LONDON -- Another Olympics. Another gasp-producing, come-from-behind victory for Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly.
On a night when American Missy Franklin set a world record, and her 15-year-old teammate Katie Ledecky won a gold medal, Phelps won the 100 fly at the Aquatics Centre for the third straight Olympics with his trademark "How did he do that?" late-race surge.
In 2004, he trailed for 99 meters before edging American teammate Ian Crocker by .04 seconds.
In 2008, he fell way behind Milorad Cavic of Serbia, before rallying in the final stroke to win by just .01.
Friday night, he was in seventh place after the first 50 meters, before rocketing past the field and finishing in 51.21, .23 ahead of Chad le Clos of South Africa and Evgeny Korotyshkin of Russia who tied and both won silver medals.
Phelps' time was slower than his winning times in Athens and Beijing, but he didn't seem to care, smiling broadly when asked about the race.
"I don't even want to complain about going slower or having a bad turn or finish," said a still-dripping Phelps shortly after his victory. "I'm not going to even say any of that. I'm just happy that the last one was a win. That's all I really wanted coming into the night.
"This one was a bigger margin of victory then the last two (100 flys) combined."
One day after winning the 200-meter individual medley and becoming the first man to win the same individual swimming event at three straight Olympics, Phelps added another three-peat in the 100 fly.
In what was his final individual Olympic race, if he sticks to his vow to retire after London, Phelps added to his record medal haul, winning his 16th gold medal and 21st medal overall. After finishing fourth in the 400 individual medley on July 28, he has won two silver medals and three golds in London. Phelps has one final race here, the 4x100 medley relay on Saturday.
"My start of the meet wasn't what we wanted," he said. "But I seemed to pick up some steam at the end of the meet. I was able to finish with two individual golds. To be able to finish that way, I can't really finish any better. I'm very pleased about it."
When asked if he felt sad about this possibly being his last individual Olympic race, Phelps said the enormity of that hasn't sunk in yet.
"I thought it would hit me a lot harder than it is right now," he said. "A lot of those emotions haven't really come through my brain over the last week. Once I'm done, and once tomorrow is over, I think there's going to be a lot more emotion that really comes out."
If Phelps is soon going to be part of swimming history, Franklin and Ledecky proved Friday that the future of the U.S. swim team looks exceptionally bright. Franklin, the effervescent 17-year-old, set her first world record in winning the 200-meter backstroke in 2:04.06. It was her fourth medal at these Games.
"I had the time of my life out there," said Franklin, who beat silver medalist Anastasia Zueva of Russia by 1.86 seconds and bronze medalist Elizabeth Beisel of the U.S., by 2.49 seconds. "I couldn't think of a better way to finish off my individual swims."
Like Phelps, Franklin has a chance at one more medal in the medley relay Saturday.
At last month's Olympic trials, Ledecky qualified for London in just one event, the 800-meter freestyle. But she made the most of it, winning the gold in an American record of 8:14.63, just .53 off the world mark, and a whopping 4.13 seconds ahead of silver medalist Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain. Defending gold medalist and world record holder Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain won the bronze.
"Missy and Michael's swims really got me worked up," said Ledecky, who said Phelps was the first Olympian she ever met, when she attended a swim meet at the University of Maryland when she was 6. "I thought I was going pretty fast. I just wanted to get my hand to the wall first."
Also Friday, American Cullen Jones won the silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle in a time of 21.54, .20 behind gold medal winner Florent Manadou of France.
David Nielsen, managing editor of Scripps Howard News Service, is a member of the Scripps team covering the London Games. Contact him at email@example.com.