Records are meant to be broken. They are not meant to be pulverized with the hammer of Thor.

Michael Phelps: Here's your hammer.

The five-time Olympic veteran captured his 19th gold medal Sunday night, helping the United States win the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay with a vintage swim. The American quartet trailed by a fingernail entering the second leg of the race, when Phelps entered the pool in place of Caeleb Dressel. He kept it close his first trip down the water, then rocketed off the wall for the return 50 meters. By the time he gave way to teammate Ryan Held, the U.S. team led by more than a second.

It's a lead it wouldn't relinquish, with Nathan Adrian, the country's best sprinter and American anchor, holding off the rival French at the finish.

"We wanted to bring that relay back to American soil. Had some sour taste in our mouth, for me, anyway, in 2012, and I'm glad that's back on our soil," Phelps said after the race. France won gold in the event in London, after the United States took top honors in the classic 2008 final that saw Jason Lezak overtake former world record-holder Alain Bernard down the stretch.

There were no such dramatics this time around, despite the field being wide open among the Americans, French, Australians, and Russians. With Phelps putting the U.S. side solidly in front and Held, an Olympic rookie, protecting the lead, there wasn't much in doubt as the anchor swimmers headed for home.

There's not much doubt now about Phelps's chances to secure a 20th gold medal, either, which would put him an astounding 11 ahead of the nearest Olympians. He enters the 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter individual medley competitions as the favorite, and is a small underdog to Hungary's Laszlo Cseh in the 200-meter butterfly race.

With the way the 31-year-old great performed Sunday, he'll have a shot at all three.

"When I was on the block, I honestly thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest," Phelps said of the relay. "I was so hyped tonight and so excited."

Phelps gets back to work Monday afternoon with heats in the 200-meter butterfly—an event in which he has broken his own world record seven times since first setting it in 2001.