Larisa Latynina, Former Record Holder For Most Olympic Medals, Praises Michael Phelps

Michael Söze

Larisa Latynina, the Soviet gymnast whose career record for most Olympic medals was broken by Michael Phelps Tuesday, says she doesn't mind that the American swimmer has surpassed her mark.

Latynina, who stacked up an impressive 18 medals in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympics while competing for the Soviet Union, is now 77 years old and was in the audience for Phelps’ record-breaking 4x200-meter freestyle relay race Tuesday in London.

"I saw him swim, and I saw my record swim away," Latynina said in a phone interview Tuesday with the New York Times.
“I’m pleased that a sportsman so talented would take this record,” said Latynina, who met Phelps in New York this year and described him as charming. “He is very deserving.”
“Forty-eight years is almost enough time to hold a record."
"Why yes, but that is my opinion. Why do I think this? Well, I did not only compete in three Olympic Games and won many medals, but the Soviet Union team had very great success when I was the coach."
“Among women, I’m sure I will stay No. 1 for a long time,” Latynina told the New York Times.