Rio Olympics 2016: Phelps ties 2,168-year-old Olympic record

Michael Phelps after winning the 200m butterfly event at the Rio Olympics. Photo / Photosport
Michael Phelps after winning the 200m butterfly event at the Rio Olympics. Photo / Photosport

In the process of winning his 20th and 21st Olympic gold medals, legendary swimmer Michael Phelps has tied an Olympic record that has lasted more than two milleniums.

Phelps claimed two of his most recent gold medals yesterday, taking out both the 200m butterfly event and the 4x200m freestyle event to claim his 24th and 25th overall medals in his Olympic career, his 2nd and 3rd medals of these Olympics.

It was perhaps the 200m butterfly gold medal that was of most significance to him, given that he was defeated in the event four years ago at the London Games.

However there is now another reason for this particular medal to be of extra significance to the American, as he now has 12 Olympic gold medals to his name that he has won in individual events, an achievement that has not been matched since Leonidas of Rhodes set the record in the 156th Olympiad in 152 BCE, 2,168 years ago.

Rhodes was one of the greatest sprinters ever to have lived, according to one of the most complete Olympic records that was originally compiled Hippias of Elas, before being later updated and revised by scholars.

Rhodes completed the 'triple' at the 154th Olympiad in 164 BCE, winning the stadion sprint (a sprint of roughly 200m in length), the diaulos (twice the length of the stadion), and the hoplitodromos, a diaulos with the runners wearing a helmet and greaves and carrying a shield, weighing 50 pounds (22.6kg) in total.

Rhodes continued his dominance throughout the next three Olympiads, completing triples at the 160 BCE, 156 BCE, and 152 BCE, amassing 12 individual titles across four Olympiads (winners of events in ancient Olympic Games were awarded wreathes rather than medals), setting a record yet to be broken in both ancient and modern Olympic Games.

Phelps has two more chances these Olympics to break the long-standing record, with 200m individual medley and the 100m butterfly both taking place on Friday afternoon (NZT).

- NZ Herald

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