POSTED: Friday, August 3, 2012 - 6:45pm
UPDATED: Friday, August 3, 2012 - 6:49pm
LONDON (CNN) — Michael Phelps added to his Olympic legend Friday night, winning the 100-meter butterfly to capture his third gold medal of the London Games and the 17th of his career.
Already the most decorated Olympian in history, Phelps started off Friday's race -- which he has said will be his final individual Olympic race, having promised to retire after the competition -- trailing several competitors. But he charged back to eke out the win by 0.23 seconds over South Africa's Chad le Clos and Russia's Evgeny Korotyshkin, who finished with an identical time.
That margin, while slim, was still exponentially larger than when Phelps captured gold in the same event at the 2008 Beijing Games. Phelps won that race by .01 seconds by taking a quick, final stroke to catch a Serbian swimmer gliding to the wall.
Phelps wasn't the only American to make history in the pool Friday. Missy Franklin, a 17-year-old from Pasadena, California, earned her third gold medal, and fourth medal overall, in the women's 200-meter backstroke, smashing the world record in the process.
Another American teenager, 15-year-old Katie Ledecky, also earned gold in impressive fashion, besting her nearest competitor by more than four seconds in the women's 800-meter freestyle.
France's Florent Manaudou, 21, won the swimming competition's fastest and, arguably, most glamorous event with a time of 21.34 (just a shade off the Olympic record) in the men's 50-meter freestyle in his first ever Olympic final.
The United States' excellence at the Aquatics Centre helped them pass China for the most gold medals, 21, on the seventh full day of the Games. The two nations both have 42 medals total.
Great Britain also rocketed up the medal count chart Friday, thanks to one of its best days yet. The host nation captured three gold medals, bringing its total for the Games to eight, just behind South Korea for the fourth most of any country.
The women's double sculls team of Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger placed first in their competition, while the Brits excelled at the Velodrome for indoor cycling events.
The men's team pursuit title went to Great Britain, and in world record time. Then, a short time later, Victoria Pendleton eked out a win by fractions of a second over a fast-charging competitor from China in the women's keirin competition.
In tennis, Roger Federer of Switzerland advanced to the gold-medal match in men's singles, beating Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina in a four-hour, 26-minute match.
The legendary player's final match doesn't promise to be any easier, considering that the London crowd most likely will be rooting against him. That's because Great Britain's own Andy Murray secured a spot in the championship, after beating hard-hitting Serbian Novak Djokovic by a 7-5, 7-5 score. Federer and Murray last matched up on the same court in July, when the 30-year-old Swiss won in straight sets to win the Wimbledon crown despite the exhortations of the home crowd.
Del Potro now will battle for the bronze medal.
The women's final, meanwhile, will pit American Serena Williams and Russia's Maria Sharapova after the two won semifinal matches Friday in straight sets. Both women are no strangers to the All-England Club court: Sharapova has won the iconic Wimbledon tennis major once, while Williams has captured that championship five times, most recently just a few months ago.
The U.S. women's soccer team also moved to the semifinal round with a 2-0 win over New Zealand. Still, the biggest match of the day showcased two of the sport's top teams in Brazil and Japan. Reigning World Cup champion Japan won 2-0 to move on to the next round.
In judo, 16-year-old Wojdan Shaherkani of Saudi Arabia was allowed to compete wearing a headscarf but lost in her elimination match Friday to Melissa Mojica of Puerto Rico in 82 seconds.
Officials initially said they would not allow her to compete in the headscarf, but Shaherkani's father and Saudi officials insisted that she would not compete without it.
Shaherkani, who was competing in her first major international event, received a special invitation to compete from the International Olympic Committee.
And for the first time since the opening ceremony, Olympic Stadium was buzzing Friday with the start of track and field competition.
The competitors included American sprinter Allyson Felix, who won her first round heat (albeit with the seventh fastest overall time) to move on to the semifinals of the 100-meter sprint. She raced a few weeks after she sprinted to a tie with Jeneba Tarmoh in the Olympic Trials. On the day of a scheduled runoff , Tarmoh backed out. Tarmoh is still part of the U.S. team as a member of the relay pool.
Fellow American Carmelita Jeter posted the day's best time at 10.83 seconds, a full tenth of a second better than the next best time.