Shortly after winning his fifth gold medal and seventh overall, Phelps told U.S. men's coach Eddie Reese that he wanted to give up his spot on the butterfly leg of the 400-meter medley relay team to Ian Crocker.
Phelps, who already swam in the morning preliminaries on the medley relay, earned a right to swim the final by beating Crocker in the 100 fly Friday night by a minuscule four-hundredths of a second. But Phelps said he would cede his coveted spot in the final to Crocker.
"We came into this meet as a team and we're going to leave it as a team," Phelps said. "It's the right thing to do."
The stunning decision means Phelps, likely to be the biggest star of the Athens Games, is finished after swimming 17 races in seven days. Since he swam in the preliminaries, he would still get a medal if the U.S. team reaches the podium in Saturday night's medley final.
That's considered a formality. The Americans have never lost a medley relay at the Olympics and are an overwhelming favorite to win gold again.
Any swimmer who's part of a top-three relay team - whether it's the preliminaries or final - receives a medal.
Therefore, Phelps is still likely to tie Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin's record of eight medals at the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games. Currently, he has two bronzes along with his five golds.
In other Olympic events:
Carly Patterson, the 16-year-old American who has drawn comparisons to Mary Lou Retton, delivered a dazzling floor routine to win the all-around gold medal Thursday night.
She spoiled Russian superstar Svetlana Khorkina's final chance at the Olympic title in gymnastics' premier event.
Patterson became the first American woman to win the all-around since Retton in 1984, and she matched Paul Hamm's first-place finish on the same floor Wednesday.
Patterson scored a 9.712 on floor to finish with 38.387 points and defeat Khorkina by .176. Zhang Nan of China won bronze.
American Michael Phelps won his fourth gold of the Olympics in the 200-meter individual medley, leading the entire race. Phelps set an Olympic-record of 1:57.14, lowering his own mark of 1:58.52 set in the semifinals one night earlier.
Ryan Lochte of Daytona Beach, Fla., earned silver in 1:58.78. George Bovell of Trinidad took bronze in 1:58.80.
American Aaron Peirsol reclaimed the gold medal in the Olympic 200-meter backstroke after initially being disqualified Thursday night over what an official deemed an illegal turn.
The United States filed a protest and the disqualification was overturned on appeal by FINA, the sport's governing body, about 30 minutes after the race — just before the medal ceremony was held. He then had to survive another protest by Austria and Great Britain.
Peirsol, the world record-holder and current world champion, led most of the race and easily beat the field, touching in 1 minute, 54.95 seconds. He was more than two seconds ahead of Austria's Marcus Rogan.
The silver went to Rogan in 1:57.35, while Romania's Razvan Florea settled for bronze (1:57.56). Britain's James Goddard, who initially had a bronze, dropped back to fourth in 1:57.76.
Amanda Beard captured the first individual gold of her career, in the 200-meter breaststroke. Only a victory by Australian Jodie Henry in the women's 100-meter freestyle prevented an American sweep.
Inge de Bruijn of the Netherlands won silver in 0:54.16 and American Natalie Coughlin got the bronze in 0:54.40.
Lisa Fernandez pitched a one-hitter Thursday as the two-time defending gold medalist United States won its sixth straight shutout in softball, a shortened-game victory over Greece.
The United States (6-0) simply wore down the Greeks (2-4) — whose team includes several Americans of Greek ancestry — and put an opponent away after five innings for the fourth time under the so-called mercy rule.
Tim Duncan scored 18 points, Allen Iverson and Shawn Marion each added 16 and Dwyane Wade scored 12, leading the United States to an 89-79 win over Australia.
The Americans shot 57 percent from the field: 71 percent from 2-point range, but 3-for-17 on 3-point shots.
The Americans improved their defense, kept their turnovers down and found better shots than in their first two games, which included an upset loss in the opening round to Puerto Rico.
Shane Heal led Australia with 17 points.
Spain clinched a berth in the quarterfinals by pulling away over the final 6 minutes behind big men Pau Gasol and Jorge Garbajosa.
Garbajosa, who had 17 points, and Gasol, who added 16, combined for all but five of the points in Spain's closing 18-8 run.
Daniel Santiago blocked Carlos Almeida's 3-point attempt as time expired to help Puerto Rico hold off Angola, 83-80.
Andres Nocioni had 17 points for Argentina, while Luis Scola added 15 and Manu Ginobili had 14, and Argentina used its press and passing to negate Yao Ming's size for an 82-57 victory over China.
Ramunas Siskauskas had 25 points and Saulius Stombergas added 22 for Lithuania (3-0), which became the first team from its group to clinch a quarterfinal berth. Nikolaos Zisis had 18 points for Greece (1-2).
Brazilians Emanuel and Ricardo routed Americans Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger 21-17, 21-10 to finish a perfect run through pool play.
Despite the loss, the 12th-seeded Americans advanced to the medal round.
Later, top-ranked American women Misty May and Kerri Walsh got their toughest test of the tournament but stayed unbeaten with a 21-17, 21-17 win over 10th-seeded Czechs Eva Celbova and Sona Novakova.
The Americans and second-seeded Brazilians Shelda and Adriana are the only duos — men's or women's — who have not dropped a set.
The Brazilian women, silver medalists in 2000, capped their run through pool play with a 21-14, 21-19 win over Cubans Fernandez Grasset and Larrea Peraza.
U.S. medal prospect Andre Ward beat Italy's Clemente Russo 17-9 to advance to the quarterfinals as the Americans finished 6-1 in preliminaries. The Americans sent eight fighters into the second round, with two advancing on byes.
Former Olympic champion canoe racer Joe Jacobi and partner Matt Taylor clinched a semifinal berth in whitewater slalom event. Single American kayakers Brett Heyl and Scott Parsons also advanced to Friday's semifinals and finals.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Britain, France and the United States will jointly appeal a decision to award Germany the gold medal in the three-day equestrian event.
The judges gave Germany the gold Wednesday and France the silver, while Britain took bronze. The same officials, concerned that Germany's Bettina Hoy might have crossed the start line twice on the show jumping course, probed further.
Judges docked Germany 14 points, dropping it from first to fourth in a decision that lifted the United States to the bronze.
Germany then lodged a protest, an equestrian appeals committee reversed the decision of the judges and the Germans reclaimed the gold. Again, France was awarded the silver and Britain the bronze. The United States was left empty-handed.
Damien Touya scored the final touch to give France the team saber title over Italy, 45-42.
Touya also scored the winning touch in a 45-44 semifinal win over the United States. In that bout, he badly cut his right hand and needed medical assistance with the score 44-44. The lengthy delay added even more drama to a day full of it.
After the loss to France, the Americans lost the bronze-medal bout to Russia, again 45-44. The United States had upset Hungary 45-43 a round earlier.
Stanislav Dineykin had 20 kills to lead the Russians to a four-set victory over the United States.
Russia, after a five-set loss to the Netherlands, has won two straight. With opposite Clay Stanley struggling against the towering Russian block, the United States fell to 1-2.
Russia took its first lead of the fourth set at 14-13, and things went back and forth until Alexey Kuleshov blocked a kill attempt by Stanley to make it 24-22.
The Americans were only able to fend off match point once.
Brazil remained the only unbeaten team in Pool B with a four-set victory over the Netherlands. Italy, bouncing back from a five-set loss to Brazil, stayed right behind with a sweep over Australia.
In Pool A, Argentina is 3-0 after handing host Greece its first loss. France picked up its first win by beating Poland in three sets, and defending gold medalist Serbia-Montenegro swept Tunisia.
The American lightweight double sculls team of Steve Tucker and Greg Ruckman gave up too much distance in the six-boat semifinal and was fourth behind Poland, Greece and Denmark — one spot and 3.6 seconds out of contention for Sunday's final.
The U.S. quadruple scull, which reached the semifinals with an impressive win in its repechage, placed fifth. Belarus and Estonia advanced.
The U.S. lightweight double sculls boat of Lisa Schlenker and Stacey Borgman also was eliminated, finishing .73 of a second behind Germany in fourth place.
The lightweight four, which includes coach Mike Teti's younger brother, Paul, fell to last at the finish, 4 seconds behind Canada, the third and final boat to advance from that race behind Italy and Austria.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Diana Igaly of went a perfect 25-for-25 to win the gold medal in skeet shooting, finishing with a score of 97 to easily outdistance silver medalist Wei Ning of China and bronze medalist Zemfira Meftakhetdinova of Azerbaijan.
Earlier, Manfred Kurzer Germany had the worst final round of any shooter in 10-meter running target, but his world-record qualifying score gave the German a lead so big it didn't matter.
He won gold with a 682.4. Alexander Blinov of Russia took silver, and Dimitri Lykin of Russia, the 2002 world champion, won bronze.