Michael Phelps wins record 8th Olympic gold
Michael Phelps has gone where no Olympian has gone before.
Phelps swam to his record eighth gold medal of the Beijing Games on Sunday, propelling the U.S. team to a hard-fought victory in the 4x100 medley relay.
With their 23-year-old star pushing them into the lead on the third (butterfly) leg, the Americans touched home in 3:29.34, lowering by 1.34 seconds their own world record set in 2004 in Athens.
"I don't even know what to feel right now," said Phelps, who will return to his hometown of Baltimore, Md., with 14 Olympic golds to his name — five more than anyone else in history.
"There's so much emotion going through my head and so much excitement. I kind of just want to see my mom."
Debbie Phelps sat flanked by her two daughters in the stands at Beijing's National Aquatics Centre, tears streaming down her face after the race and during the ensuing medal ceremony.
Australia took the silver in 3:30.04 after 100 freestyle world-record holder Eamon Sullivan came up short on his bid to catch American Jason Lezak on the anchor leg.
Japan got the bronze in 3:31.18.
'Dream come true'
Phelps's eighth win in as many events at the Water Cube bumped fellow American Mark Spitz's name off the mark he had held since the 1972 Olympics. Spitz captured seven titles in seven races in Munich, a feat many said couldn't be topped.
"Everything went as planned. Everything went as I wanted to," Phelps told CBC Sports. "I couldn't have asked for anything different.
"It's a dream come true."
There's some consolation for Spitz in that Phelps merely matched the seven world records Spitz set in Munich. Phelps's bid to go 8-for-8 in that department ended on Saturday when he captured his seventh gold but could "only" manage an Olympic record in winning the 100 butterfly.
The drama of that race — Phelps roared back from seventh place at the turn to edge Serbia's Milorad Cavic by 1-100th of a second, the smallest unit of time swimmers are measured by — lent Sunday's relay the air of a coronation, especially with the U.S. team being heavily favoured to claim its 12th consecutive Olympic title in the event.
But once the swimmers hit the pool there was no shortage of excitement as the American front end of backstroker Aaron Peirsol and breaststroker Brendan Hansen couldn't open up a lead.
Phelps fixed that by rallying from third place to get to the wall first on the butterfly leg, and Lezak brought home the gold as he did in the photo-finish 4x100 freestyle on Monday.
"Without the help of my teammates this isn't possible," said Phelps, who won five individual races and three relays in Beijing.
"I was able to be a part of three relays and we were able to put up a solid team effort and we came together as one unit," he said. "For the three Olympics I've been a part of, this is by far the closest men's team that we've ever had. I didn't know everybody coming into this Olympics, but I feel going out I know every single person very well.
"The team that we had is the difference."