Phelps collects 6th gold medal, closes in on Spitz's record

Friday, August 15, 2008

BEIJING — Look out, Mark Spitz. Get the check ready, Speedo. Michael Phelps is closing in — quickly, of course.

Phelps made it 6-for-6 in winning gold medals, and in setting world records, by taking the 200-meter individual medley earlier today. If he wins either of his last two races, he'll join Spitz as the only Olympians to win seven golds at one Summer Games and cash a $1 million bonus from his sponsor.

Win 'em both and Phelps will stand alone as the greatest Olympic champ for both a single games and for his career. This was his 12th gold, pulling him farther from Spitz and three others with nine. At only 23, he could end up doubling the longstanding career mark at London in 2012. Who would bet against him after this week?

He led this race from the start, more than a half-second under the world record by the first turn. Hungary's Laszo Cseh kept the heat on over the next two half-laps, but there was no stopping Phelps when he took off on the final leg, the freestyle. He was soon up by a body-length and the only question was who would take second. Cseh held off American Ryan Lochte by 0.01, giving the Hungarian three runner-ups to Phelps at these games.

Lochte might've been gassed because a half-hour earlier he set a world record in winning the 200 backstroke. Teammate Aaron Peirsol was second. Peirsol and Lochte had shared the world record.

Rebecca Soni took the women's version, also in a world-record time. Soni added gold to the silver she won in the 100. Natalie Coughlin got the bronze in the 100 freestyle.

The heavy medal haul at the Water Cube upped the U.S. team total to 40, pulling away from China's 35. But the hosts can be proud of their 22 gold medals, which remains more than the total prizes for every other delegation but the Americans.

Day 7 in Beijing began under nice weather, the air scrubbed clean by the rain that discombobulated Thursday's schedule. That also made things pleasant for the 90,000 or so folks headed to the Bird's Nest for the start of track and field events.

American Tyson Gay easily made it through the first round of the 100-meter dash. World record-holder Usain Bolt and fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell also advanced with ease, winning their heats. The quarterfinals were set for tonight. The final is Saturday night.

Tennis

So much for a men's final between Federer and Rafael Nadal. Or the Williams sisters meeting in the women's final.

Blake, had won only a single set in his previous eight matches with Federer, knocked him out 6-4, 7-6 (2). Blake is the only American left in men's singles.

"If you play him enough times, he's bound to have an off day," Blake said.

Federer leaves with his third straight Olympic disappointment. He also goes away knowing his 4-year reign as the world No. 1 will end next week, replaced by Spain's Nadal.

Serena Williams overcame two match points, but ultimately lost to Elena Dementieva 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Li Na beat Venus Williams 7-5, 7-5.

Top-seeded Mike and Bob Bryan advanced to the semifinals in doubles by beating Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione of Australia 6-4, 6-3.

Men's basketball

The redemption the U.S. men's team is seeking won't come until gold medals are hanging around their necks. Still, beating Greece felt darn good.

Mixing passion with unmatchable athleticism, the Americans went up by 19 points before halftime on the way to an easy 92-69 victory. Kobe Bryant and Chris Bosh each scored 18 points, Dwyane Wade had 17 and LeBron James 13.

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