Monday, August 18, 2008

Mom Debbie Phelps and Michael Phelps

Mom Debbie Phelps and Michael Phelps at Beijing
Michael Phelps, originally uploaded by M@rcopako.

Michael Phelps wins 8th gold medal, his 14th Olympic gold medal

Michael Phelps helped the Americans on Sunday to win a race they never lost at the Olympics. He cheered from the deck as Jason Lezak brought it home for a world record in the 4x100 meter medley relay. And it was Phelps' history-making eighth gold medal of the Olympics. His tally of Olympic gold medals totals 14, making him the all time greatest Olympian.

With the Gold Medal No. 8, Michael Phelps surpassed Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals in a single Olympics set at the 1972 Munich Games. Phelps equaled Spitz by winning the seventh gold medal in 100m butterfly. He was trailing behind Serbia’s Milorad Cavic in the final stretch, but he lunged forward on his final stroke to touch a hundredth of a second, the smallest margin possible.

USA was trailing behind Australia and Japan till men’s 4x100 meter medley relay was won by them. Phelps propelled past the two Aussies ahead of him on the return lap and passed off to Lezak a lead of less than a second. The Australians had the former world record-holder Eamon Sullivan as their anchor, who tried to chase down Lezak, but Lezak finished in 3 minutes and 29.34 seconds, and it was Phelps' seventh world record in his personal Great Haul of China. The Aussies won the silver in 3:30.04 while Japan held on for the bronze.

"The Beijing Olympics has witnessed the greatest Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps of the USA," the announcer said as Phelps posed with his teammates. They had to wait a couple of minutes for the official results, and finally, it flashed on the board, “World record gold medal No. 8.”

Phelps won three relays in Beijing along with five individual races. He said without the help of his teammates this isn't possible. He was able to be a part of three relays and they were able to put up a solid team effort and they came together as one unit.

Phelps set seven world records and one Olympic record, doing a personal best time in every event. He won some races by very large margins, others with the closest of finishes, most notably, his seventh gold by one-hundredth of a second over Serbia's Milorad Cavic in the 100 fly. After receiving his eighth gold, Phelps received another award from FINA, the sport's governing body, as the best swimmer of the meet.

Phelps hails from a broken home, his policeman father and school teacher mother separated when he was only seven. Phelps attended the 1996 Olympics to support elder sister Whitney. She finished sixth in the 200m butterfly and could not make into the team. Whitney’s career was cut short by four herniated discs. In December 2004 Phelps was sentenced to 18 months probation for failing a drink driving test.

As a boy he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. His teacher complained to his mother, “Your son will never be able to focus on anything”. He was on medication, something his mother still feels bad about, and he was put on Retalin for a very short period when he was nine to control hyperactivity. When asked about his childhood disorder, he said, “It is pretty big to stay focus. This is my third Olympics and I have already swum in World Championships and major meets, so I have got used to it. These things helped me to develop an unwavering focus”.

The 23-year-old (born on June 30, 1985) from Baltimore loves hip-hop and rap music, texting with his buddies and wearing his cap backward. Among his favorites is American rapper Young Jeezy. His passions are American football, music, video games and hanging out with his English bulldog, Herman.

Michael Phelps is in touch with his friends in the US. He read out a text message he received from his close friend before last Wednesday’s first race. The message said,” How many times do we have to see your ugly face?” That sent the people around into peals of laughter.

Phelps may or may not be the greatest Olympian of all time. But judging by the pure weight of gold, no athlete has ever been where he reached, not even Mark Spitz, Paavo Nurmi, Larissa Latynina or Carl Lewis, who is the four giants of the Olympic Games sharing career gold medals each. Phelps will compete in London four years from now, after estimated 300,000 training laps and many more world records. If that happens, Michael Phelps may set a record that is impossible to beat by any Olympian. But in all discussions and writings about Olympics greatest achievers Michael Phelps will be featured as the greatest Olympian.

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