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Eight medals would tie Soviet gymnast

8/20/2004

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

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."