Who held the medal record before Michael Phelps?

Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska, winner of the gold medal in the individual beam competition, smiles as she is flanked by silver medalist Tamara Manina at left, and bronze medalist Latissa Latynina, at right, both from the Soviet Union, in October 1964 at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. STF/AFP/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) So, Michael Phelps has now won more Olympics medals than any other athlete in history. But do you know who had held the record until Tuesday?

It was Larisa Latynina, a small, white-haired former gymnast who hasn't been in action for nearly 50 years.

She won nine gold medals as a gymnast for the Soviet Union, and her 18 total medals had stood since 1964.

The 77-year-old Latynina was in the crowd at North Greenwich Arena on Tuesday to watch the women's gymnastics team final, and she received a warm ovation when her face was shown on the scoreboard late in the competition. She stood up and waved, a big smile on her face as she was introduced by the arena announcer.

Latynina's Olympic career ended after she took home six medals -- two of each -- from the 1964 Tokyo games.

Phelps over took Latynina's record after swimming the anchor leg for the United States in a gold medal-winning performance of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay Tuesday night.

Teammate Rick Berens handed off a lead of nearly 4 seconds to Phelps, who lingered a bit on the blocks, knowing the only way he could blow this one was to get disqualified. Then he set off on what amounted to four victory laps of the pool -- down and back, then down and back again, the roar in the Olympic Aquatics Centre getting louder as he approached the finish.

"I thanked those guys for helping me get to this moment," Phelps said. "I told those guys I wanted a big lead. I was like, 'You better give me a big lead going into the last lap,' and they gave it to me. I just wanted to hold on. I thanked them for being able to allow me to have this moment."

About an hour earlier, Phelps tied Latynina's record when he took silver in his signature event the 200 butterfly, after making a shocking blunder at the finish and settling for second.

Phelps has 15 golds in his career, six more than anyone else, to go along with two silvers and two bronzes. Latynina retired with nine gold medals.

The New York Times reports Latynina has joked recently that it was time for a man to be able to do what a woman had done long ago. And that it was too bad Phelps was not Russian.

"Forty-eight years is almost enough time to hold a record," Latynina told the Times. "Among women, I'm sure I will stay No. 1 for a long time."

Comments