Yesterday at The Games: Equestrian silver saves day for GB – but Phelps makes a bigger splash

US swimming star is now most decorated Olympian after winning his 19th medal
  • @tompeck

Though its maker greeted the moment in subdued fashion, the London Olympics has its first bit of history. The "Baltimore Bullet", Michael Phelps, 27, is now the most decorated Olympian there has ever been.

The American swimmer has been a shadow of the man who won eight gold medals in eight days in Beijing, but he entered the pool last night for the final leg of the men's 4x200 metre freestyle relay with such a sizeable lead it would arguably have been more memorable if he had lost it. But he didn't.

That's 19 medals: 15 golds, two silver, two bronze; one more than the Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina, who won 18 medals at Melbourne in 1956, Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964.

"Forty-eight years is almost enough time to hold a record," said Latynina, who is 77, earlier this week. She had wanted to present Phelps with his medal, but the IOC turned down her offer. "I'm pleased that a sportsman so talented would take this record," she added. "He is very deserving." One of Phelps's two career silvers had come just moments before, in the 200m butterfly, his favourite event. It couldn't have been much closer to gold. The South African Chad le Clos passed him on the final stroke of the race, to register a win by 0.05 seconds. Afterwards he described Phelps as his "hero".

Phelps's mother, Debbie, who was in the crowd at the Aquatics Centre, burst into tears when he won the 19th medal. He still has three more races at London 2012.

"It has been a pretty amazing career," Phelps said, "but we still have a couple [of] races to go. This was a good day. I got a bit too serious two days ago. So I just got to relax and smile and have fun. My mum is so supportive. She's the best woman in the world.

The British team added a medal to its own tally at the Games yesterday: silver, as the equestrian team's five riders, among them the first member of the royal family to win an Olympics medal, the Queen's grand-daughter Zara Phillips, survived a nerve-racking jumping finale in front of a packed Greenwich Park.

It left Britain still waiting for its first gold medal. But managers of the British team insist its medal quest remains on track, although they may yet revise down medal targets, they conceded last night.

The GB women's football team beat Brazil in a thrilling match in front of a record 70,000 fans at Wembley, and the British swimmers Michael Jamieson and Andrew Willis both qualified for tonight's breaststroke final, Jamieson winning his semi-final in British record time.

The Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and his team-mate Chris Froome carry strong British hopes into today's cycling time trial. And the rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning are strong prospects in this morning's women's pair at Eton Dorney.

Finn-class sailor and three-time gold medallist Ben Ainslie is struggling to catch his Danish rival Jonas Hoegh-Christensen in choppy waters off Weymouth. However his teammates Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson have managed to hold on to their four-point lead over Brazilian rivals after six of 10 races in the Star class.

There was good news at Wimbledon as Andy Murray breezed his way through to the second round, dispatching his Finnish opponent Jarkko Nieminen in just two sets. Eighteen-year-old Laura Robson fought valiantly against the French Open champion Maria Sharapova but the Russian eventually triumphed. Robson will now partner Murray in the mixed doubles. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Milos Raonic took part in the longest tennis match in Olympic history, the Frenchman prevailing 6-3, 3-6, 25-23.

The row raged on between China and the USA over doping allegations surrounding China's 16-year-old swimming sensation Ye Shiwen, who last night won a second gold medal.

The women's gymnastics team was trying to repeat the success of their male colleagues who won a bronze on Monday. But it wasn't to be for Beth Tweddle, Jenny Pinches, Imogen Cairns, Hannah Whelan and Rebecca Tunney, who finished sixth.

Britain's competitors are clearly feeling a burden of responsibility in front of a home crowd. The two-time Olympian Euan Burton delivered a heart-breaking apology following his exit from the judo, saying he felt he had "let everyone down".