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The Last Hurrah Set Up For Phelps

Aug 3, 2012  - Craig Lord

Olympic Games, London, Day 7 heats:

4x100m medley

The American men's 'B' team in the 4x100m medley set up a potential sixth gold medal for Michael Phelps when the booked lane 4 in the final for the Stars and Stripes.

Nick Thoman, 53.31, Eric Shanteau, 59.69, Tyler McGill, 51.53 and heading to the 100m solo final this evening, and Cullen Jones,  48.12, had the honour of setting up the last hurrah for Phelps.

That medley relay final will be the last swimming race in the pool at these Games tomorrow evening, the moment also the last race in Phelps' towering career. 

The 27-year-old from Baltimore, with 16 gold medals among a career tally of 20 in the bag, has two more golden shots: victory in the 100m butterfly this evening would make him the first to win that crown at three Games, while the medley relay tomorrow would take his career tally to 22 Olympic medals. 

That would place him on the tallest plinth in the pantheon of Olympic greats, his gold medal tally would be double the next best ever if he triumphs in his last two races in London; his 22 medals tally four beyond best best; his potential 11 - it will be at least 10 - individual gold medals also a record of Olympic records.

Next to Phelps in that relay final tomorrow will be Britain's quartet of Liam Tancock on backstroke, Craig Benson on breaststroke, Michael Rock on butterfly and Adam Brown on freestyle. 

If only the home Games national team had swum this week with the same spirit as the medley men and Amy Smith - who won a swim-off to make the semi-finals of the 50m freestyle 15 minutes after getting Britain into the 4x100m medley final - did this morning, things might have looked rosier in the pool at a home Games. Discount times set in booster suits and the best ever by British men was 3:35.74. 

Today, they stormed into the medley relay final in 3:33.44, Tancock on 53.98, Benson 59.68, Rock 51.56 and Brown 48.22. A medal will be much tougher than the start sheet suggests, all major contenders having sizeable scope to switch to faster swimmers. The American B team clocked 3:32.65, Japan demi-B on 3:33.64. Australia and Germany will also be considerably faster tomorrow.

The Netherlands, Hungary and Canada also made it through, all in on 3:34.46, the biggest casualty of the morning France, world No1 in 2010 but out this morning in 10th, Camille Lacourt and Yannick Agnel way off their best times.