The most decorated Olympian in history picked up his 20th gold medal Tuesday
It was a Rio rematch.
Phelps had lost the same race by 5/100ths of a second in the 2012 Olympics in London – a loss that has always bothered him.
But Phelps redeemed himself in a big way, winning his 20th gold medal with a time of 1.56.36, 4/100ths of a second in front of the second-place finisher Masato Sakai of Japan. Le Clos came in fourth.
The crowd went wild after his victory, shouting “20! 20! 20!” after also shouting his name in support before the race began.
Spectators inside the arena included infant son Boomer and other family members, as well as prominent members of Team USA’s basketball team.
Phelps savored his victory in the pool, wagging his finger in a gesture resembling the one Lilly King flashed the night before after her gold medal swim, and waving his arms as he encouraged the deafening cheers of the crowd.
Later, Phelps had tears in his eyes as the National Anthem played during the medal ceremony. After the song concluded, Phelps found his family in the audience, sweetly giving Boomer a quick kiss and cuddle after fiancée Nicole Johnson passed him over a railing.
“There was so much emotion and so much build-up for that race over the past four years,” he told NBC after his victory. “I don’t want to say revenge, but that’s kind of what it was. I wanted that race back.”
Even before the race, the 2016 Olympics had already proven successful for Phelps. With Boomer and Johnson cheering him on from the stands, the 31-year-old swimming icon earned his 19th gold medal – and 23rd overall – in Sunday’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay. (Before Tuesday’s race, he also had 2 silver and 2 bronze medals.)
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After Monday night’s semifinal heat, Phelps told reporters that he was looking forward to the final race.
“I’m obviously excited for the finals,” Phelps said. “It’s always fun getting in the water and racing him, he’s tough, he finished on me last time really well,” he said of competing against Le Clos in the finals.