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US Olympics

Evan Lysacek – Men’s U.S. Champion Skated to Gold

Evan Lysacek: 167.37  – 257.67
Winner Gold Medal – from the United States

Evan Lysacek wins the Men’s freestyle skate tonight in Vancouver. It was a long night of competition. He did not pull a quad, but had a perfect skate technically. The scores are as follows:


Evgeni Plushenko: 165.91 – 256.36
Winner Silver Medal from Russia

He came in big from the men’s short program, poised for the win, but after all the chatter about the quad and the rivalry, it seems that nerves got the best of Evgeni tonight, he skated well, popped a quad but in the end he could not pull out the win.


Daisuke Takahashi: 156.98 – 247.23
Winner Bronze Medal from Japan


Stefane Lambiel 162.09 – 246.72
4th Place from Switzerland

Patrick Chan of Canada: 160.30 – 241.42
5th Place from Canada

Young Patrck Chan had a good skate, but he faltered. At 19 his skating career is far from over. The judges were very generous with scoring tonight affording every point to Chan that he needed. But in the end, he stood in 5th position.

and
Johnny Weir:  156.77 – 238.87
6th Place from the United States

Johnny Weir wasn’t going down without a fight, there was no quad, but there was spunk. After all the drama about costumes and fur, Johnny came and did what he could do, but it wasn’t enough to challenge the pack. Maybe next time Johnny.

Honorable mention goes to Nobunari Oda – ( 238.54 ) who skated a wonderful program to Charlie Chaplin, only to have a skate lace pop out with a minute to go in his program, and he was penalized 3 points for a wardrobe malfunction. And he got back out there and finished his skate. Had his skate not popped he would have contended for a medal.

From CTV Olympics: The Final Call:

Patrick Chan‘s free skate lifted him two places from Tuesday’s disappointing seventh-place finish in the short program, but it wasn’t enough for a podium finish.

Chan finished fifth in the men’s figure skating competition. The 19-year-old skater from Toronto finished more than 16 points behind the new Olympic champion Evan Lysacek of the United States.

Lysacek dethroned 2006 Olympic gold medallist Evgeni Plushenko, edging the Russian by just over a single point after he performed a clean skate to Sheherazade by Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov. The 24-year-old American’s winning combined score was 257.67 points.

Skating last in the competition after winning Tuesday’s short program, Plushenko skated a clean program but scored 1.86 points less than Lysacek for his technical elements.

It was less than two points, but it was enough.

Plushenko took silver with a combined score of 256.36.

Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi fell on his opening quadruple toeloop to earn bronze with 247.23.

Chan, seventh after Tuesday’s short program, stepped out of an early triple Lutz and fell outright on a triple Axel late in his program, Thursday.

It was his footwork that picked him up off the ice.

The reiging world silver medallist’s level-4 step sequence was performed flawlessly, and Chan picked up a whopping 82.00 points in the category that takes skating skills, transitions and link footwork, performance and execution, choreography and musical interpretation all into account.

Chan is famous for his difficult and intricate footwork, and he used it to finish fifth behind four points behind Swiss skater Stephane Lambiel with a score of 241.42.

Johnny Weir of the United States finished sixth with a score of 238.54 while Japan’s Nobunari Oda – fourth after the short program on Tuesday – received a three-point deduction after snapped skate lace halted his skate. Oda was awarded three minutes to fix the problem, then resumed his program where he had left off.

But the deduction proved costly, and Oda’s combined short program and free skate score of 238.54 dropped him to seventh.


Evan Lysacek – Men's U.S. Champion Skated to Gold

Evan Lysacek: 167.37  – 257.67
Winner Gold Medal – from the United States

Evan Lysacek wins the Men’s freestyle skate tonight in Vancouver. It was a long night of competition. He did not pull a quad, but had a perfect skate technically. The scores are as follows:


Evgeni Plushenko: 165.91 – 256.36
Winner Silver Medal from Russia

He came in big from the men’s short program, poised for the win, but after all the chatter about the quad and the rivalry, it seems that nerves got the best of Evgeni tonight, he skated well, popped a quad but in the end he could not pull out the win.


Daisuke Takahashi: 156.98 – 247.23
Winner Bronze Medal from Japan


Stefane Lambiel 162.09 – 246.72
4th Place from Switzerland

Patrick Chan of Canada: 160.30 – 241.42
5th Place from Canada

Young Patrck Chan had a good skate, but he faltered. At 19 his skating career is far from over. The judges were very generous with scoring tonight affording every point to Chan that he needed. But in the end, he stood in 5th position.

and
Johnny Weir:  156.77 – 238.87
6th Place from the United States

Johnny Weir wasn’t going down without a fight, there was no quad, but there was spunk. After all the drama about costumes and fur, Johnny came and did what he could do, but it wasn’t enough to challenge the pack. Maybe next time Johnny.

Honorable mention goes to Nobunari Oda – ( 238.54 ) who skated a wonderful program to Charlie Chaplin, only to have a skate lace pop out with a minute to go in his program, and he was penalized 3 points for a wardrobe malfunction. And he got back out there and finished his skate. Had his skate not popped he would have contended for a medal.

From CTV Olympics: The Final Call:

Patrick Chan‘s free skate lifted him two places from Tuesday’s disappointing seventh-place finish in the short program, but it wasn’t enough for a podium finish.

Chan finished fifth in the men’s figure skating competition. The 19-year-old skater from Toronto finished more than 16 points behind the new Olympic champion Evan Lysacek of the United States.

Lysacek dethroned 2006 Olympic gold medallist Evgeni Plushenko, edging the Russian by just over a single point after he performed a clean skate to Sheherazade by Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov. The 24-year-old American’s winning combined score was 257.67 points.

Skating last in the competition after winning Tuesday’s short program, Plushenko skated a clean program but scored 1.86 points less than Lysacek for his technical elements.

It was less than two points, but it was enough.

Plushenko took silver with a combined score of 256.36.

Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi fell on his opening quadruple toeloop to earn bronze with 247.23.

Chan, seventh after Tuesday’s short program, stepped out of an early triple Lutz and fell outright on a triple Axel late in his program, Thursday.

It was his footwork that picked him up off the ice.

The reiging world silver medallist’s level-4 step sequence was performed flawlessly, and Chan picked up a whopping 82.00 points in the category that takes skating skills, transitions and link footwork, performance and execution, choreography and musical interpretation all into account.

Chan is famous for his difficult and intricate footwork, and he used it to finish fifth behind four points behind Swiss skater Stephane Lambiel with a score of 241.42.

Johnny Weir of the United States finished sixth with a score of 238.54 while Japan’s Nobunari Oda – fourth after the short program on Tuesday – received a three-point deduction after snapped skate lace halted his skate. Oda was awarded three minutes to fix the problem, then resumed his program where he had left off.

But the deduction proved costly, and Oda’s combined short program and free skate score of 238.54 dropped him to seventh.


Meet the most polarizing Winter Olympian

By Martin Rogers, Yahoo! Sports Online Report here…

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The title of the television series instructs figure skating’s most flamboyant star to “Be Good Johnny Weir” – but it doesn’t make a lick of difference.

Johnny Weir is good, bad, controversial, outrageous, spectacular, inflammatory, provocative and whatever else he decides to be without paying heed to a shred of outside influence or advice.

When Weir takes to the ice on Tuesday night for the men’s figure skating short program, he knows he will be delivering a jab to the chops of the average burger-chomping, beer-drinking, NFL-loving American sports fan. The New York-based 25-year-old describes himself as “eccentric and strange,” but that doesn’t even come close to painting the full picture of what he is all about.

A program from Weir is a theatrical performance that is as much about glitter, makeup, rhinestones and lace as axels and toe loops. His routine is designed to shock, with a bunch of suggestive pelvic thrusts that mean he will be loved in some sections of society but never accepted in others.

Yet there is undeniably an element of fascination with Weir, who flaunts his love of attention, drama and headlines so unashamedly that it commands an element of respect, grudging or otherwise. Even though he is thought to have less chance of a medal than fellow Americans Evan Lysacek and Jeremy Abbott, he is his own best salesman and will command far more attention than either of his colleagues.

Whether it is his ongoing battle with anti-fur activists who took offense at his proposed costume, his decision to have a woman (ice dancer Tanith Belbin) as his roommate in the athlete’s village, his tales of being stalked by a crazed fan after the 2006 Winter Olympics or that TV show, Weir has self-promoted his way to relevance at these Vancouver Games with a steady stream of gossip-worthy revelations.

He may be the most polarizing athlete at the Winter Olympics and his programs on Tuesday and Thursday night are likely to spark heated debate in countless living rooms. And he will revel in such criticism. However, one barb that has drawn his ire is accusations that he lacks patriotism.

His coaches, Galina Zmievskaya and Viktor Petrenko, are Russian and Weir is never slow to extol the virtues of that country, which he finds “ferocious and dark yet colorful and soulful,” and the Russian culture.

“I am always made to sound very anti-American and hateful of my own country in interviews because of the way I love Russia,” Weir said. “But I also love America. It is my home and the only home I’ll ever have. I don’t like being called a bad American simply because I love other cultures, because to me being a good American is accepting and loving the world we live in, not only your little patch of land.

“When I started traveling to Russia to compete and perform is when I can say I truly lost my heart to it. I admire the fact that a figure skater or a ballet dancer can be the true definition of a man. I admire that speaking what’s in one’s heart and soul is artful and brave.”

Weir’s controversial fur-lined costume, which he eventually decided to ditch after threatened protests from animal rights activists, had a Russian theme – as does much of his music. According to Weir, though, there are countless ways in which he draws inspiration for both his performances on the ice and his taste in fashion – a career he is determined to pursue once his figure skating days are over.

“Anything can inspire me,” he said of his style sense. “A wet trash bag in a gutter, a bird flying across a winter sky, music, a ballet performance, anything. I am one of those people who will wake up in the middle of the night to pee and have a sketch pad at the ready to write down notes or sketch something no matter the hour of day.

“I am like a sponge in many ways and I try to soak in as much of life as possible so that I can be inspired by life experiences and what the world has to offer.”

Weir has not ruled out a move into acting or music after his skating career ends and he says he wants to write a “tell-all” book which would surely be full of some colorful tales. Despite becoming a highly recognizable figure over the next couple of weeks, will he turn his notoriety into financial success once the Games are over?

“Weir is a totally different kind of character to most athletes and a lot of the normal rules don’t apply to him,” said Mark Ganis, president of SportsCorp, a Chicago-based sports business consulting firm. “Because of how he is, he is going to get a whole lot more attention than a normal United States figure skater who is the sixth or seventh favorite to win.

“There will be some commercial spinoffs, but they will primarily be within the figure skating world. He is more likely to be invited to perform in figure skating exhibition shows and will command a higher fee because a lot of people have heard of him.

“Being extravagant and controversial is his best asset, so it is in his own interests to keep talking it up.”

That much is a given. Trying to muzzle Johnny Weir is more difficult than the spectacular quad jump that separates the men from the boys at the top of the sport.

“It seems in many ways that controversy follows me throughout my career and I can’t help that,” Weir said. “I accept it more than fight it. People are very unpredictable beasts and you never know who wants to hurt you or hug you. The only thing that bothers me is when people do threaten me or my career, but I know how to deal with people and I know how to get work done even in the worst circumstances.”

Weir finished in fifth place in Turin four years ago and his best performance in international competition is a bronze at the 2008 World Championships. His recent form has been mixed, finishing behind Jeremy Abbott and Evan Lysacek to place third at the U.S. Nationals.

But whatever his results, there appears to be little chance that Weir will be kept out of the spotlight and many will consider his performances must-see TV.

After all, there aren’t too many male Winter Olympians happy to talk about their split personalities while getting ready to pick up their handbags from the ground next to their glitter-coated sneakers.

“I can say that on the ice I have one personality and off the ice I have a completely different one,” Weir said. “I live a very free-spirited lifestyle and I am not afraid of anyone or anything aside from sharks and spiders.

“On the ice, I go inside. I become my music. I become everything beautiful that I may not be in life. I am one person and I morph into another. In both lives I am very strong and confident of myself, but in very different ways.

“But to say I’m not strange or eccentric would be a mistake in either of my worlds.”


Askren’s long wait for shot on Olympic mat ends in tears

By Elizabeth Merrill
ESPN.com LINK HERE TO STORY

BEIJING — The hair is unbearably short now. It is curly and cropped close to his cauliflower ears, the victim of a scissor-happy barber in Beijing. The woman wouldn’t stop cutting. Before Ben Askren knew it, 5 inches were on the floor.

This is how badly Askren wants to win a gold medal — he shed his coveted locks, his trademark — because the international guys like to pull on them when they wrestle.

“‘Vision Quest’ is a terrible, terrible movie,” Askren says during a deep-thoughts session from his room in the Olympic Village. “It’s just so stereotypical and ’80s.”

It is Monday afternoon in Beijing, less than 48 hours before the American will wrestle in his first Olympic match. He’s had a lot of time to think about hair, handball and bad wrestling movies, maybe too much. For nearly two weeks, while Michael Phelps won eight gold medals and 180 national anthems were played, Askren has been waiting. The night of the Opening Ceremony, wide-eyed and anxious, he asked a strange young woman to take a picture of him. The woman ended up being President Bush’s daughter Barbara.

Askren laughed it off. This is why matheads think he might go all the way — he is loose and unconventional.

He has heard about the betting line, the one that puts his gold-medal chances at 20 to 1. It is not that ridiculous. Askren is 24 years old, a baby in the eyes of grizzled superheroes like Russian Buvaysa Saytiev and Cuban Ivan Fundora. Saytiev is the gold standard; he won it all in Atlanta and Athens. If he takes this Olympics, he will be considered one of the greatest wrestlers ever.

Nobody at China Agricultural University Gymnasium, it seems, is talking about Askren. The preview sheet for the 163-pound (74-kilogram) freestyle field comes out, and Askren is not mentioned among favorites or challengers. There is one sentence about him at the bottom.

“Ben Askren is an outspoken young wrestler with limited international experience…”

It doesn’t rankle Askren.

“In my head, there is a 100 percent chance I’m going to win,” he says. “I think I should win every time I go on the mat.”


The thing about Askren’s hair is that it is always a conversation piece. When he was at the University of Missouri in 2006, he cut it into a mullet after nationals. He was a rock star in Columbia, easily spotted around campus with his wild, blond ‘fro.

His wrestling style was called “funky.” His long, lanky body allowed him to take chances. Askren became a two-time NCAA champion at 174 pounds and a four-time finalist. He still holds the NCAA’s single-season pins record and is the first Mizzou grad to become an Olympic wrestler.

When the local paper, the Columbia Tribune, did a Q&A with him called “The Ben Commandments,” he was asked if he was good enough to make the Olympics.

“No,” Askren said 17 months ago, “but I think I will be shortly.”

Two times a day, 12 years of workouts. Askren says making the Olympics didn’t hit him until he was asked to speak in front of a bunch of kids, telling them about how he got there. When he got in his car afterward, he started to bawl.


He bought a $27 suit at a silk store in Beijing, but he questions if it’s actually an Armani. He scaled the Great Wall. Now, Askren is bored. He must lose about 10 pounds in 26 hours. Normally, wrestlers hate talking about cutting weight, especially just before a match.

Askren simply shrugs. He’ll eat a small breakfast Monday, a couple of Clif Bars for lunch and a light dinner. He’ll sweat off the bulk of the weight he needs to lose in the sauna. He’ll also drop a few pounds with what he calls a “light” cardiovascular workout Monday night.

Fact is, he can’t do much today. If he walks around the city, he’ll expend too much energy. He can’t talk too much on his international phone, either, because it costs too much.

He will have an entourage of roughly 30 people in Beijing on Wednesday, friends and followers from Missouri and his hometown of Hartland, Wis. They love him for his humor, his swagger and the way his chin juts out before matches. At the Olympic trials this summer, some of his flock made up T-shirts that said, “Putting the Chin in China.”

Askren told them to leave the shirts home because he “didn’t want to make anyone upset” in Beijing. He has been wrestling internationally for only one year but was brimming with confidence at the trials, where he told reporters that he would win a gold medal.

“If I could compare him to one person …” says Martin Floreani of flowrestling.com, “he is to the wrestling world what Muhammad Ali is to the boxing world. He’s that much of an entertainer.

“He’s cocky, he’s confident, he’s brash. He’s outspoken and funny. People either love him or hate him. It makes him special.”


It is Tuesday afternoon, weigh-in time for Askren. He is not worried about making it. He scoffs at the notion that the scale might tip at 164. He’s come too far to not make weight.

The weigh-in room is in the warm-up area of the China Agricultural University Gymnasium. Askren lays face-down on a mat before stepping on the scale. He comes in perfectly, then draws a card to find out who he’ll be wrestling tomorrow. It is not good news. Askren picks No. 14, which means he will not get a bye and would have to face the Cuban in the second round and Saytiev in the third.

He says he is unconcerned about the draw, but is noticeably quieter than Monday. “I’m excited about it because I get to see exactly how good I am,” he says. “I’m ready to rumble.”

He says he doesn’t know when he’ll go to bed tonight. “When I get tired.”

He says he feels no pressure to win for the people of Hartland or Missouri.

“What I do tomorrow,” he says, “I do for myself.”

Askren watches the high jump on TV late Tuesday night before going to sleep. They get four Olympic channels in the village. He watched softball on Monday and let out an “Oooh” when someone got hit in the leg.

Most wrestlers hate being bothered the night before a match. An hour and a half before world trials last year, Askren chatted with Floreani about global warming while helpers scurried to fix his hair up in corn rows.

“I want to save my focus,” Askren says. “I know I’m ready. I know I have all the ability.”


The Askren cheering section is easy to find. They’re the ones in the middle of the bleachers, wearing bushy wigs and holding American flags. When Askren walks out to the mat at about 10 a.m., he looks up at his fans, sticks his chin out and smiles.

His Hungarian opponent takes a quick 2-0 lead, then Askren turns it on. He pins Istvan Vereb, slaps his hands together, then nods to the crowd.

In 20 minutes, after a quick rest on the mats in the warm-up area, Askren will be out again to face Fundora. He’s 32 and won a bronze medal in Athens.

The knock on Askren is he’s great on the offensive but struggles when wrestlers go after his legs. Fundora does that immediately. He is one of the best tacklers in the world. Fundora wins the first period 3-1, and the “USA” chants can’t help Askren. He falls behind 2-0, then 4-0.

He stands with his hands on his hips when it’s over and the Cuban moves on. Askren must now hope that Fundora beats the Russian so he can continue on for a bronze. It’s called, “Follow the leader.” If Fundora loses, Askren is finished.

Saytiev beats the Cuban, and Askren finally emerges behind the gates to speak to the media. The chin quivers. He starts to sob.

“I don’t know what you want to hear from me,” Askren says. “My dreams are crushed.

“I just wasn’t good enough. I sucked.”

Two weeks, and he’s done in two hours. Askren says he doesn’t know where he’ll go from here. There has been talk that he’ll try mixed martial arts, but his coach, Shawn Charles, is sure Askren will be back. He couldn’t end it this way.

After an awkward pause, Askren leaves. He has nothing else to say.


Askren's long wait for shot on Olympic mat ends in tears

By Elizabeth Merrill
ESPN.com LINK HERE TO STORY

BEIJING — The hair is unbearably short now. It is curly and cropped close to his cauliflower ears, the victim of a scissor-happy barber in Beijing. The woman wouldn’t stop cutting. Before Ben Askren knew it, 5 inches were on the floor.

This is how badly Askren wants to win a gold medal — he shed his coveted locks, his trademark — because the international guys like to pull on them when they wrestle.

“‘Vision Quest’ is a terrible, terrible movie,” Askren says during a deep-thoughts session from his room in the Olympic Village. “It’s just so stereotypical and ’80s.”

It is Monday afternoon in Beijing, less than 48 hours before the American will wrestle in his first Olympic match. He’s had a lot of time to think about hair, handball and bad wrestling movies, maybe too much. For nearly two weeks, while Michael Phelps won eight gold medals and 180 national anthems were played, Askren has been waiting. The night of the Opening Ceremony, wide-eyed and anxious, he asked a strange young woman to take a picture of him. The woman ended up being President Bush’s daughter Barbara.

Askren laughed it off. This is why matheads think he might go all the way — he is loose and unconventional.

He has heard about the betting line, the one that puts his gold-medal chances at 20 to 1. It is not that ridiculous. Askren is 24 years old, a baby in the eyes of grizzled superheroes like Russian Buvaysa Saytiev and Cuban Ivan Fundora. Saytiev is the gold standard; he won it all in Atlanta and Athens. If he takes this Olympics, he will be considered one of the greatest wrestlers ever.

Nobody at China Agricultural University Gymnasium, it seems, is talking about Askren. The preview sheet for the 163-pound (74-kilogram) freestyle field comes out, and Askren is not mentioned among favorites or challengers. There is one sentence about him at the bottom.

“Ben Askren is an outspoken young wrestler with limited international experience…”

It doesn’t rankle Askren.

“In my head, there is a 100 percent chance I’m going to win,” he says. “I think I should win every time I go on the mat.”


The thing about Askren’s hair is that it is always a conversation piece. When he was at the University of Missouri in 2006, he cut it into a mullet after nationals. He was a rock star in Columbia, easily spotted around campus with his wild, blond ‘fro.

His wrestling style was called “funky.” His long, lanky body allowed him to take chances. Askren became a two-time NCAA champion at 174 pounds and a four-time finalist. He still holds the NCAA’s single-season pins record and is the first Mizzou grad to become an Olympic wrestler.

When the local paper, the Columbia Tribune, did a Q&A with him called “The Ben Commandments,” he was asked if he was good enough to make the Olympics.

“No,” Askren said 17 months ago, “but I think I will be shortly.”

Two times a day, 12 years of workouts. Askren says making the Olympics didn’t hit him until he was asked to speak in front of a bunch of kids, telling them about how he got there. When he got in his car afterward, he started to bawl.


He bought a $27 suit at a silk store in Beijing, but he questions if it’s actually an Armani. He scaled the Great Wall. Now, Askren is bored. He must lose about 10 pounds in 26 hours. Normally, wrestlers hate talking about cutting weight, especially just before a match.

Askren simply shrugs. He’ll eat a small breakfast Monday, a couple of Clif Bars for lunch and a light dinner. He’ll sweat off the bulk of the weight he needs to lose in the sauna. He’ll also drop a few pounds with what he calls a “light” cardiovascular workout Monday night.

Fact is, he can’t do much today. If he walks around the city, he’ll expend too much energy. He can’t talk too much on his international phone, either, because it costs too much.

He will have an entourage of roughly 30 people in Beijing on Wednesday, friends and followers from Missouri and his hometown of Hartland, Wis. They love him for his humor, his swagger and the way his chin juts out before matches. At the Olympic trials this summer, some of his flock made up T-shirts that said, “Putting the Chin in China.”

Askren told them to leave the shirts home because he “didn’t want to make anyone upset” in Beijing. He has been wrestling internationally for only one year but was brimming with confidence at the trials, where he told reporters that he would win a gold medal.

“If I could compare him to one person …” says Martin Floreani of flowrestling.com, “he is to the wrestling world what Muhammad Ali is to the boxing world. He’s that much of an entertainer.

“He’s cocky, he’s confident, he’s brash. He’s outspoken and funny. People either love him or hate him. It makes him special.”


It is Tuesday afternoon, weigh-in time for Askren. He is not worried about making it. He scoffs at the notion that the scale might tip at 164. He’s come too far to not make weight.

The weigh-in room is in the warm-up area of the China Agricultural University Gymnasium. Askren lays face-down on a mat before stepping on the scale. He comes in perfectly, then draws a card to find out who he’ll be wrestling tomorrow. It is not good news. Askren picks No. 14, which means he will not get a bye and would have to face the Cuban in the second round and Saytiev in the third.

He says he is unconcerned about the draw, but is noticeably quieter than Monday. “I’m excited about it because I get to see exactly how good I am,” he says. “I’m ready to rumble.”

He says he doesn’t know when he’ll go to bed tonight. “When I get tired.”

He says he feels no pressure to win for the people of Hartland or Missouri.

“What I do tomorrow,” he says, “I do for myself.”

Askren watches the high jump on TV late Tuesday night before going to sleep. They get four Olympic channels in the village. He watched softball on Monday and let out an “Oooh” when someone got hit in the leg.

Most wrestlers hate being bothered the night before a match. An hour and a half before world trials last year, Askren chatted with Floreani about global warming while helpers scurried to fix his hair up in corn rows.

“I want to save my focus,” Askren says. “I know I’m ready. I know I have all the ability.”


The Askren cheering section is easy to find. They’re the ones in the middle of the bleachers, wearing bushy wigs and holding American flags. When Askren walks out to the mat at about 10 a.m., he looks up at his fans, sticks his chin out and smiles.

His Hungarian opponent takes a quick 2-0 lead, then Askren turns it on. He pins Istvan Vereb, slaps his hands together, then nods to the crowd.

In 20 minutes, after a quick rest on the mats in the warm-up area, Askren will be out again to face Fundora. He’s 32 and won a bronze medal in Athens.

The knock on Askren is he’s great on the offensive but struggles when wrestlers go after his legs. Fundora does that immediately. He is one of the best tacklers in the world. Fundora wins the first period 3-1, and the “USA” chants can’t help Askren. He falls behind 2-0, then 4-0.

He stands with his hands on his hips when it’s over and the Cuban moves on. Askren must now hope that Fundora beats the Russian so he can continue on for a bronze. It’s called, “Follow the leader.” If Fundora loses, Askren is finished.

Saytiev beats the Cuban, and Askren finally emerges behind the gates to speak to the media. The chin quivers. He starts to sob.

“I don’t know what you want to hear from me,” Askren says. “My dreams are crushed.

“I just wasn’t good enough. I sucked.”

Two weeks, and he’s done in two hours. Askren says he doesn’t know where he’ll go from here. There has been talk that he’ll try mixed martial arts, but his coach, Shawn Charles, is sure Askren will be back. He couldn’t end it this way.

After an awkward pause, Askren leaves. He has nothing else to say.


Phelps makes impossible dream come true

By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports

BEIJING – He arrived here at this massive blue cube in the Far East with the goals that couldn’t have been bigger and margins of error that couldn’t have been smaller.

It was eight events, eight golds – all or nothing for Michael Phelps. In a perfect storm of athletic brilliance, otherworldly hype and a 17-swim, nine-day marathon of competition, Michael Phelps put together the most incredible Olympics ever.

On Sunday morning here, his powerful butterfly gave the Americans the lead in the 400-meter medley relay. Phelps then watched teammate Jason Lezak bring it home to give him a perfect eight-for-eight Beijing Games, surpassing Mark Spitz for most golds in one Olympics and doing what many thought was impossible.

“When someone says you can’t do something, it shows that anything is possible,” Phelps said. “When you put your mind to a certain thing, it can happen. The biggest thing is nothing is impossible. All it takes is an imagination.”

Over the last two weekends Phelps has changed the face of swimming. NBC ratings surged with his nightly heroics, fans flocked to all coverage of the sport and an athlete in a pool – not on a track, a balance beam or a basketball court – became the face of these games.

You didn’t need to even know how to swim to appreciate the greatness of Michael Phelps.

On Saturday night back in America, the Baltimore Ravens, Phelps’ hometown team, showed his eighth gold medal race on the stadium Jumbotron. It wasn’t simply something cool to do; it was born out of fear that fans would have left early or not shown up at all if the team didn’t.

Swimming in an NFL stadium?

“My big goal is to change the sport of swimming,” Phelps said.

Phelps is always looking for bigger and better goals, which is why embracing the eight golds here was so appealing to him. Athletically, he probably can’t do more. Phelps not only won them all but he was also a part of seven world records in the process.

Spitz’s mark stood 36 years and, considering the increased world competition in the sport, was considered unsurpassable until Phelps came along with a wing span three inches longer than his 6-foot-5 body.

“I really wanted to do something that no one’s ever done before in this sport,” Phelps said.

“The term ‘Spitzian feat’ may be outdated,” teammate Aaron Peirsol said. “It may now be ‘Phelpsian feat.’ ”

Phelps would make no such bold comment. Even as Spitz had taken some shots at him from afar and other swimmers had tried to get in his head with some comments, he carried himself with class and dignity.

If anything, he just wouldn’t lose his concentration. It wasn’t just his power and speed that made this happen, it was mental focus.

He didn’t just have to come to the pool each morning and swim faster than the rest of the world. He had to take the day-in, day-out grind of the competition. These nine days seemed endless, one more challenge after the other, no room for the slightest of slip-ups.

Meanwhile, everyone else ganged up on him. They all wanted to be the one to defeat Michael Phelps, so they geared up in their individual specialties, giving them their best for one day and then letting someone else take a shot at him the next.

“Everyone on the planet is trying to make him work, giving him obstacles,” said Milorad Cavic, the Californian who swam for Croatia.

Cavic came closest to defeating him, losing by one hundredth of a second in the 100-meter butterfly and forcing Phelps to make a dramatic and truly most last second of comebacks.

“It’s been nothing but an upward rollercoaster,” Phelps said. “It’s been nothing but fun.”

The truth was Phelps couldn’t lose here. He simply wouldn’t lose here.

Couple that duel with Cavic and the wild comeback in the 4×100 free relay, and Phelps didn’t just smash records and cruise to gold, he turned swimming into an edge-of-your-seat, must-watch event.

“The whole things, every race, one after the other from winning by one-hundredth of a second (Saturday) to finishing it off with a world record, it’s the most amazing experience and something I’ll have forever,” Phelps said.

Whether swimming really changes or not isn’t the issue. It was Phelps’ individual genius that was on display here, putting him in the discussion as the greatest Olympian of all time even as his career still has at least one more games to go.

When it’s all said and done, he could wind up with 20 gold medals in his career, a haul almost too big to comprehend.

That’s Phelps, though, always looking for more, always wondering what else could be accomplished.

By the time Lezak touched the pad here Sunday, the impossible had become possible. Phelps challenged the world, carried the weight of it on his shoulders and now, at last, Spitz’s gold standard was gone.

Victory and history in Beijing.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Phelps said.

They gave him another medal, cranked up a final “Star-Spangled Banner” and as he looked over at his mother and sisters in the crowd he finally did something new.

He broke down and cried.


Michael Phelps wins record 8th Olympic gold

Michael Phelps wades through the media throng Sunday at the Water Cube, wearing his eighth gold medal of the Beijing Olympics. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Michael Phelps has gone where no Olympian has gone before.

Phelps swam to his record eighth gold medal of the Beijing Games on Sunday, propelling the U.S. team to a hard-fought victory in the 4×100 medley relay.

With their 23-year-old star pushing them into the lead on the third (butterfly) leg, the Americans touched home in 3:29.34, lowering by 1.34 seconds their own world record set in 2004 in Athens.

“I don’t even know what to feel right now,” said Phelps, who will return to his hometown of Baltimore, Md., with 14 Olympic golds to his name — five more than anyone else in history.

“There’s so much emotion going through my head and so much excitement. I kind of just want to see my mom.”

Debbie Phelps sat flanked by her two daughters in the stands at Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre, tears streaming down her face after the race and during the ensuing medal ceremony.

Australia took the silver in 3:30.04 after 100 freestyle world-record holder Eamon Sullivan came up short on his bid to catch American Jason Lezak on the anchor leg.

Japan got the bronze in 3:31.18.

‘Dream come true’

Phelps’s eighth win in as many events at the Water Cube bumped fellow American Mark Spitz’s name off the mark he had held since the 1972 Olympics. Spitz captured seven titles in seven races in Munich, a feat many said couldn’t be topped.

“Everything went as planned. Everything went as I wanted to,” Phelps told CBC Sports. “I couldn’t have asked for anything different.

“It’s a dream come true.”

There’s some consolation for Spitz in that Phelps merely matched the seven world records Spitz set in Munich. Phelps’s bid to go 8-for-8 in that department ended on Saturday when he captured his seventh gold but could “only” manage an Olympic record in winning the 100 butterfly.

The drama of that race — Phelps roared back from seventh place at the turn to edge Serbia’s Milorad Cavic by 1-100th of a second, the smallest unit of time swimmers are measured by — lent Sunday’s relay the air of a coronation, especially with the U.S. team being heavily favoured to claim its 12th consecutive Olympic title in the event.

But once the swimmers hit the pool there was no shortage of excitement as the American front end of backstroker Aaron Peirsol and breaststroker Brendan Hansen couldn’t open up a lead.

Phelps fixed that by rallying from third place to get to the wall first on the butterfly leg, and Lezak brought home the gold as he did in the photo-finish 4×100 freestyle on Monday.

“Without the help of my teammates this isn’t possible,” said Phelps, who won five individual races and three relays in Beijing.

“I was able to be a part of three relays and we were able to put up a solid team effort and we came together as one unit,” he said. “For the three Olympics I’ve been a part of, this is by far the closest men’s team that we’ve ever had. I didn’t know everybody coming into this Olympics, but I feel going out I know every single person very well.

“The team that we had is the difference.”


Phelps wins 8th gold medal, breaks tie with Spitz

BEIJING (AP)—Michael Phelps won his record eighth gold medal Sunday at the Beijing Olympics as a member of the victorious U.S. 400-meter medley relay team, breaking a tie with Mark Spitz for most golds in a single games.

Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, Phelps and Jason Lezak won in a world-record of 3 minutes, 29.34 seconds, lowering the old mark of 3:30.68 set four years ago in Athens.

The U.S. swept the men’s relays in Beijing, with Phelps leading off in the 400 and 800 free relays. Lezak anchored the 400 free to a narrow victory over France to preserve Phelps’ historic bid.

Australia took the silver in 3:30.04.

Japan earned the bronze in 3:31.18.


Teammates Lift Phelps to Record 8th Gold

By KAREN CROUSE – New York Times

BEIJING — With the help of his teammates on Sunday, Michael Phelps surpassed Mark Spitz, 36 years after Spitz’s record haul of seven gold medals at the Munich Games. The United States won the 4×100-meter medley relay in 3:29.34, a world record, for Phelps’ eighth gold medal of the Beijing Games.

Phelps swam the third — the butterfly — leg of the relay. His teammates were Aaron Peirsol (backstroke), Brendan Hansen (breaststroke) and Jason Lezak (freestyle).

How fabulous was Phelps’s feat? At Sunday’s start, Phelps would have ranked fourth in gold medals, ahead of all but 14 countries in the medal count. Every time Phelps dived into the water for a final here, the ripples extended into every corner of the Water Cube. On Friday, Andrew Lauterstein of Australia won the bronze medal in the 100 butterfly. Standing on the medals podium alongside Phelps, Lauterstein said he was thrilled to have had a cameo role in this recording of history.

Phelps had won his seventh gold medal on Saturday in dramatic fashion in the 100-meter butterfly, by out-touching Serbia’s Milorad Cavic.

Phelps was timed in 50.58, a personal best and an Olympic record. Cavic, a California-Berkeley graduate, was one-hundredth of a second behind. Phelps had caught Spitz by a whisker, tying Spitz’s record haul from the 1972 Munich Games and earning a $1 million bonus from Speedo, one of his sponsors.

With the win, he tied Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in one Olympics. His first six golds were all world records, but No. 7 came down to grit.

About two hours after the 100-meter butterfly, NBC’s Bob Costas interviewed Spitz, via satellite from Detroit, and Phelps, who was still poolside. Spitz said he had wondered what he would say at this monumental time.

“The word that comes to mind is epic,” Spitz said. “What you did tonight was epic, and it was epic for the whole world to see how great you really are.

“I never thought for one moment that you were out of that race,” he added. “That is a tribute to your greatness.”

Spitz went on to talk about role models, and how he admires Phelps not only for his swimming abilities, but also for the type of person he is.

“You weren’t born when I did what I did, and I’m sure I was a part of your inspiration, and I take that as a full compliment,” Spitz said. “They say that you judge one’s character by the company you keep, and I’m certainly happy to keep company with you.”

Phelps responded with admiration for Spitz, the man whose record he has been chasing for several years. In Athens four years ago, Phelps won six golds and two bronzes.

“There have been so many greats who have come before me, and what Mark did is still amazing,” he said. “It’s a very hard thing to accomplish. I think it shows whatever you put your mind to, you really can accomplish.

“When Mark won seven, he put his mind to something and he did everything he could to get there, and it’s the same thing with me.”

**************************************

Phelps wins record 8th Olympic gold

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Michael Phelps has gone where no Olympian has gone before.

Phelps swam to his record eighth gold medal of the Beijing Games on Sunday, propelling the U.S. team to victory in the 4×100 medley relay.

With their 23-year-old star pushing them into the lead on the third (butterfly) leg, the Americans touched home in 3:29.34, breaking their own world record set in 2004 in Athens.

Australia took the silver and Japan the bronze.


Phelps will need team effort to make history

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

After tying the Olympic record in the most exciting fashion imaginable, a record eighth gold medal for Michael Phelps could be a mere formality on Day 9 in Beijing, provided the U.S. men’s 4×100 medley team don’t botch their exchanges.

It would take the first medley defeat of a United States men’s squad in Olympic history for Phelps not to surpass Mark Spitz’s hallowed mark of seven golds at a single Games, set in 1972..

The Americans set the record for the event at the 2004 Athens Games and at least two of those men, and possibly three, will be helping Phelps in his bid.

The historic race, which will finish off the swimming competition at the National Aquatics Centre, is scheduled to go at 10:58 p.m. ET on Saturday

It is widely believed among observers of the sport that only Australia has a shot at upsetting the best-laid plans of Phelps and his teammates.

Phelps tied Spitz’s mark early Saturday by extending his six-foot-four frame to trip the timer just 1-100th of a second ahead of Serbia’s Milorad Cavic, who was born in California.

It was the second time during his quest that Phelps needed to be more than merely awesome. During the 4×100 freestyle relay, teammate Jason Lezak overtook France in the final leg for gold.

Lezak will likely again be the man who will finish things off one way or another on Sunday, swimming the final leg. Phelps will swim third in the butterfly leg.

The Americans will be led off by Aaron Peirsol, who won the fourth gold of his Olympic career and added a silver in backstroke events earlier in the week.

Brendan Hansen will probably be second with the breaststroke, even though for the second straight Games he failed to gain an individual medal in the breaststroke, where he has set world records.

Mark Gangloff swam the breaststroke leg Thursday in the prelim in Beijing, with Ian Crocker also swimming.

Crocker bore the brunt of shame at the world championships in Melbourne in 2007, taking off too early to disqualify the Americans in the preliminary round.

Australia took the gold at that event, with Brenton Rickard, Andrew Lauterstein and Eamonn Sullivan the swimmers from that final who will be back on the blocks in the Beijing nightcap. Hayden Stoeckel could round out the team.

The U.S. edged Australia for the best time in the semis, in a time of three minutes, 32.75 seconds, with both countries using their alternates.

American Matt Grevers, who swam the backstroke, told a reporter he doesn’t foresee a repeat of Melbourne with so much history on the line.

“I don’t think we’ll be allowed to leave China if we get a DQ,” Grevers said.

Phelps will be pitted against Lauterstein in the third leg.

Sullivan broke the 100 freestyle record earlier in the Beijing competition, so how much his Australian teammates do for him in the first three legs will be critical. Lezak could hold an insurmountable lead.

Rounding out the field are Japan, Russia, New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Great Britain.

The world and Olympic record set by the U.S. in Athens was 3:30.68.

Hackett bid overshadowed

Other remarkable feats are possible in the pool on Day 9.

In the 1,500 metre freestyle, Australian Grant Hackett can become the first man to win an individual event at three consecutive Olympics.

Dawn Fraser of Australia performed the feat on the women’s side in the 100 free between 1956 and 1964.

Ryan Cochrane of Victoria, B.C., had the second best time in the semis behind Hackett. Larsen Jensen of the United States is also a medal contender.

Canada will compete in the 4×100 women’s medley relay after qualifying eighth. Swimming in the semis were Julia Wilkinson of Stratford, Ont., Audrey Lacroix of Pont-Rouge, Que., Erica Morningstar of Calgary, and Edmonton’s Annamay Pierse.

Australia are the defending world champions, with the U.S. and Great Britain also expected to be in contention.

Dara Torres will try to win an individual medal at age 41 in the women’s 50 freestyle. Torres had the fastest time in the semis but will be tested by Australia’s Libby Trickett and Cate Campbell.

Torres won silver last week as part of the 4×100 freestyle team — her fifth medal over five Olympics dating back to the 1984 Los Angeles Games — surpassing a century-old mark as the oldest swimmer to win an Olympic medal.


Phelps swims into history, winning 7th gold medal

By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP National Writer

BEIJING (AP)—His Olympics looking lost, Michael Phelps decided to flap those gangly arms one more time.

Milorad Cavic, inches from spoiling it all, glided along just under the surface, convinced he had won gold.

But it didn’t matter who was fastest. Just first.

Phelps swam into history with a magnificent finish Saturday, tying Mark Spitz with his seventh gold medal by the narrowest of margins in the 100-meter butterfly.

One-hundredth of a second, the time it takes lightning to strike the ground.

Whew!

“Dream as big as you can dream and anything is possible,” Phelps said. “I am sort of in a dream world. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure it is real.”

Call it the Great Haul of China—and it’s not done yet. Phelps has one more race on Sunday, which will likely complete his coronation as the greatest Olympian ever.

Spitz already ceded the title.

“It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time,” said the icon of the 1972 Munich Games. “He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.”

The finish was so close the Serbian delegation filed a protest and swimming’s governing body had to review the tape down to the 10-thousandth of a second.

Phelps thought he lost—until he saw the “1” beside his name on the scoreboard.

“When I did chop the last stroke, I thought that had cost me the race,” he said. “But it was actually the opposite. If I had glided, I would have been way too long. I took short, faster strokes to try to get my hand on the wall. I ended up making the right decision.”

Phelps’ time was 50.58 seconds, the only time in these Olympics that he won an event without breaking the world record.

Not to worry. The 23-year-old from Baltimore has now pulled even with the greatest of Olympic records.

“One word: epic,” Spitz told The Associated Press from Detroit. “I’m so proud of what he’s been able to do. I did what I did and it was in my day in those set of circumstances. For 36 years it stood as a benchmark. I’m just pleased that somebody was inspired by what I had done. He’s entitled to every second of what’s occurring to him now.

“I feel a tremendous load off my back.”

Phelps will return on Sunday to swim in his final event of these games, taking the butterfly leg of the 400 medley relay. The Americans will be heavily favored to give him his eighth gold, leaving Spitz behind.

Phelps slapped his hands on the water and let out a scream after the astonishing finish. The crowd at the Water Cube gasped—it looked as though Cavic had won—then roared when the “1” popped up beside the American’s name.

Cavic’s time was 50.59.

The Serbian delegation filed a protest, but conceded that Phelps won after reviewing the tape provided by FINA, swimming’s governing body. USA Swimming spokeswoman Jamie Olsen said the tape was slowed to one frame every 10-thousandth of a second to make sure Phelps actually touched first.

It was impossible to tell on regular-speed replays.

“We filed the protest but it is already over,” said Branislav Jevtic, Serbia’s chief of mission for all sports. “They examined the video and I think the case is closed. The video says (Phelps) finished first.

“In my opinion, it’s not right, but we must follow the rules. Everybody saw what happened.”

FINA referee Ben Ekumbo of Kenya said there was no doubt who won after a review of the super-slow replay.

“It was very clear that the Serbian swimmer touched second after Michael Phelps,” he said. “One was stroking and one was gliding.”

Cavic still wasn’t sure he actually lost, but said he would accept FINA’s ruling.

“I’m stoked with what happened,” Cavic said. “I don’t want to fight this. People will be bringing this up for years and saying you won that race. If we got to do this again, I would win it.”

Cavic watched the replay himself.

“It’s kind of hard to see,” he said. “I know I had a long finish and Michael Phelps had a short finish.”

A notoriously slow starter—Phelps was seventh out of eight at the turn— he really turned it on with the return lap, his long arms gobbling up huge chunks of water as he closed the gap on Cavic and fellow American Ian Crocker, the world record-holder.

As they approached the finish, with Phelps’ head in line with Cavic’s shoulder, the Serb took his final big stroke and glided underwater toward the gold. Phelps, his timing a bit off but fully aware of where he was, did another mini-stroke, propelling his upper body out of the water, swooping his arms in a huge circular motion and slamming the wall with his hands on the follow-through.

Phelps watched the replay on the video board, then saw it again in the massage area.

“I saw it slow down frame by frame,” he said. “It’s almost too close to see.”

It was reminiscent of the 100 fly finish at Athens four years ago, where Crocker appeared to have the race won but Phelps got him at the wall by 0.04.

“I thought four one-hundredths was close and I was shocked then,” Phelps said. “I’m even more shocked now than I was then. One-hundredth is the smallest margin of victory in our sport. I guess it’s pretty cool.”

Makes that 400 free relay, in which Jason Lezak chased down France’s Alain Bernard to win by eight-hundredths of a second, look like a blowout.

“My last two Olympics I’ve been able to nail my finishes, and it’s been by four one-hundredths and one one-hundredths,” Phelps said. “I’m happy and kind of at a loss for words.”

As if Phelps needed any extra motivation, his coach, Bob Bowman, took note of Cavic’s reported comments a day earlier that it would be best for the sport if the American lost.

On their way to breakfast, Bowman brought it up.

“I wasn’t going to at first, then I was saying to myself, ‘This race is going to be very tight and I’m going to use everything I got,’ so I put it out there,” Bowman said, chuckling. “Maybe it was worth a hundredth.”

Just enough.

“It fires me up more than anything,” Phelps said. “I always welcome comments. It definitely motivates me even more.”

Cavic didn’t leave anything to chance, either. Right before the race, coach Mike Bottom shaved a few stray hairs off the back of his swimmer’s neck, looking for any edge he could get.

Phelps collected a $1 million bonus that Speedo, one of his sponsors, first offered four years ago if he could tie or break Spitz’s record. Phelps failed to cash in at the Athens Games, where he won six golds and two bronzes, but he got it on his second try.

What’s left? Already the winningest Olympian ever with 13 golds and most likely a 14th before he leaves Beijing, Phelps will have another thing to shoot for at the 2012 London Games. Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina captured a record 18 medals in her career: nine golds, five silvers and four bronzes.

“My big goal is to change the sport of swimming,” Phelps said. “I am sure Bob and I can think of some more goals in the next four years.”

Phelps set world records in his first six events, some of them by ridiculously large margins. He merely settled for a personal best and Olympic record in the 100 fly, which will at least give Spitz’s supporters some reason to gloat: all seven of his wins in Munich were with world records.

But, like Spitz, Phelps is 7-for-7 with a chance for one more.

Or maybe that should be 6.99-for-7.

Andrew Lauterstein of Australia won the bronze medal in 51.12. Expected to be Phelps’ main challenger, Crocker was again denied the first individual gold of his career. He didn’t even win a medal, finishing fourth by a hundredth of a second in 51.13.

“It was a tight one,” Crocker said. “I saw my short differential between getting a medal or not, but then I realized Michael’s was pretty close, too. I’m really glad that he came out on top.

“It was everything that an Olympic final should be. It doesn’t matter who’s in the heats, you just got to get out and race and it’s anybody’s game. It was one of the more intense races that I’ve been in, which makes it a great way to end the meet.”

While the medley relay figures to be nothing more than a coronation, Phelps isn’t ready to talk about No. 8.

“It’s not over yet,” he said. “I really think the Australian team looks great for the relay. It’s going to be a race.”

Lauterstein was just thrilled to be part of history.

“It was an amazing final,” he said. “Every time you race Phelps, you’ll have a great race and a great time. Just hearing his arms slap on the block gets your heart racing, he’s amazing.”

Those arms sure came in handy Saturday.


Phelps matches Spitz with 7th Olympic gold

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Mark Spitz, make room for one more.

The American swimming legend has company for his record for most gold medals in a single Olympics after Michael Phelps captured the men’s 100-metre butterfly on Saturday in Beijing.

Phelps, also of the U.S., clocked an Olympic-record 50.58 seconds to win by the narrowest of margins, 1-100th of a second over Milorad Cavic of Serbia. Andrew Lauterstein of Australia got the bronze in 51.12.

With the victory, Phelps matched Spitz’s storied mark of seven titles set at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Spitz maintained one edge on Phelps: The 23-year-old native of Baltimore, Md., failed to set his seventh world record of the Beijing Games in his gold medal swim. Spitz won each of his gold medals in Munich in world-record time.

Phelps, though, has an excellent chance at an unprecendented eighth title in the 4×100 medley relay, where his U.S. team will be a heavy favourite in Sunday’s final.

The U.S. has never lost the event in 11 tries at the Olympics. Australia took gold at the 1980 Moscow Games, which the Americans boycotted.


Phelps Ties Spitz’s Record With 7th Gold

New York Times: Olympic Edition

Published: August 15, 2008

BEIJING — Michael Phelps has caught Mark Spitz, 36 years after Spitz’s record haul of seven gold medals at the Munich Games. Now it may take only a day for Spitz to be left behind.

Phelps won the 100-meter butterfly Saturday morning, barely out-touching Milorad Cavic of Croatia in 50.58 to claim his seventh gold medal of the Beijing Games. On Sunday, Phelps will swim the third leg — the butterfly leg — of the 4×100 medley relay with a chance to set himself apart in Olympic history with eight golds. This was Phelps’ toughest race yet, but when he touched the wall, he had his 13th career gold medal, elevating his own record set Friday with a victory in the 200-meter individual medley.

Phelps came to Beijing with heavy expectations on his shoulders. He had won six golds and two bronze medals in the 2004 Games in Athens, falling short of his goal. But in Beijing, when the pressure is on, Phelps seems to turn it on.

He smashed his world record in the 400-meter individual medley on Sunday and set an American record on his leadoff 100 in the Americans’ record-setting 4×100 freestyle relay on Monday. He also set records in the 200-meter butterfly, the 4×200-meter freestyle relay and the 200-meter individual medley.

Phelps is finished with individual races in Beijing. Now the eighth gold medal is somewhat out of his control; he’ll stand on the deck as a cheerleader for his teammates’ legs of his last event, the 400 medley relay, on Sunday morning.

The relay features swimming’s four disciplines — backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle. Things can go wrong. At the 2007 world championships in Melbourne, Australia, Crocker left too soon in the butterfly leg and the United States was disqualified.

Phelps has commanded attention throughout much of the world for his performances here, but the buzz is curiously mild in Beijing. He is hardly the star attraction, at least among fans on the Olympic Green and the news media. Coverage of his races is often tucked deep inside the sports pages, and the American athletes who garner most of the attention are the N.B.A. starts like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Michael Phelps also wins a bonus of $1 million dollars from Speedo for his medal achievement.


Ryan Lochte

BEIJING – AUGUST 15: (L-R) Bronze medalist Arkady Vyatchanin of Russia, gold medalist Ryan Lochte of the United States and silver medalist Aaron Peirsol of the United States pose during the medal ceremony for the Men’s 200m Backstroke Final at the National Aquatics Center on Day 7 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 15, 2008 in Beijing, China. Lochte won in a new world record time of 1:53.94 (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

US swimmer Ryan Lochte poses with his gold medal after the medal ceremomy for the men’s 200m backstroke final at the National Aquatics Center at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing on August 15, 2008. Lochte broke the men’s 200m backstroke world record in winning Olympic gold in 1min 53.94sec. AFP PHOTO / GREG WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

BEIJING – AUGUST 15: Gold medalist Ryan Lochte of the United States listens to the national anthem from the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men’s 200m Backstroke Final at the National Aquatics Center on Day 7 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 15, 2008 in Beijing, China. Lochte won in a new world record time of 1:53.94 (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)


Seventh heaven for Phelps?

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Michael Phelps’s bid to tie the record of seven gold medals at a single Olympics on Day 8 will likely face the greatest opposition, if any, from two swimmers born in America, one of whom is representing Serbia.

Phelps can tie the record established by Mark Spitz at the 1972 Munich Games with a win in the 100-metre butterfly at the Beijing Aquatic Center. The final is set for 10:10 p.m. ET on Friday.

Phelps made it six gold medals — and six world records — blowing away Ryan Lochte and the rest of competition in the 200-metre individual medley on Day 7.

Not that Phelps needed the help, but Lochte had just won gold in the 200 backstroke in world-record time about a half hour earlier.

Most observers are eyeing countryman and current world 100m butterfly record holder Ian Crocker as the man who can derail the quest for history, but not Gary Hall Jr.

Hall, who has won 10 Olympic medals and five gold in his career but didn’t qualify this year, is picking Milorad Cavic of Serbia.

Cavic set an Olympic record in the preliminary heat with a time of 50.76 seconds. He also had the top time in the semis, at 50.92.

The Serb’s result helps heighten interest for the final even more after Phelps and Crocker had collectively held the top 17 swims ever in the event heading into Beijing.

“An upset would be the upset of all upsets, it’s true, but I think Mike [Milorad] can beat Michael,” Hall said Friday in a column for the Los Angeles Times.

Cavic, 23, was born in Anaheim and attended the University of California at Berkeley.

The six-foot-five Cavic, who has battled back problems in the past, said in a posting on his website Friday: “So here I am, in the eve of battle, feeling physically better than ever with a chance to show the world and myself what I’ve worked so hard for. I’m feeling good … and I’m excited, so here we go.”

Baltimore native Phelps may not be feeling “better than ever” but he appears in as good shape as a man can be after 15 elite races in seven days.

Crocker looking to turn tide

Within an hour of winning medal No. 6, Phelps came back to win his semifinal butterfly heat in a time of 50.97 seconds.

“I have to conserve as much physical and emotional energy as I can now that I’m down to the last two races,” Phelps told reporters afterward.

The potential record-breaking race for Phelps is Sunday when he is due to take part in the men’s 4×100 medley for the United States.

Crocker beat Phelps at the 2003 and 2005 world championships, setting a world record in the latter meet in Montreal in the process (50.40).

Recent history, however, hasn’t suggested Crocker will pull off the Olympic upset, despite this being his only event in Beijing.

The two were involved in a similar scenario at the U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb. In the last of his eight events at the trials, Phelps was the one fresher at the end, overtaking a brief Crocker lead to win in a time of 50.89.

The turning point in the rivalry between them seems to have been the 2007 championships in Melbourne. Phelps edged Crocker by 0.05 seconds to win the butterfly, and heading into Beijing had posted the three fastest times of 2008.

Crocker said he is not getting caught up in history or past results.

“You can start by not worrying about what everybody else thinks,” Crocker said. “Nobody knows what I’ve really gone through in the last eight years and what has gotten me to this point, besides myself and a few people that I know well. So it’s my own personal deal at this point.”

Crocker was second to Phelps in the semifinal heat despite being the more rested, but it may well have been a tactical move. The Portland, Me., native shared the third-best qualifying time, with Australia’s Andrew Lauterstein.

Spitz has been complimentary of Phelps although he has also said he would have taken eight gold in Munich had the 50m freestyle been in existence. Of the many swimmers Spitz defeated at the 1972 Games, one was Gary Hall Sr.

With two days of swimming left, the powerful U.S. team has piled up 25 medals, including 10 golds.