Phelps done, but can still win another medal

Updated: August 20, 2004, 8:16 PM ET
By Eric Adelson | ESPN The Magazine

ATHENS, Greece -- Michael Phelps is done swimming.

In a decision as surprising as it is sudden, Phelps will give up his butterfly leg in Saturday's 4x100 medley relay to the man he beat Friday night.

Earlier, Phelps edged teammate Ian Crocker for Olympic gold in the 100 butterfly, tying Mark Spitz's 32-year-old record for most individual swimming medals in one games -- four.

After the race, Phelps decided to sit out Saturday's relay in favor of Crocker. Phelps will still win any medal the United States earns, meaning an eight-medal Games record is still likely.

The decision was made without Crocker's knowledge by Phelps and personal coach Bob Bowman and was announced at a press conference.

"I'm speechless," Crocker said when he heard. "It's a huge gift. It's difficult to accept, but it makes me want to go tear up the pool tomorrow. I'm kind of tearing up."

Phelps gave two reasons for the decision. First, Crocker has consistently been better off the blocks, as he was Friday night. That can be more of an advantage in a relay than an individual swim. Second, Phelps said he wanted to give Crocker another chance at a gold medal after a disappointing relay freestyle performance earlier in the Games.

"This is a decision that I chose," Phelps said. "We came in as a team; we will leave as a team. I will be in the stands, cheering."

The United States is heavily favored to win the event, which would give Phelps six gold medals for the Athens Games.

In the race Friday night, Phelps rallied in the last 25 meters and won in an Olympic-record 51.25 seconds, lowering the record of 51.61 he set in the semifinals.

Crocker took silver in 51.29. Andriy Serdinov of Ukraine earned bronze in 51.36.

Crocker was under his own world-record pace at the turn, and Phelps was fifth in the lane next to him. But Phelps used his huge arms to surge past Crocker and win by four-hundredths of a second.

Phelps' other individual golds came in the 200 butterfly and 200 and 400 individual medleys. He won gold in the 800 freestyle relay, and bronze medals in the 200 freestyle and 400 free relay.

Crocker, of Portland, Maine, is the current world record holder in the 100 butterfly.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Eric Adelson | email

ESPN The Magazine
Eric Adelson was a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

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