By Nick Zaccardi
July 31, 2012

LONDON -- Three thoughts off Tuesday night's swimming finals ...

1. Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time but showed another sign of slowing down. We're not in Beijing anymore. For the first time at an Olympics, Phelps lost a finger-tip finish. He was caught in the final few meters of his signature race, the 200-meter butterfly, by South African Chad le Clos, who won his first Olympic gold by five hundredths of a second and cried on the medal stand. Phelps' age (27) showed. He didn't have the stamina and was beaten by a man who was 10 years old the last time Phelps lost this race in major international competition (2002).

An hour later, Phelps anchored the 4x200 freestyle relay team to its third straight Olympic title. This gold -- Phelps' first in four races -- was never in doubt. He collected his 18th and 19th Olympic medals Tuesday, surpassing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won 18 medals from 1956 through 1964.

Now, Phelps rolls into his final two individual races with a point to prove. He does not want to leave his final Olympics without an individual gold medal. He's slated to go head-to-head with Ryan Lochte in the 200 IM final on Thursday. Phelps' expected rematch with Milorad Cavic in the 100 butterfly is Friday. The 200 fly was supposed to be an easy gold. It looked that way for about 180 meters.

2. Allison Schmitt turned in a Phelps-in-his-prime performance. In the 200 free, Phelps' North Baltimore Aquatic Club teammate grabbed her first Olympic gold, completing her 2012 medal set after earlier earning a bronze in the 4x100 free relay and a silver in the 400 free. She did it in dominating fashion, passing Missy Franklin (agonizingly fourth, .01 out of bronze) off the first wall (a trademark Phelps move) and pulling away for a body-length victory over France's Camille Muffat, who had beaten Schmitt in the 400 free on Monday. Bronte Barratt of Australia got the bronze. Schmitt's celebration, raising one arm high in the air as the rest of the field touched the wall, was also reminiscent of Phelps' first Olympic gold eight years ago. She has arrived.

3. No world record for Ye Shiwen. The scrutinized Chinese sensation turned in another eyebrow-raising final 50 meters to win the 200 IM, but she merely set an Olympic record this time. Will that clear any of the suspicions about her times at these Games? In the 400 IM, Ye swam a faster final 50 meters than Lochte in the men's race (though Lochte already had his race locked up and Ye was powering past Elizabeth Beisel). Ye had the fastest final 50 of the eight women Tuesday, a 29.32 to vault from third to first. Alicia Coutts took silver and American Caitlin Leverenz bronze. Lochte has yet to swim the 200 IM here, but his final 50 at last year's world championship was 27.49 for those wondering.

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