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Rediff.com  » Sports » Phelps passes Spitz with golden eight

Phelps passes Spitz with golden eight

Last updated on: August 17, 2008 10:21 IST

Michael Phelps won an Olympic record-breaking eighth gold at one Games on Sunday in Beijing to beat fellow-American swimmer Mark Spitz's seven from Munich 1972.

Phelps raised his arms in joy after a relatively comfortable men's 4x100 meters medley relay win unlike the split-second, finger-tip finishes in two of his earlier Beijing golds.

His first thoughts on winning were for his mother.

"I don't know what to feel, so many emotions, so much excitement. I just want to see my mum," he said.

Phelps's 14 career golds, which include six in Athens, make him the most successful Olympian by a margin of five.

"It's been nothing but an upwards rollercoaster but it's been nothing but fun," he said at his moment of triumph. "The biggest thing is nothing is impossible ... With so many people saying it couldn't be done, all it takes is an imagination."

With Games spectators still agog at Usain Bolt's audaciously brilliant 100m win in the blue riband athletics race on Saturday night, Romania took the first gold of Day Nine in one of the Beijing Olympics' toughest events.

Constantina Tomescu had time to relax and wave at the crowd before crossing the finish line in the Bird's Nest stadium after a marathon run that began in Tiananmen Square.

Catherine Ndereba of Kenya took silver and Zhou Chunxiu of China the bronze, with Britain's world record holder Paula Radcliffe struggling for fitness and well back.

In the highest-profile doping case yet of the August 8-24 Games, Greece's defending women's 400 meters hurdles champion Fani Halkia failed a drug test hours before she was to compete.

That recalled the doping sagas that darkened Athens 2004.

But it has been the scintillating sport, not scandals, in Beijing dominating attention and relegating the pre-Games focus on China's rights record and pollution problems.

Having passed Spitz's seven golds of 36 years ago, the 23-year-old Phelps now stands alone in the record books.

Blessed with an arm span bigger than his height, Phelps has pumped himself up with hip-hop before races and always looks for his mother in the stands at moments of triumph.

Phelps teamed up with backstroker Aaron Peirsol, breaststroker Brendan Hansen and freestyler Jason Lezak to help the United States smash the old men's medley relay mark of three minutes 30.68 seconds with a winning time of 3:29.34 on Sunday.

LIGHTNING BOLT

Phelps, who comes from Balitmore and had to overcome attention deficit disorder in childhood, is now guaranteed a lifetime of multi-million corporate deals.

"I wanted to put my mind to it and wanted to do something that no one ever did in sport," Phelps added.

Jamaica's Bolt was the other name on everybody's lips.

He sprinted to victory in the 100 meters in world record time on Saturday night despite slowing at the end to check he was ahead and punch his chest in joy in front of 91,000 people.

"I was just having fun, that's me," said Bolt, 21.

While he danced around the Bird's Nest stadium in celebration, cars honked and crowds cheered in a victory party on his Caribbean island of 2.7 million people.

"This means a lot to my country. It means a lot to me," said the world's fastest man, whose favored 200 meters comes next.

Sunday offers 37 golds, the most of any day in the Olympics.

China are way ahead in the medal table with 27 golds to the United States' 17 in a Games Beijing wants to showcase a more open face as well as its new global economic clout.

Replacing Russia as the main rival to the United States, China came second in Athens with 32 golds.

In Beijing, Germany stand third with nine golds and Australia fourth on eight. South Korea, Japan and Britain all have seven.

Before the American men's triumph in the Water Cube in the same event, Australia's 100m medley women's relay team took gold in world record time.

Greek Olympic Committee officials said their athlete Halkia lost her chance of another gold due to an August 10 test while she was preparing in Japan,

"I can't believe it," Halkia told reporters, denying she had taken performance-enhancing drugs. "The first thing I thought of doing was to give all the nutritional supplements I have consumed, my vitamins, for testing."

In a reminder of the political undercurrents around the Beijing Olympics, the Dalai Lama accused China of mistreating and torturing citizens in Tibet while the Games were on.

"Unfortunately the Olympic spirit is not being respected at all by Chinese officials in Tibet," he told a French TV station.

"Civilians are often arrested, violently tortured to the point where they die. It's really very, very sad."

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