Michael Phelps’ Record Breaking Eight Gold Medals in Beijing | The Olympics on the Record

Michael Phelps’ Record Breaking Eight Gold Medals in Beijing | The Olympics on the Record


It was the big talking point on the eve of the Beijing
2008 Olympic Games. Could Michael Phelps match the
achievements of his compatriot, the great American swimmer
Mark Spitz? At Munich 1972,
Spitz dominated in the pool, winning an unprecedented
seven gold medals. But 36 years later, Phelps was
planning an assault of his own. Emulating Spitz would require Phelps to compete 17
races in nine days, swimming against
the best in the world. Ian Thorpe, the Australian
who won three gold medals at Sydney 2000,
thought Phelps couldn’t do it. Thorpe was Phelps’s boyhood
hero. He had his poster
on his bedroom wall. Phelps didn’t like being told what he could and could not
achieve, and used Thorpe’s words
as a motivational tool… ..because so far in Phelps’s
young life, normal rules did not apply. Just look at some of the
numbers. Phelps made his Olympic debut
at 15 years old, finishing fifth in
the 200m butterfly in Sydney. He was the youngest male
swimmer to represent his country
at the Olympics for 68 years. Seven months later, still aged
15, Phelps set a new world record
in the 200m butterfly, the youngest male ever to set
a swimming world record. He grew to 6’4″
with a wingspan of 6’7″, bigger than a fully-grown
golden eagle, and size 14 shoes. He had only one coach, Bob
Bowman, who said Phelps didn’t miss a training session
for six years. Not one single day. A typical training session
included two and a half hours of uninterrupted swimming. Phelps would typically cover
10,000m. To keep going, Phelps ate
at least 8,000 calories a day. At 19, Phelps dominated
the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. He won two team gold medals. He won four individual gold
medals. It was like Spitz in 1972,
almost. Over the next four years, Phelps won a further
13 world titles, setting another nine world
records. Michael Phelps – no name
had frightened other swimmers this much since Jaws. But could he match Mark the
Shark? As Phelps lined up
for his first final in Beijing, the world’s media
was there to watch. Maybe this great quest would
end at the first hurdle. The medley tests
a swimmer’s ability in breaststroke, backstroke,
butterfly and freestyle. Phelps set down a marker
in that opening race, winning by a distance and
securing gold in a new world record time. The quest might have ended
with the relay event, but the Americans overturned the favourites in dramatic
style. It was a huge step towards
Phelps’s target. Phelps was defending his 200m
freestyle title from Athens. He also secured an easy win
in the 200m butterfly. A tired Phelps had only 50
minutes before his next race, another relay. Phelps elected to go first,
giving himself no excuse not to empty the
tank. It would prove
a smart strategy, securing gold medal
number five. The individual medley showed
Phelps at his very best. It was maybe the least
surprising win of the entire Games – Phelps hadn’t lost in this
event for eight years. Gold medal number six.
And number seven? Not if Milorad Cavic had
anything to do with it. The 100m butterfly was the
Serb’s event, his speciality. It would prove to be one of the
great races in Olympic history. Cavic led at the turn, with
Phelps back in seventh place. Cavic still looking strong as
they come off the final turn. Crocker in lane six
is close to him and Phelps is making up ground. He was seventh on the turn but he’s coming up really fast
on Cavic. Can Cavic hold him off? Here comes Phelps. Cavic and Phelps are almost
neck and neck now, Phelps still making up ground, neck and neck.
Who is going to touch first? Was it Cavic? It was Phelps! And Phelps gets the gold medal. In the end, Phelps won by
the smallest margin possible – one 1/100th of a second. Phelps had climbed the
mountain. He had matched Spitz, he had won seven gold medals
in a single Olympic Games. And he wasn’t even finished
yet. He swam the third leg
of the 100m relay. Gold medal for the USA, an
eighth gold medal for Phelps. Perhaps the greatest
performance in the history of the Olympic Games. And here’s another number – Phelps received a massive bonus from his sponsors for his
achievement. He used it to start a new
foundation, helping young swimmers.

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