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Fourth-Place Medal

Michael Phelps’ mother thought her son had won the 200 fly (PHOTOS)

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

Michael Phelps held a half-body-length lead in the final 15 meters of a race he hadn't lost in a major competition since 2001. He passed under the flags of the 200 butterfly ahead of his closest competitor, Chad le Clos, and appeared to be in full control of the race. The man who never loses a close touch while ahead or behind was one stroke from victory.

So you can't blame Michael's mother, Debbie, for thinking that her son had won the race. Everyone watching at the London Aquatics Centre and at home on television thought the same thing. We only knew Chad le Clos pulled off a miracle finish, the kind usually associated with Phelps, when the "1" graphic flashed in his lane after the touch.

[ Pat Forde: Michael Phelps alone as history's most decorated Olympian ]

Debbie Phelps didn't see that. She watched the finish and triumphantly raised her arms, celebrating what she thought was her son's 15th gold medal and his becoming the first man in history to ever win the same event at three straight Olympics.

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Her daughters and Michael's two sisters, Hilary (left) and Whitney, were both watching the scoreboard. They leaned in at the same time and said the same words. "He got second." Debbie looked to the board for confirmation.

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And then, like the supportive mother she is, she clapped for her son, a disappointing silver medalist on Tuesday but still the greatest champion in Olympic history after winning his 19th medal not too long afterward in the 4x200 freestyle relay.

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