SPOILER ALERT FOR WEST COAST VIEWERS Michael Phelps did the U.S.A. proud – and no doubt made NBC very happy – with an astonishing night at the Rio Olympics, taking his 21st gold medal and, along the way, splashing away the hopes of South African swimmer and meme-star Chad le Clos.
Phelps first took the gold tonight in the 200-meter butterfly event, with Japan’s Masato Sakai taking silver and Hungary’s Tamas Kenderesi getting the bronze. Le Clos caught the world’s attention Monday with his bizarre shadow-box dance in NBC’s ready-room as a stone-faced Phelps sat just feet away. The footage – and photos of a blank-faced Phelps – quickly went viral.
Le Clos finished fourth tonight.
The win took Phelps’ Rio gold tally to two, and his total Olympic gold record to 20 – a record that didn’t last long. He soon added another to his collection when the U.S. men’s team took gold in the 4X200 men’s freestyle relay. Swimming with the 31-year-old Phelps was Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer and Townley Haas.
As reported in Deadline earlier today, the Phelps rally and maybe even the le Clos psychodrama might be helping NBC’s Olympics ratings catch up to London 2012. Last night scored 28.76 million viewers in early numbers, with NBC’s 8–11 PM primetime package steady with the comparable night of the last Summer Games.