With 19 career medals spanning three Olympics, Phelps moved one ahead of Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who got her haul in 1956, 1960 and 1964. And he finally got his first gold of these games, bouncing back from the disappointment of settling for silver when he glided at the end of the 200 butterfly earlier Tuesday.
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.
Phelps now has 15 golds, two silvers and two bronzes.
Phelps won silver in the 200-meter butterfly earlier in the day to tie the overall record for most medals.
He was out-touched at the wall by South Africa’s Chad le Clos. Phelps flipped away his cap in disgust when he saw a “2’’ beside his name, knowing he had blown it at the end by trying to glide to the wall instead of taking one more stroke.
Le Clos won in a time of 1 minute, 52.96 seconds. Phelps finished in 1:53.01, while Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda took the bronze in 1:53.21.
In women’s swimming, Allison Schmitt of the United States set an Olympic record to win the 200-meter freestyle Tuesday.
Schmitt clocked 1 minute, 53.61 seconds, shaving more than a second off the mark set by Italy’s Federica Pellegrini four years ago in Beijing.
The 400-meter champion Camille Muffat of France touched in 1:55.58 to take the silver and Bronte Barratt of Australia finished in 1:55.81 to get bronze.
American teenager Missy Franklin finished fourth and world-record holder Pellegrini was fifth.