Phelps rewrites the record books in Beijing

Society Materials 17 August 2008 09:47 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Michael Phelps broke Mark Spitz's 36-year-old record for the most gold medals at an Olympic Games on Sunday when he helped the US team win the 4x100m medley relay.

It took his tally from the Beijing Olympics to eight and his overall medal count to 14 golds and two bronze, making him both the most successful athlete at a single competition and overall.

His 14 golds take him past Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won nine gold, five silver and four bronze, Finnish athlete Paavo Nurmi (nine gold and three silver), Spitz (nine gold, one silver and one bronze) and US athlete Carl Lewis (nine gold and one silver).

He also eclipsed his compatriot Spitz's seven golds won in the pool at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

In the final swim of the competition the US team won in a world record time of 3:29.34, beating their own world record from 2004 by 1.34 seconds and setting the 25th world record of the meet in the Beijing Water Cube.

Silver went to Australia in 3:30.04, who were also under the old best mark, while Japan took bronze in 3:31.18.

Phelps, who took over for the third swim in third place but managed to hand over to Jason Lezak in first place, thanked his team- mates after the success.

"I'm lost for words. My team-mates were amazing. These guys made it possible. The relay really made it possible. It shows how much teamwork and togetherness we have. It's amazing to be a part of it."

He said that his pursuit of eight gold medals had been unforgettable. "The whole thing, every race, one after the other from winning by one hundredth of a second yesterday, to finishing it off with a world record.

"It's an amazing experience and something I'll have forever."

Throughout the meet, Phelps has played his cards close to his chest and even said that he had never said that he was going for eight golds.

"That is something that you guys in the media said."

He finally cracked during the medal ceremony for the relay on Sunday when he was presented with a certificate to show that he had won an unprecedented eight gold medals.

The 23-year-old started crying and sheepishly looked towards his team-mates when the president of the sport's controlling body FINA, Mustapha Larfaoui, gave him a certificate.

The rousing applause he received from the 11,000 spectators in the Beijing Water Cube brought more tears to his eyes and it was only when the US flag was raised and the national anthem played that Phelps composed himself and broke into a broad smile.