LONDON -- A little payback. Another shiny new medal to add to a collection that isn't quite complete even yet.
It seems kind of silly to say Michael Phelps needed to win the gold medal Thursday night in his second Olympic showdown with rival Ryan Lochte -- not when he already had 15 of them stashed away somewhere for safekeeping.
His place in Olympic history was secure before he even tested the water in the London pool. And all he did this week was add another mark to the record books by becoming the biggest medal winner ever in any Olympic sport.
But need it he did, which might explain the smile of satisfaction on his face after holding Lochte off in his final kick in the 200-meter individual medley for his first individual gold in London. In the last race of his career against Lochte, he not only came out a winner but set himself up nicely for what will likely be two more gold medals before his last Olympics is finally over.
"It's a relief to win an individual gold," Phelps admitted afterward. "I fell short in the first couple of events."
The frustration Phelps felt in being edged out for the gold on his last stroke in the 200 butterfly was forgotten, at least for the night. So was the lopsided loss to Lochte in their first meeting in the 400 IM here, where Phelps looked so ordinary that the whispers began that he might be finished.
He's not, and odds are he's not done adding medals to his record haul either.
Two more races, two more good shots at gold. By the time he finishes on today, his tally will be complete -- and it will be staggering.
Forget the talk about him being the greatest Olympian ever, better than Jesse Owens or Larissa Latynina, the Soviet gymnast who until this week held the record for most medals ever. There isn't such a thing, anyway, because a swimmer has nothing in common with an boxer, just as a basketball player has nothing in common with an archer.
But we may never see an athlete dominate for so long the way Phelps has dominated swimming the last three Olympics. Six golds in Athens and eight in Beijing will make this Olympics pale by comparison, but Phelps will still almost surely leave London as the biggest medallist of these games.
So London Olympic chief Sebastian Coe doesn't consider him the greatest Olympian ever. So what.
His fellow racers know the kind of talent that will be missing from the pool after Phelps swims his final two races.
"Phelps is out of our league," Serbia's Milorad Cavic said.
-- The Associated Press