Wednesday, August 13, 2008

2008: first Olympic athlete to win 11 gold medals

Michael Phelps swam into history as the winningest Olympic athlete ever with his 11th career gold medal -- and fifth world record of the Beijing Games.

A day after making his mark alongside Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis with gold No. 9, Phelps claimed the record all to himself when he won the 200-meter butterfly Wednesday morning. It was his 10th career gold medal. Phelps won his fifth gold of games an hour later, leading the US team in an 800-meter freestyle relay that also set a new world record. He had three more chances to stretch his gold medal lead before he leaves China.

In the fly, his signature stroke, Phelps was second at the first flip, then pushed it into another gear, his long arms gobbling up huge chunks of water as he literally sailed along atop the surface. He touched the wall in 1 minutes, 52.03 seconds, breaking his mark of 1:52.09 from last year's world championships.

Phelps rubbed his eyes and said climbing from the pool, "I can't see anything." A pair of leaky goggles kept him from even seeing the wall as he finished. Still, it was another gold and another record, taking Phelps halfway to his goal of beating Spitz's record of seven gold medals in a single games. "My goggles kept filling up with water during the race," he said. "I wanted a world record, I wanted 1:51 or better, but in the circumstances, not too bad I guess."

Everyone wanted to get a look at history, including the US men's basketball team. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were among those cheering on Phelps from poolside seats. James posed for pictures with Phelps' mother. (info & photo from The Wall Street Journal)

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