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Phelps, the swimmer to watch in Athens

July 29, 2004 11:19 IST
Last Updated: July 29, 2004 12:47 IST

Michael Phelps is the world's best all-round swimmer and could stake a claim for being the greatest of all time if he can achieve his dream of beating Mark Spitz' record of seven gold medals at a single Olympic Games.

The Baltimore teenager qualified for nine events in Athens but has restricted himself to eight, five individual and three relays, in the most ambitious programme ever attempted.

Michael PhelpsHe will start as a heavy favourite to win gold in the 200 metres and 400 individual medley and the 200 butterfly and also has strong medal prospects in the 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle.

The United States are favourites to win gold in two of three relays but he will need plenty of luck to win gold in each of his eight events.

Phelps first made headlines at 15 when he became the youngest man selected to represent the U.S. in Olympic swimming. He will be 19 in Athens.

Phelps finished fifth in the 200 metres butterfly at Sydney but has rarely been out of the medals since.

In 2001, he became the youngest man to hold a world record when he broke the 200m butterfly mark then later that year he won his first world title in Fukuoka, Japan.

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At the world championships in Barcelona last year, Phelps won four gold medals and set five world records, the most by any swimmer at a single meet.

He successfully defended his 200m butterfly title and also won the 200m and 400m individual medley, setting world records in each event.

He also won a gold medal in the medley relay and set a world record in the semi-finals of the 100m butterfly only to suffer a surprise loss to compatriot Ian Crocker in the final.

Phelps was duly named as the male swimmer of the year.

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