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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Michael Phelps waggled four fingers, recognizing another historic achievement.
Now, he’s the first swimmer ever to win the same event at four straight Olympics.
Ryan Lochte was left in his wake every time.
In what was billed as the final showdown between two of America’s greatest swimmers, Phelps blew away Lochte – and everyone else – to win his fourth gold medal of the Rio Olympics and 22nd overall with a victory in the 200-meter individual medley Thursday night.
Phelps finished a full body-length ahead of the field after dominating the breaststroke and freestyle legs, finishing in 1 minute, 54.66 seconds.
He’s got 13 individual golds and 26 medals overall.
“I don’t know how to wrap my head around that,’’ Phelps said. “It’s been a hell of a career.’’
That’s an understatement.
A 12-time Olympic medalist, Lochte had settled for two silvers and a bronze behind Phelps at the last three Olympics in this event.
This time, he didn’t even make the podium.
Leading at the midway point, Lochte faded to fifth – nearly 3 seconds behind the winner.
“We bring out the best in each other,’’ he said. “I was a little bummed about my performance, but I was happy for him to get a gold and get one for Team USA.’’
Japan’s Kosuke Hagino took the silver, while China’s Wang Shun claimed the bronze.
But Phelps was in a league of his own.
He’s got one more individual event at what he insists will really be his final Olympics _ remember, he already retired once _ and will be looking to add a fourth straight gold in the 100 butterfly to his staggering resume.
Then, he’ll close out these Olympics in the 4×100 medley relay.
There seems little doubt he’ll go six-for-six.