Phelps blows lead in 200 fly, takes silver

Phelps had the lead until the final 10 meters of Tuesdays 200-meter butterfly final. (US Presswire)

Michael Phelps is still yet to win gold in London, but he just tied an Olympic record.

Olympic competition contains so much of the bittersweet. After all, winning a silver is so great -- but it's not the gold. So with that in mind, I can't help but think what Phelps just did is tinged with confusing emotions. How should he feel about failing in his best event, yet tying a record that's stood since before The Beatles cut their first record?

The most decorated American swimmer in history was less than half a stroke away from winning his first first-place prize at these Games on Tuesday, but was overtaken by South African Chad le Clos, who closed with incredible speed in the 200-meter butterfly.

It's the first time Phelps hasn't won the event in the Olympics since 2000. But the silver gives him his 18th Olympic medal, tying him with Russian gymnast Larissa Latynina. Phelps will have a chance to -- and almost definitely will -- set the new record Tuesday night in the men's 4x200 freestyle relay, when he'll swim in the anchor spot.

The 200 fly is considered Phelps' strongest race, so the second-place finish is relatively shocking. To put it frankly: There were doubts about Phelps' dedication to his training leading up to the Olympics, and now that we've seen him finish out of the medaling in one race (200-meter freestyle) and blow lead in his strongest swim in another ... it's equal parts disappointing and unsurprising.

Phelps wound up taking the silver due to a rookie mistake of sorts. Instead of gliding through his final power stroke, Phelps brought back his arms for one more push through the water, perhaps not realizing how much space he had left to touch the wall -- or how close le Clos was to beating him. Phelps last arm revolution allowed le Clos to push through and touch the wall in 1:52.96. Phelps touched in 1:53.01, five one-hundredths of a second behind. 

Phelps was also attempting to become the first swimmer to win the same event three times at the Olympics. No more.

To add a bit more perspective on Phelps' gaffe, it's not unfair to say the last 10 meters for Phelps is akin to Kobe Bryant blowing a game-winning shot, only that shot being a botched dunk that clanked off the back of the rim as time expired.

Takeshi Matsuda of Japan won bronze with his 1:53.21 swim. American Tyler Clary finished fifth (1:55.06).

South Africa, additionally, is having a huge Games in the pool. Earlier in the week Cameron van der Burgh won gold in the 100-meter breaststroke, and now le Clos takes to the top of the podium in the 200 fly.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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