Michael Phelps swims in the men's 200 meter individual medley preliminaries during day three of the Indy Grand Prix @ the Nat at the Indiana University Natatorium March 31, 2012 in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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(CNN) -- In the end, it was Michael Phelps's day.
On Tuesday he became the greatest Olympian ever, setting a record with his 19th medal after anchoring the U.S. men's 4x200-meter freestyle team to gold.
The crowd at London's Aquatic Centre rose to its feet as Phelps churned home, well ahead of France's Yannick Agnel.
With the gold, Phelps broke a brief tie with Larisa Latynina, a Soviet gymnast who won 18 total medals from 1956 to 1964.
Phelps now has 15 gold, two silver and two bronze medals spanning four Olympics.
An hour earlier, Phelps was a dejected silver medalist.
Phelps led his signature race, the 200-meter butterfly. from the start until the last few meters, appearing to be ready to become the first man to win an individual event in three consecutive Olympics.
But just as Phelps glided into the finish, South African Chad le Clos, a 20-year-old whose idol was swimming in the lane right next to him, cranked one last big stroke to edge his hero Phelps at the wall.
It reminded swimming commentators of Phelps' 100-meter butterfly win at the Beijing Games when he took a quick final stroke as Serbian Milorad Cavic stretched for the wall. This time it was Phelps who was caught reaching.
After the race, the shocked Phelps put his face in his hands. it was only later, on the medal stand when he broke into a big smile.
After the relay the smile grew even bigger.
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