In just 200 meters today, Michael Phelps became the greatest Olympian of all time as he claimed his first gold medal of the 2012 Games with the powerful stroke of his outstretched arm, grasping a glory unknown to any other competitor in the world.

The swimmer secured his 19th medal with victory in the men's 4x200mn relay, smashing the 48-year record of Russian gymnast Larissa Latyina and earning himself a place in history.

After taking a disappointing second place medal earlier in the day, he now has 15 golds, two silver and two bronze medals over three Olympics.

Phelps's historic achievement is a welcome boost for the swimmer, who has so far fallen short of expectations at the London Games - finishing fourth in the 400m medley on the opening day of the Games.

In the relay race today the United States team of Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, Ricky Berens and Phelps on the anchor leg won in 6 minutes, 59.70 seconds. France took the silver in 7:02.77, while China was third in 7:06.30.

Before the race, they all huddled together, fully aware of their moment in history.

‘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.’

Phelps has 15 golds in his career, six more than anyone else, to go along with two silvers and two bronzes. Latynina won nine golds, five silvers and four bronzes from 1956-64.