LONDON – For Michael Phelps, Beijing was about perfection — and London is about history.
Phelps prepares to compete in the men's 200m butterfly semifinals during the London Olympics on Tuesday.
Phelps won silver in the 200 butterfly and capped off the night by winning gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay in the London Games on Tuesday.
In the relay, Phelps had more than a two second lead when he took over as the anchor. The Americans won in 6:59.70, more than three seconds faster than runner-up France. Ryan Lochte swam the leadoff leg, followed by Conor Dwyer and Ricky Berens.
In the 200 fly, Phelps finished 05. seconds behind South Africa's Chad le Clos, who shouted and slapped the water in celebration. Le Clos won in 1:52.96, pulling ahead of Phelps in the final meters.
Tuesday's 200 fly race was eerily similar to the 100 fly four years ago in Beijing, when Phelps barely edged Milorad Cavic, reaching the touchpad just .01 seconds ahead of the Serbian.
Against le Clos, Phelps appeared to glide to the finish. It cost him a shot at winning his third consecutive gold medal in the event.
"Obviously I would have liked to have a batter outcome in the 200 fly," Phelps said. "You know, I was on the receiving end of being touched out. Chad swam a great race. … It's obviously my last one, I would've liked to win, but 1:53 flat isn't a terrible time."
With the two medals, Phelps surpassed former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won 18 medals, nine of them gold, at Melbourne in 1956, Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964.
His medal count now stands at 15 gold, two silver, two bronze. He also won silver in the 4x100 freestyle relay here.
Bob Bowman, his coach, said at the Olympic trials that London offered Phelps a chance to "take his gold medal count to a level I don't know if anyone could touch it. It might be there already."
Phelps, 27, had won the 200 butterfly in Athens and Beijing and no man had ever won an individual event at three successive Games. Just two women have done it: Australia's Dawn Fraser and Hungary's Krisztina Egerszegi.
To underscore how difficult it is to do, Phelps failed in his attempt at three consecutive Olympic wins in the 400 individual medley, finishing fourth on Saturday.
Phelps, who says this will be his last Games, will have two other chances at Olympic trifectas, in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.
The 200 IM, which will begin Wednesday, offers Phelps an opportunity to even the score with rival and friend Lochte, who won gold in the 400 IM on the first night of the meet.
Phelps has been saying all along that he has goals in London, though he has declined to say precisely what they are. Surely, making history is one of them.
"You guys are still stressing about it," he told reporters just days before the Games. "I have times that I want to hit and things I want to do. That's why I'm here. Obviously, we always want to swim faster."