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U.S. adds another relay gold

8/22/2004

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.