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Phelps Wins His 18th Gold Medal, As His Olympic Career Ends

Swimming the final race of his Olympic career, Michael Phelps gilded his resume just a bit more, helping the U.S. men's 4x100m medley relay team claim the gold medal at London's aquatic center. Phelps turned away a surprising challenge from the Japanese team, which had the lead when he went into the water to swim butterfly, the relay's third leg.

It was the 18th gold medal of Phelps' record-setting Olympic career. He leaves the London 2012 Games with 22 Olympic medals overall.

Update at 4:10 p.m. ET. Pardon the cheese here, but it won't be a surprise if we hear that Michael Phelps has hurt his face by smiling too much. The entire time he was on the podium, he couldn't stop — even a couple of extremely deep breaths couldn't do much to set his face back into its normal relaxed look.

Our original post continues:

In Saturday evening's final, gold medalist backstroker Matt Grevers had put the U.S. team in first position at the start of the race, but the Japanese team wasn't far behind, and they took the lead from bronze medalist Brendan Hansen during the breaststroke.

But then it was down to Phelps, who was dogged by Japan's Takeshi Matsuda before pulling away decisively in the final 50 meters. And when he punched the wall, gold medalist Nathan Adrian dove in to end all question of an upset, with a blistering freestyle leg.

The American team's final time was 3:29.35, just under two seconds quicker than the Japanese team, which narrowly won the silver medal over Australia.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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