Sunday, August 10, 2008

Phelps begins his quest for immortality with a second record

Michael Phelps won the second of a sought after eight gold medals and has a debt of gratitude to Jason Lezak. The anchor on the 400-meter relay caught and passed the world record holder Alain Bernard edging him out at the end. The winning time: a world-record 3:08.24. Winning margin: eight hundredths of a second. It was the closest 400-meter relay in Olympic history and the second-closest Olympic relay of any distance. And Lezak swam the fastest 100-meter relay split in world history, a shocking 46.06 seconds. His split was faster than Bernard's by .67 seconds. When you're the world-record holder and you cannot hold a lead in your specialty, that's not good. When that happens after you've talked smack, that's worse. For the second straight Olympics it's men's Swimming that gets the competitive spirit going, similar to the "air guitar" act of the Australians pursuant to remarks by Gary Hall Jr.
Afterward I asked the French technical team director, Claude Fauquet, about Bernard's prediction. "Well," Fauquet said, "I think he got it wrong." Yea, ya think?

Jason Lezak The anchor swimmer had gone into the pool well behind Frenchman Alain Bernard, and after busting it for 50 meters had not appreciably closed the gap. The only comfort was that Bernard, who began this race as the world-record holder in the 100 freestyle, had not put the race out of reach -- something he all but guaranteed last week by declaring the French would "smash" the Americans in this event.

After setting an Olympic record during the qualifying heat where he said he wanted to “send a message”, Michael Phelps did it one better in during the finals of the 400-meter individual medley by setting a new world record. It was the first of a possible eight golds for Phelps that would surpass the mark of seven set by Mark Spitz in 72’. He will need some help from his teammates as they are not all individual events and the Aussies and South Africans will surely have something to say about it. The first thing he has to do to continue the quest is completely forget what he just accomplished. Roughly 7½ hours after talking to the media Sunday morning, Phelps will be back in the pool for the preliminaries of the 200-meter freestyle. Among those he'll face in that event is Korean Taehwan Park, who surprisingly won the 400 free Sunday morning in the sixth-fastest time ever, and the fastest time by someone not named Ian Thorpe. It’s an impossible task, but if anyone has come along in the past half-century that can ‘do the impossible’ it’s Phelps.

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