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Swimmer Michael Phelps Joins Elite Olympic Group


In Beijing, American Michael Phelps has won his third swimming event in as many days, to tie the record for most career Olympic gold medals. Phelps now has nine in his impressive collection. As VOA's Jim Stevenson reports, the U.S. swimmer is nearly certain to surpass that total.

Michael Phelps has now reached a standard of Olympic excellence shared with American track legend Carl Lewis and another U.S. swimming great, Mark Spitz. Runner Paavo Nurmi of Finland (1920-1928) and Soviet Union gymnast Larissa Latynina (1956-1964) also won nine gold medals, each.

After winning the 200-meter freestyle race, Tuesday in Beijing, Phelps took a moment to reflect on his inclusion with some of the greatest athletes ever to compete at the Olympics.

"To be tied for the most Olympic golds of all time with those names in Olympic history - the Olympics have been around for so many years," Phelps said. "It is a pretty amazing accomplishment. I have been able to spend some time with [U.S. track legend] Carl Lewis. And I have exchanged a few words with [American Mark] Spitz here and there. It is pretty amazing."

Also amazing was his performance in his latest race, as he lowered his own world record in the event with a time of 1:42.96 minutes.

Park Tae-hwan trailed in the American's wake by nearly two full seconds (1:44.85). The South Korean touched the wall while Phelps was already looking at the overhead scoreboard. American Peter Vanderkaay claimed the bronze (1:45.14).

The victory avenged a difficult loss for Phelps at that same 200-meter distance, four years ago in Athens.

"I hate to lose," he said. "And, getting third in the 200-meter freestyle four years ago, you know when I do lose in a race like that, circumstance like that, it motivates me to swim faster."

Michael Phelps, 23, goes for two more gold medals, Wednesday, when he swims in the finals of the 200-meter butterfly and 800-meter freestyle relay. Phelps could haul in as many as eight gold medals in Beijing, which would also make him the most decorated athlete at a single games.


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