The morning after he became the most decorated Olympian ever, after answering congratulatory tweets from President Obama and fellow Baltimorean Josh Charles among others, Michael Phelps was back in the pool Wednesday morning, swimming fast enough to qualify as the fourth seed in tonight's 200-meter individual medley.
His American rival Ryan Lochte is seeded second to preliminary heats' winner Laszlo Cseh of Hungary. Lochte earlier in the morning qualified for the 200-meter backstroke semifinals tonight, placing second to teammate Tyler Clary's first.
Phelps was coming off an exhiliarating, emotional night, after which he said he wasn't sure he'd be able to sleep. In a heartbreaking, last-millisecond finish to his iconic 200-meter butterfly race, he was out-touched by South African Chad le Clos, 20, who grew up a fan of the Baltimore swimmer and said it was simply an honor to be in the lane next to him, let alone grab the gold from him. The silver medal Phelps won, however, tied him with the 18 won by Soviet-era gymnast Larisa Latynina, the most decorated Olympian for the past 48 years.
Phelps followed that off by anchoring the 800-meter freestyle relay that handily won gold. Barely an hour after he tied the all-time medal record, Phelps' 19th medal and his first gold in his final Olympics, gave him the title outright. He swims three more events before calling it a career.
"There was like this madness. I wanted to thank all the people who sent some tweets, [President] Obama," Phelps said after his morning swim, "and [Barcelona footballer Gerard] Piquet, a bunch of different athletes from all over the world. It was pretty cool."
Phelps said he got little sleep Tuesday night. "I must have left the dining hall at 11:30 [p.m.], got back to my room probably about 12," he said. "I do not really know what time I fell asleep."