Golden Phelps ends individual career in style


US great Michael Phelps closed his Olympic individual career in breathtaking style Friday as America ruled the pool and records tumbled on the cycle track. Phelps’ last-gasp surge won the 100m butterfly by a whisker from Chad le Clos and Evgeny Korotyshkin, taking his record tally to 21 Olympic medals including 17 golds.
Irrepressible team-mate Missy Franklin won her third gold medal in the 200m backstroke and America’s Katie Ledecky, 15, became the Games’ youngest swim champion with a stunning 800m which threatened the world record. As athletics got under way at a packed, 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium, poster-girl Jessica Ennis twice had fans on their feet with personal bests in the 100m hurdles and 200m. After four events, Ennis was top of the standings. “Amazing! It’s so loud,” Ennis said of the crowd. “When you step up to jump or get on your blocks they just really get behind you.”
Carmelita Jeter of the US ran a scorching 10.83sec in the first round of the women’s 100m, a time that would have earned her a silver medal in Beijing. In tennis, Wimbledon champion Roger Federer won the longest three-set match in the Open era, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 19-17 against Juan Martin del Potro in four hours and 26 minutes, to reach his first Olympic final. “I don’t think I’ve ever played as long a set in a best-of-three match,” Federer said of the marathon decider. And Britain’s Andy Murray beat world number two Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-5 to set up a repeat of last month’s Wimbledon final. Serena Williams will play Maria Sharapova in the women’s final.
In early action, Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger won in the women’s double sculls rowing set off Britain’s second three-gold haul in two days. As attention switched to the Velodrome, Britain smashed the world record to win the men’s team pursuit and Victoria Pendleton took the women’s keirin with a last-lap surge. Britain also set a new world mark in qualifying for the women’s team pursuit. After four events on the track, the hosts have won three and Germany one.
Olympic swimming will bid farewell to Phelps on Saturday, when he races the 4x100m medley, and he made his last individual event on Friday one of his very best. From seventh at the turn in the 100m butterfly, Phelps surged to snatch it with a long glide at the death in a performance which left his watching mother shaking her head in amazement. The nail-biter recalled Phelps’ thrilling victory by one-hundredth of a second over Milorad Cavic in Beijing, as well as his triumph by four-hundredths of a second over compatriot Ian Crocker in Athens. And it meant Phelps, who on Thursday became the first man to win an individual Olympic swimming title three times in a row, achieved the same feat on consecutive nights. “This was a bigger margin of victory than the last two combined, so we can smile and be happy,” Phelps said. “It was fun.” History was also made in the judo competition where Wojdan Shaherkani became the first woman from Saudi Arabia to compete at an Olympics. Shaherkani, 16, lasted a mere 82 seconds after a build-up which had been overshadowed by a row concerning her hijab.