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Phelps' medal tally now up to five

8/17/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- Now this was a duel in the pool -- the
world's two greatest swimming powers going head-to-head for more
than seven minutes at the Olympics.
And it all came down to Klete Keller holding off Ian Thorpe and
finishing off the Australians with a lunge for the wall that gave
the Americans a gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle relay.
By 13-hundredths of a second.
With Michael Phelps leading off Tuesday night, the United States
bested its rival from Down Under in the most thrilling race of the
Athens Games. Phelps earned his third gold medal of the Olympics,
having won the 200-meter butterfly about an hour earlier.
The 19-year-old started things right for the Americans in the
relay, building about a one-second lead, but this one will be
remembered for Keller's gutsy swim against Thorpe that sent 10,000
fans into an uproar.
"This race will go down as one of the greatest in history,''
said Phelps, who helped the Americans avenge the loss to Australia
four years ago in Sydney. "I knew Klete would come through. His
swim was the reason why we won that relay. He held off the fastest
200 freestyler in history.''
Phelps and the other U.S. swimmers, Ryan Lochte and Peter
Vanderkaay, hopped up and down on the deck as Keller dug for home.
When he touched first -- his hand just ahead of Thorpe's -- Phelps
showed more emotion than he has at the entire Olympics. The
teenager threw up his arms and screamed "Yeaaahh!'' toward the
jubilant American contingent in the stands.
"I don't think I've ever celebrated like that in my entire
life,'' Phelps said. "They've owned that race for so long.''
Keller pulled himself out of the water and joined his teammates
in a raucous hug. A dejected Thorpe walked over and shook hands
with Keller.
"It hurt like hell,'' Keller said. "I could see (Thorpe)
coming up. But when I was breathing, I saw my team going crazy --
and that really kept me going.''
A night earlier, the 200 freestyle -- a duel between Phelps,
Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband -- was touted as the most
anticipated race of the Olympics. It was the only head-to-head
individual race between Phelps and Thorpe, but the American
finished a distant third.
For pure drama, it didn't come close to matching up to this one.
Phelps led off against Aussie star Grant Hackett; Thorpe --
adorned in black from head to toe -- finished up with his furious
pursuit of Keller. The Thorpedo came up short, the Americans
winning with a time of 7 minutes, 7.33 seconds.
The Australians settled for silver in 7:07.46, while the
Italians were more than four seconds back in third.
"I tried to put my head down,'' Thorpe said. "It was a good
last 50 for me and a great one for Klete. Unfortunately, I didn't
quite get there.''
In the 200 butterfly, Phelps held off Takashi Yamamoto to win in
an Olympic-record 1:54.01. The hard-charging Japanese swimmer took
silver (1:54.56), while Britain's Stephen Parry won bronze
(1:55.22).
Halfway through the eight-day swimming meet, Phelps has three
gold and two bronze medals. He had hoped to challenge Mark Spitz's
record of seven gold medals from the 1972 Munich Games, but that
effort ended with third-place finishes in the 400 free relay and
200 free.
Thorpe is having another superb Olympics, with three gold medals
and one silver.
The Americans added to their medal haul when Amanda Beard took
silver in the 200 individual medley. The three-time Olympian earned
the fifth medal of her career behind Ukraine's Yana Klochkova, who
defended the title she won in Sydney with a time of 2:11.14.