Phelps, U.S. swimmers dominate |

Phelps, U.S. swimmers dominate

Chris Tomasson
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
AP Photo/Itsuo InouyeUnited States' Michael Phelps shows the gold medal after the men's 200-meter freestyle final during the swimming competitions in the National Aquatics Center at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Tuesday.

BEIJING ” This one was like Secretariat at the 1973 Belmont.

Michael Phelps, the American idol who is becoming an icon, blew away the field today (Monday night, U.S. time) to win the Olympic men’s 200-meter freestyle.

Phelps obliterated his own world record by 0.9 of a second and won by a staggering 1.89 seconds over South Korea’s Taehwan Park.

Consider that of the previous 10 times the world record has been broken in the event, the biggest differential has been 0.67 of a second. Phelps swam in 1 minute, 42.96 seconds to top his previous mark of 1:43.86.

“I couldn’t ask for anything else from my first three medal races,” said Phelps, who won his third gold medal of the Games in his quest to corral eight and break Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven and tied an all-time Olympic mark by winning his ninth overall gold. “We’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do so far. I’m very happy.”

Phelps, who won his third gold in three days with a third world record, highlighted a banner day for American swimmers. Natalie Coughlin, the 2004 winner, became the first swimmer to win a second Olympic 100 women’s backstroke gold. And Aaron Piersol set a world record in winning his second straight Olympic men’s 100 backstroke.

“It was absolutely textbook as far as we’re concerned,” said Piersol, who swam in 52.54 seconds to break his world mark of 52.89. “The U.S. team is really snowballing.”

The Americans sought to make it a sweep of today’s four medal events. But Rebecca Soni came up short in the women’s 100 breast, taking silver in 1:06.73. Australia’s Leisel Jones won gold with an Olympic record 1:05.17.

The Americans took three other medals. Also winning silver was Matt Grevers in the men’s 100 back. Taking bronze were

Peter Vanderkaay in the men’s 100-meter free and Margaret Hoelzer in the women’s 100 back.

Phelps also qualified later for the final of the 200 butterfly. He had the top time with an Olympic record of 1:53.70.

But Phelps’ heavy lifting had been done in the 200 free. He had only the fourth-best qualifying time and began in Lane 6.

Phelps, though, wasted no time in taking over. His lopsided win conjured up memories of Secretariat winning the Belmont in 1973 by a staggering 31 lengths.

“I’m not even halfway done yet,” said Phelps, who continued to downplay his quest for eight golds. “The most important ones are really what’s coming.”

Phelps won the 400 individual medley Sunday and was on the victorious 400 free relay team Monday. In the 200 free, Phelps made up for a disappointing bronze medal in 2004, and his ninth overall gold tied him with Spitz, Carl Lewis, Paavo Nurmi and Larissa Latynina for most ever.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Phelps said.

It might not have been Phelps- like, but Coughlin also breezed. She set an American record of 58.96 seconds to win by 0.23 of a second over Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry, who had set world record of 58.77 on Monday.

“It was a very fast time,” Coughlin said. “When I saw the one by my name, I thought they had made a mistake. Then I saw my name there.”

Fellow repeater Peirsol became the fourth man in Olympic history to have won the 100 back twice.

“It never gets old,” he said. “It really does feel like the first time.”

Phelps’ domination, though, might be getting old for some. But not for the Americans.

“He’s not just winning,” Peirsol said. “He’s absolutely destroying everything. It’s awesome to watch.”

Men’s 100 backstroke: 1. Aaron Piersol, Irvine, Calif., 52.54. World record. (Old record: 52.89, Peirsol, July 1, Omaha). 2. Matt Grevers, Lake Forest, Ill., 53.11. 3. Arkady Vyatchanin, Russia, 53.18. 3. Hayden Stoeckel, Australia, 53.18. 5. Ashley Delaney, Australia, 53.31. 6. Liam Tancock, Britain, 53.39. 7. Aschwin Wildeboer, Spain, 53.51. 8. Junichi Miyashita, Japan, 53.99.

Men’s 200 freestyle: 1. Michael Phelps, Baltimore, 1:42.96. World record. (Old record: 1:43.86, Phelps, March 27, 2007, Melbourne, Australia). 2. Park Taehwan, South Korea, 1:44.85. 3. Peter Vanderkaay, Rochester, Mich., 1:45.14. 4. Jean Basson, South Africa, 1:45.97. 5. Paul Biedermann, Germany, 1:46.00. 6. Dominik Meichtry, Switzerland, 1:46.95. 7. Yoshihiro Okumura, Japan, 1:47.14. 8. Robbie Renwick, Britain, 1:47.47.

Women’s 100 backstroke: 1. Natalie Coughlin, Lafayette, Calif., 58.96. 2. Kirsty Coventry, Zimbabwe, 59.19. 3. Margaret Hoelzer, Huntsville, Ala., 59.34. 4. Gemma Spofforth, Britain, 59.38. 5. Anastasia Zueva, Russia, 59.40. 6. Reiko Nakamura, Japan, 59.72. 7. Laure Manaudou, France, 1:00.10. 8. Hanae Ito, Japan, 1:00.18.

Women’s 100 breaststroke: 1. Leisel Jones, Australia, 1:05.17. 2. Rebecca Soni, Plainsboro, N.J., 1:06.73. 3. Mirna Jukic, Austria, 1:07.34. 4. Yuliya Efimova, Russia, 1:07.43. 5. Megan Jendrick, Tacoma, Wash., 1:07.62. 6. Tarnee White, Australia, 1:07.63. 7. Sun Ye, China, 1:08.08. 8. Asami Kitagawa, Japan, 1:08.43.

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