Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Our Golden Boy
The associated press has this to report:
BEIJING (Aug. 11) - Michael Phelps etched his name with Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis among the winningest Olympians ever Tuesday. With three gold medals and three world records, he has no equal in China.
In winning the 200-meter freestyle, Phelps ran his career Olympic total to nine golds and avenged his only individual loss in Athens four years ago, when a 19-year-old Phelps took on the 200 free just so he could compete with Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband. He touched third that night in what was called the "Race of the Century." This time, it was hardly a race at all. It was all Phelps.
Racing out of lane six, he quickly surged to the lead and led by a full body length halfway through the second of four laps. Phelps was nearly two seconds ahead of the field when he touched in 1 minute, 42.96 seconds, breaking the mark of 1:43.86 he set at last year's world championships.
"That's great," said Phelps, who was much more reserved in his celebration after a wild performance on deck the previous day. "I just wanted to be out at the 50-meter point, and that's where I was. I was in open water, and it was difficult for the other guys to see me."
South Korea's Park Tae-hwan took the silver in 1:44.85, touching while Phelps was already looking at the scoreboard. Peter Vanderkaay, one of Phelps' training partners, gave the U.S. another medal by claiming the bronze in 1:45.14.
"I knew Park is strong in the last 50 meters," Phelps said of the 400 free gold medalist, "so I knew I had to be fast and concentrated."
Everyone else knew they were racing for second.
"Phelps swam so fast," Park said. "It is my honor to compete with him."
Added Vanderkaay, "I just tried to swim my own race. He's going to go out, but I can't let that affect my race strategy."
Phelps is now 3-for-3 in Beijing, on course to beat Spitz's 36-year-old record of seven golds in a single Olympics. He opened with a world record in the 400 individual medley, then led off an epic victory in the 400 free relay.'
Along the way, he'll take care of some other historical landmarks.
Phelps's ninth career gold tied him with Spitz, Lewis, Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina and Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi for the most in Olympic history.
The mark isn't likely to be shared for long. Phelps will go for his fourth medal of these games and 10th overall on Wednesday in the 200 butterfly, yet another event in which he holds the world record.
It turned out to be a red, white and blue morning for the American swimmers.