U.S. adds another relay gold

Updated: August 22, 2004, 7:55 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Michael Phelps won another gold medal, this time wearing khaki shorts and flip-flops.

From a front-row seat at the Olympic pool, Phelps watched his teammates do all the work in the 400-meter medley relay Saturday night. When they won with a world-record time, Phelps got a gold, too -- his record-tying eighth medal of the Athens Games.

"It felt like I was part of that race," said Phelps, who earned his gold by swimming the event in the preliminaries.

Phelps led the U.S. contingent in cheers, pounded the side of an "Athens 2004" sign, waved an American flag and screamed "Go Jason!" as Jason Lezak completed the rout, easily retaining the lead built up by Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen and Ian Crocker.

When the scoreboard flashed "WR" -- world record -- Phelps threw up his arms to celebrate.

"I can't tell you about how exciting it is to be on the other side of the sport," he said.

Phelps earned a spot in the medley final by winning the 100 butterfly Friday night. But he ceded his place to Crocker, wanting to give the silver medalist a chance to make up for a poor showing in the 400 free relay.

Before the race, Phelps signed autographs and posed for pictures with swimmers from other countries. After the medal ceremony, he hugged Crocker.

"I'm proud of giving someone like Ian another chance," said Phelps, whose eight medals tied Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin's record at the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games.

The United States has never lost a men's medley relay at the Olympics, and it didn't really matter who swam the fly -- Phelps or Crocker. The Americans dominated the race, setting a world record of 3 minutes, 30.68 seconds, nearly three seconds ahead of runner-up Germany. Japan won the bronze, its first medal in the event since 1960.

Coughlin won her fifth medal of the games, tying the record shared by Shirley Babashoff and Dara Torres for the most swimming medals by an American woman at a single Olympics. While every swimmer relishes the chance to swim a relay final, Phelps wanted Crocker to get his first gold of the games.

That he did, swimming nearly a second faster than Phelps' gold-winning time in the 100 fly the previous night. Swimming the anchor leg, Lezak touched nearly a second ahead of the world record (3:31.54) set by the Americans at last year's world championships.

"I did the job they thought I could," Crocker said. "I'm really happy with the way things ended up."

Actually, there were two records set in the race, since the opening swimmer can get credit for an individual record in a relay. Peirsol started out with a time of 53.45 in the backstroke leg, breaking teammate Lenny Krayzelburg's 5-year-old record of 53.60 in the 100 back.

The United States won 12 golds and 28 medals overall at the pool -- short of their 14-gold, 33-medal performance in Sydney four years ago. Still, it was easily the most of any country -- runner-up Australia claimed seven golds and 15 total medals.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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