Michael Phelps celebrates after winning the 200-meter freestyle and breaking his own world record with a time of 1 minute, 42.96 seconds. (AP photo / August 12, 2008)
It's time we overhauled our language as it concerns Phelps. We can no longer talk about his quest. It's not a chase, it's not a dream and it's not simply a goal, either.
Eight gold medals at the Olympics? Let's just start calling it what it is: Phelps' destiny. There's no denying it now: His path is paved in gold. He is going to do it. Phelps is going to leave here with eight golds.
He picked up his third of these Games, winning the 200-meter freestyle in impressive fashion, breaking his world record by nearly a second and beating the field by so much that he was practically dried off before any of the other swimmers hit the wall.
With today's win in the 200 free, Phelps has come out of the water golden in both events he lost in Greece. The fact that he was able to improve in both races over the course of four years speaks volumes about Phelps as a competitor.
Losing a race -- any race -- haunts Phelps. A tenth of a second could sting for years. So it should be no surprise that as Phelps left Athens, he specifically set out to exorcise the demons that kept him from gold four years ago.
The 200 freestyle was the only individual event that Phelps lost in Athens, finishing behind Australia's Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands in what is commonly referred to as the "Race of the Century."
Though Thorpe has retired, it's still incredible how thoroughly Phelps now dominates this event. Phelps isn't racing against other competitors here in Beijing; he's racing against himself.
You can just feel it around the pool. There's a special energy that glows around Phelps, an undeniable sense of destiny and fate emanating from him.
In fact, it feels as if Phelps has already won eight gold medals. And if other swimmers at these Games want one of them, they're going to have to take it from him.
-- Rick Maese
Silver: Park Tae Hwan, South Korea
Bronze: Peter Vanderkaay, USA
Time: 1:42.96, WR
Previous world record: 1:43.86 (Phelps)
Key to the victory: Phelps started fast and dared anyone to catch him. Nobody could.
Highlight: The victory gave him nine gold medals for his career, tying him with fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz, U.S. track star Carl Lewis, Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina and Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi for the most gold medals of all time.
Quote: "I wanted to jump on the first 100 just to see what happened." -- Phelps