Eight medals would tie Soviet gymnast

Updated: August 20, 2004, 6:42 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Forget about Mark Spitz. Michael Phelps is chasing Aleksandr Dityatin now.

How Phelps has fared
200 IM Gold
200 butterfly Gold
400 IM Gold
4x200 freestyle Gold
200 freestyle Bronze
4x100 freestyle Bronze
100 butterfly Friday
4x100 medley Saturday

The Soviet gymnast set an Olympic record in 1980 by winning eight medals of various colors, but the mark -- like Dityatin himself -- isn't well-known in the United States because the Americans boycotted the Moscow Games.

Phelps failed in his quest to match Spitz's mark of seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games, but still has a shot at matching Dityatin, who won three golds, four silvers and a bronze 24 years ago.

"I can't get away from numbers. Yes, I saw it online," Phelps said.

The 19-year-old from Baltimore set an Olympic record (1:57.14) Thursday in winning the 200 medley, giving him his fourth gold of the Athens Games. He also has two bronzes and is a top contender in the 100 butterfly Friday.

On Saturday, he should pick up his final medal as part of the 400 medley relay, which the Americans have never lost at the Olympics. The U.S. team had the fastest time (3:35.10) in Friday's heats.

Just 30 minutes after winning the 200 IM Thursday, Phelps dove back into the pool and set an Olympic record in the 100 fly semifinals, setting up a showdown with teammate Ian Crocker in the final.

"Tonight was the toughest turnaround time I've ever had," said Phelps, who between races warmed down for 10 minutes, received his gold medal, then went straight to the ready room to prepare for the fly.

"I'm just doing what I train to do. I'm recovering fairly well," he said. "Sometimes my adrenaline is going so high I can't get to sleep."

Phelps' coach Bob Bowman is impressed at how well his swimmer has handled the tight schedule.

"I was standing next to another coach and he said that he's the only swimmer in the world that can do that -- the physical demands are so great," Bowman said. "He just handles himself so well and is able to get over the high of a gold medal and come back and race."

Eight athletes have won seven medals, including Spitz and U.S. swimmer Matt Biondi in 1988. But don't mention any more numbers or records to Phelps.

He just wants to enjoy himself now.

"I'm having so much fun," he said. "I'm at the Olympic Games. It can't get much better than this."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press