August 24, 2008
Fourth gold: 200 fly -- Aug. 13
Fifth gold: 800 free relay -- Aug. 13
He was breathing hard. His muscles were screaming. His goggles were full of water, and he couldn't see the walls. Michael Phelps was exhausted, and one of his competitors was closing fast. In the stands, his coach looked worried.
It didn't matter. Phelps refused to let his historic quest slip away at the Water Cube, summoning every ounce of energy he had over the final 25 meters to hold on and win the 200-meter butterfly. With that victory, he became the all-time gold-medal winner among Olympic athletes with 10.
"When I was on the awards [podium] for the 200 fly, I started thinking about it, and that's when I started tearing up," Phelps said. "Being at the top, with so many great athletes who have walked in these Olympic Games, is a pretty amazing feeling."
Little more than an hour later, still weary from his first race, he managed to win his 11th gold, leading off the 800 freestyle relay for the United States. The Americans won easily, crushing the previous world record by more than four seconds.
And, after the swims, Phelps has earned more gold medals than any country besides the United States and China at these Games.
But it will be Phelps' gritty, blind win in the 200 butterfly that people will remember.
Phelps stripped off his swim cap and chucked his goggles onto the pool deck after his finish and had to rub his eyes for a few seconds before he could see his time.
"I dove in, and [my goggles] just filled right up with water," Phelps said. "It got worse and worse through the race. Going into the 150 [meter] wall and the finish, I couldn't see the wall. I was just hoping I was winning and hoping I could get my hand on the wall first."
Phelps' march toward history seems almost inevitable at this point, and the marketing campaign to celebrate his achievements is already in full swing. Seconds after the race, Visa broadcast a commercial congratulating Phelps.
-- Kevin Van Valkenburg
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