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Golden glow: Michael Phelps wins Olympic 200-meter IM fourth time in a row

On Thursday, Michael Phelps won the Olympic 200-meter individual medley, grabbing his 22nd gold medal and becoming the first swimmer to win the same event at four consecutive games.

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United States' Michael Phelps celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's 200-meter individual medley during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Thursday, in Rio de Janeiro.

Lee Jin-man/AP

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Two years after coming out of retirement, Michael Phelps has made history – again. The American swimmer now has won two individual and two relay golds at his fifth Olympics, raising his medal count to 26, including two silvers and two bronzes. A 100-meter butterfly final is coming on Friday night.

On Thursday, Phelps won the Olympic 200-meter individual medley, nabbing his 22nd gold medal to become the first swimmer to win the same event at four consecutive games. He joins fellow Americans Al Oerter, in the discus, and Carl Lewis, in the long jump, in that distinguished accomplishment. Danish Paul Elvstrøm won four consecutive golds (1948–1960) in sailing as did Britain's Ben Ainslie (1996-2012).

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"Right now I don't know how to wrap my head around that. I don't know what to say. It's been a hell of a career," the physically spent Phelps told reporters.

The other two medalists in Thursday's 200-meter medley were Kosuke Hagino from Japan, who won silver, and Wang Shun of China, who took the bronze.

During the race, Brazil's Thiago Pereira took off first, taking the lead from Phelps after the butterfly leg. American Ryan Lochte and Japan's Hagino trailed just behind.

Phelps was tied for second place with Pereira after the breaststroke as Lochte surged in the lead. But Phelps slowly gained ground during the breaststroke leg and pulled ahead on the freestyle. With a clear winning margin of 1.95 seconds, Phelps clocked in at 1:54.66. Mr. Lochte came in fifth. Japan's Hiromasa Fujimori was fourth and Pereira placed seventh.

At the medal ceremony, an emotional Phelps raised his arms toward the crowd to the soundtrack of the US national anthem. His fiancée Nicole Johnson was in the stands with the couple's three-month-old son Boomer.

“Getting out of the pool now might take a little more energy. It might be a little bit harder. But it’s just as sweet standing on top of the podium listening to your national anthem play,” Phelps, who competed in his first Olympics at 15, told USA Today Thursday.

Phelps has the potential to secure another fourth consecutive gold Friday evening. Just 30 minutes after his medley victory, Phelps qualified for the 100-meter butterfly finals with the fifth fastest time Thursday evening. The 100-meter butterfly final is scheduled for 9:12 p.m. Friday evening.

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This report uses materials from Reuters.