Time to make room for gold No. 19.
With yet another dazzling performance, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history added to his staggering haul Sunday night in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, giving the United States a lead it never relinquished.
“When I was on the block, I honestly thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest,’’ Phelps said. “I was so hyped tonight and so excited.’’
Defending Olympic champion France was out front when Phelps dove into the water on the second leg, taking over for leadoff swimmer Caeleb Dressel. Even though the 100 free isn’t one of Phelps’ specialties – he’s never swam it individually at the Olympics, only in the relays – he blazed down and back in a stunning 47.12 seconds, a time that was faster than all but the three anchors on the medal-winning teams, three of the best in the world at that distance.
“Coming off the wall I thought my kickout was great,’’ Phelps said. “I just wanted to hammer it, hit the touch and give them a bigger lead.’’
That he did.
Ryan Held kept the Americans in front before giving way to Nathan Adrian, the nation’s best sprinter.
At that point, it wasn’t really in doubt.
But Phelps wasn’t taking any chances, pounding the starting block and shouting toward Adrian as the anchor made the turn for home.
When Adrian touched the wall first in 3 minutes, 9.92 seconds, Phelps thrust his right arm in the air and looked toward his infant son Boomer, nuzzling in the arms of his mother Nicole Johnson, the roaring crowd blocked out by noise-canceling headphones.
Little Boomer won’t remember what his daddy did this night.
But that gold medal will never let him forget.
It was quite a night for the Americans, who were shut out on the golds on the opening night of swimming.