Michael Phelps' quest for swimming immortality became a reality on Sunday
morning as the United States' 4x100m medley relay team handed him his historic
eighth gold medal of the Beijing Games.
Phelps surpassed Mark Spitz's achievement at the Munich Olympics in 1972 by
capping an astonishing performance over nine days of swimming with yet another
world record - his eighth of the meet - in his final swim.
The American quartet - completed by Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen and Jason
Lezak - touched the wall in 3 minutes 29.34 seconds, 1.34 seconds under the
world record and 0.70 secs ahead of Australia with Japan in third.
Great Britain finished sixth in a British record time of 3:33.69.
The 23-year-old Phelps played a key role in the Americans' win, hauling his
team back into the lead after Kosuke Kitajima had given the Japanese the
advantage at the halfway mark.
But a commanding display by Phelps gave the United States the advantage as
Jason Lezak went head-to-head with 100m freestyle world-record holder Eamon
Sullivan in the final leg, and he more than held on to give the Americans gold.
The win completed a golden meet for Phelps, who also won the 100m and 200m
butterfly, the 200m and 400m individual medley and the 200m freestyle as well as
being part of the relay teams which won the 4x200m freestyle and the 4x100m
The men's relay result was a reversal of how the top two positions finished in
the women's relay, with Australia taking gold ahead of the United States while
Britain just missed out on a medal by finishing fourth.
Jessicah Schipper held off a determined challenge from Dara Torres of the
United States on the final freestyle leg to hand the Australians the gold in a
time of 3:52.69, more than three seconds under the old world record.
China came in third in 3:56.11, 1.39 seconds ahead of Great Britain who
recorded a time of 3:57.50 despite Fran Halsall's valiant effort to close the
gap on the final leg of the race.
Gemma Spofforth gave the British team a solid start, touching in second place
but Kate Haywood struggled to live with the pace set by 100m breaststroke gold
medal winner Leisel Jones as the Australians streaked ahead.
Libby Trickett extended the Australians' lead on the butterfly and Schipper
managed to hold on despite Torres' push down the first half of the 100m
Disappointed Spofforth admitted: ``Fourth in the Olympic Games is just not good
enough. Fourth is not the place to come. My time would have got me a medal in
the individual and I'm gutted I didn't do it.''
Lowe added: ``I'm trying not to be upset. It's been a great experience being
here. In the next four years the relay team is going to be phenomenal, and next
time we'll get them.''
Grant Hackett's bid for an historic treble in the 1500m freestyle was ended by
Tunisian Oussama Mellouli, who relegated the Australian to second place for the
first time at the Olympics.
Hackett was aiming to become the first male swimmer to win the same event at
three different Olympics but was narrowly beaten by Mellouli, who claimed his
country's first medal of the games.
``I've been waiting for this moment for two years,'' said the Tunisian. ``I had
expectations for the 400m freestyle but this is a great surprise.
``I felt good in the first 400m, at 800m and 900m I started believing I could
``It was all calculated. I slowed down in the penultimate 100m to save energy
and attack in the final 50m.''
Britain's David Davies, who won bronze in this event in Athens in 2004,
finished sixth and the Welshman's time of 14:52.11 was six seconds short of the
time he recorded in Friday's heats.
``The heats were something I've never experienced before,'' said Davies. ``The
event has changed and everybody is going to have to re-think their strategies.
It's basically a 1500m sprint - it's unbelievable.
``I knew the 36 hours in between would be a race to recover and I did
everything I could but in the end it was really telling on me.
``The elephants and pianos were all on my shoulders and my heart was pounding
and my stomach was gone, and it's a long way when you're feeling like that.''
Britta Steffen, meanwhile, completed the freestyle sprint double by winning the
50m in a time of 24.06 secs to defeat 41-year-old veteran Dara Torres of the
United States by just one-hundredth of a second.
Steffen, who won the 100m freestyle earlier in the week, touched just ahead of
the mother-of-one to underline her position as the current sprint queen in the
Australia's Cate Campbell took third, a further tenth of a second behind Torres
while her compatriot, world record holder Libby Trickett, was fourth.