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London Olympics: Michael Phelps collects 18th gold medal in final race

By Paul Newberry

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Aug. 4 2012 6:19 p.m. MDT

For a brief moment, it appeared Sun might not even get a chance to swim the race. Hearing a whistle in the crowd, he dived into the water before the starter's gun, while everyone else remained on the blocks. Yang glanced at the starter with a confused look, got back out of the pool and waited to see if he would be disqualified.

"I could not hear the judge because there was noise in the venue," Sun said through an interpreter. "I thought I was going to be disqualified. I have done well because I was in very good shape. I really wanted this gold medal."

The starter gave him a do-over, which essentially decided the gold medal. No one else was close to Sun, who was going faster at the end than he was at the beginning, leaving everyone else to fight for silver.

After looking at his time and catching his breath, Sun was overcome with emotion. He climbed on the lane rope, splashed the water, pointed toward a group of supporters waiving a Chinese flag, and broke down in tears.

Canada's Ryan Cochrane took second in 14:39.63, while defending Olympic champion Ous Mellouli of Tunisia settled for bronze in 14:40.31. Mellouli will get another chance for gold when he races in the 10-kilometer open water event at Hyde Park.

In a night featuring the long and short of swimming, Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands won the women's 50 freestyle to complete a sweep of the sprints.

Having already won the 100 free, Kromowidjojo clocked an Olympic-record 24.05 in the furious, one-lap dash. Defending champion Britta Steffen of Germany went 24.06 in Beijing four years ago in a now-banned bodysuit.

Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Belarus touched in 24.28 to take the silver medal and another Dutchwoman, Marleen Veldhuis, finished in 24.39 to take bronze. Steffen, who swept the sprints in Beijing, finished fourth.

But this night was all about a fitting farewell for Phelps.

He and his relay mates unfurled a banner that said, "Thank You London."

The crowd said thank you right back, chanting "Michael! Michael! Michael!"

Later, as Phelps was getting up to leave one news conference and hustle off to another one, the other three American swimmers were asked if they thought he would really stay retired.

Phelps wouldn't even let them answer, saying very emphatically, "Yes! Yes!"

"I'm sure he's going to be around," Grevers said, "but not in the pool where we like him best."

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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