Phelps ready for another shot at Spitz’s Olympic record

July 15th, 2008 - 3:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 15 (Xinhua) The 23-year-old American swimming prodigy Michael Phelps would be watched with keen interest as he sets out to break his veteran countryman Mark Spitz’s 36-year-old Olympic record in the quadrennial event here next month. Philips last week registered his fifth win at the U.S. Olympic trials and seeing his form it is expected that Spitz’s record of seven gold medals at one Olympics would soon be broken.

Coming off a historic seven-win performance at last year’s world championships, Phelps is expected to swim eight races in Beijing — the 200-meter freestyle, the 100-meter butterfly, the 200-meter butterfly, the 200-meter individual medley, the 400-meter individual medley, the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, 4×200-meter freestyle relay, and the 4×100-meter medley relay.

Phelps had the chance to break Spitz’s record four years ago in Athens, where he competed in the same eight swimming events. However, with six gold medals and eight overall, he narrowly missed out.

As Beijing Olympics draws near, expectations on Phelps are mounting. But the swimmer is unruffled. “You guys talk about that,” Phelps told reporters, referring to Spitz’s record. “I just get in the water and do what I love to do, and that’s compete.”

In contrast to Phelps’ seemingly nonchalance, Spitz, the man Phelps is chasing after, seemed to be very convinced that his legendary record would be broken by the young swimming prodigy.

“What do I project for Michael Phelps in Beijing?” Spitz, the star of the 1972 Munich Games, told the Associated Press. “A success story for all times sake.”

At the age of 15, Phelps competed at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney as the youngest American male swimmer at an Olympic Games in 68 years. While he did not win a medal, he was fifth in the 200-meter Butterfly.

The following years witnessed the fast rise of Phelps. Five months after the Sydney Olympics, Phelps broke the world record in the 200-meter butterfly to become, at 15 years and 9 months, the youngest man ever to set a swimming world record. Since then, breaking world record has become a routine to Phelps.

As of July, 2008, Phelps has set 25 world records (22 individuals and 3 relays), approaching the record held by Spitz of 33 world records (26 individual and 7 relay). The last two, in 200m and 400m individual medley, were set at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials days ago.

Phelps’s international titles, along with his various world records, have resulted in his being named World Swimmer of the Year four times — in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Although Spitz has pointed out several hurdles to Phelps in Beijing, including the performances of other swimmers in relay events, many believe that Phelps now is closer to the target than he was in Athens.

In Athens, Ian Thorpe of Australia was a formidable obstacle. The Australian successfully halted Phelps’s gold rush by snatching the gold in men’s 200-meter freestyle. With Thorpe’s retirement, it seems that no one could be a threat to Phelps.

In Beijing, Phelps is expected to swim in the only individual event in which he doesn’t hold the world record. Fellow American Ian Crocker is the current world record holder of the 100-meter butterfly, but Phelps has won 12 of 16 races against Crocker, including the last four.

Phelps said there are still a few little things he could work on between now and the Olympics so that he would be “able to nail the finish and have better turns.”

“At the Olympics, it’s going to be harder than it was here,” Phelps was quoted as saying after the Olympic trials. “Hopefully, it’s something I can be successful at.”

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