the feat in the 200 IM.
His fourth-place finish in the 400 IM a week ago was all but forgotten after his back-to-back victories.
"I'm going to miss seeing him rise to the occasion like he did [Thursday night]," Bowman said. "Really, when he needed to do something spectacular, he did. That's what I'll miss the most."
Whether he wins another gold medal tonight in the 4x100 medley relay, Phelps' career is complete. He has changed the sport, which is all he ever wanted to do.
"That's been a goal of mine since I was 15," Phelps said. "If I can say I've done that, and I can say I've done everything I wanted to do in my career, that's all I want.... I'm thankful to do everything that I've done and to have been able to do everything that I've done."
Charean Williams, 817-390-7697