The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic GamesAugust 8-24 2008
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Swimming Review: Phelps takes greatest Olympic gold medal swag ever

Updated: 2008-08-19 00:25:17
Phelps takes greatest Olympic gold medal swag ever
Record gold medalist Michael Phelps (Photo credit: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

(BEIJING, August 18) -- Michael Phelps owned the pool at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games with an astonishing eight gold medal performance. As if that weren't enough, all but his 100m Butterfly victory were accompanied by a world record.

Along the way, he broke a host of other records, including surpassing Mark Spitz's Munich 1972 Olympic Games effort of seven gold medals at a single summer Olympic Games. Many had said that was impossible.

Phelps began his assault on the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games with a bang, winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley on day two in a world record time of 4:03.84, slicing 1.41 seconds off the old mark. Hungary's Laszlo Cseh collected the silver medal and American Ryan Lochte won the bronze medal.

His second gold was in the 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay. His tilt at history almost ended when Frenchman Alain Bernard turned at the 50 meter mark on the final leg. Thirty-two-year-old American Jason Lezak was a body length behind the flying Bernard and it looked as though Phelps, who had swum the lead-off leg, and his team would have to settle for silver.

Lezak had other plans and produced one of the most stunning final 50m splits ever, a lightning quick 46.06, to overpower the Frenchman on the wall by 0.08 seconds and keep Phelps' dream of eight golds alive. France collected the silver medal and Australia the bronze.

Phelps' third gold came in the Men's 200m Freestyle final on day four, in which he broke the world record by nearly one second with a time of 1:42.96. Park Taehwan of the Republic of Korea won the silver medal and Peter Vanderkay of the United States the bronze.

Victory in the Men's 200m Butterfly final on day five took Phelps' gold medal tally to four and gave him another world record - 1:52.03 in this, his pet event. Cseh had another great swim to finish with the silver medal and Matsuda Takeshi of Japan took the bronze.

The Men's 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay, also on day five, was next for Phelps. His team's world record of 6:58.56 broke the magical seven-minute barrier and netted Phelps' fifth gold. Russia won the silver medal and Australia bronze.

Phelps' then won gold in the Men's 200m Individual Medley on day seven, setting a world record by 0.57 seconds. Cseh took silver and Lochte, the bronze.

As expected, the Men's 100m Butterfly on day eight provided Phelps with his tightest race, but the challenge didn't come from the man expected, American Ian Crocker. Little-known Milorad Cavic of Serbia turned at the 50m in front of Phelps and 0.09 seconds under the world record split. Phelps dug deep to touch out Cavic on the wall by 0.01 seconds to keep the dream alive.

Phelps' final and eighth gold medal, which launched him into the Olympic stratosphere, came with a comfortable win in the Men's 4 x 100m Medley Relay on day nine. Australia challenged momentarily but the US relegated them to silver. Japan took the bronze.

Stephanie Rice of Australia picked up three gold medals and three world records with victories in the 200m and 400m Individual Medley events and the 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay - the latter producing the biggest surprise. The Australians were rank outsiders and obliterated the world record by 5.78 seconds.

Japan's Kitajima Kosuke briefly stepped out of Phelps' enormous shadow to claim his own place in Olympic history at the Water Cube. Kitajima defended both his Olympic titles from Athens 2004 in winning the Men's 100m Breaststroke in a world record time and also the Men's 200m Breaststroke.

The highlight for China was its 1-2 finish in the Women's 200m Butterfly, their only gold medal in the swimming events. China's Liu Zige and Jiao Liuyang upset world record holder Jessicah Schipper of Australia, relegating her to the bronze medal and driving the crowd into wild celebration.

One of the finds of Beijing 2008 was 21-year-old first time Olympian Rebecca Soni of the United States. Soni, returning from heart surgery, had events added to her Olympic program after American Jessica Hardy withdrew from competition. Soni caused a huge upset on day seven, when she won gold in the Women's 200m Breaststroke from world record holder and hot favorite Australian Leisel Jones. Soni also won silver behind Jones in the 100m Breaststroke and silver in the 4 x 100m Medley Relay.

Great Britain unearthed a star at the Water Cube in Rebecca Adlington. The bubbly British distance swimmer didn't go into either of her two gold medal events as the favorite but triumphed in both. She won the Women's 400m Freestyle and, in winning the 800m Freestyle, she broke the longest standing record left in the swimming pool. Adlington beat the great American Janet Evans'19-year-old 800m Freestyle mark of 8:16.22 by 2.12 seconds to record 8:14.10.

The US topped the swimming medal count with 12 gold, nine silver and 10 bronze medals; Australia won six gold, six silver and eight bronze medals; Japan won two gold and three bronze medals.

The changing face of international swimming was demonstrated at these Games, with 19 nations winning medals in the swimming pool over the nine days of competition. The US dominated the program but other nations are posing a growing challenge to US hegemony.

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