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World hails Phelps as Jamaica rule in sprints

As Michael Phelps cemented his place in Olympics history, there was more sprint delight for Jamaica, with a clean sweep of the medals in the women's 100 metres. Also read Swimply the best. Full Coverage

india Updated: Aug 18, 2008 20:03 IST
Simon Denyer

Michael Phelps held his arms aloft on Sunday after surpassing Mark Spitz as the most successful swimmer and Olympian of all time, relief written on his face after he won an unprecedented eighth gold at one Games.

Afterwards, he said he just wanted to hug his mum.

There was more sprint delight for Jamaica, with a clean sweep of the medals in the women's 100 metres to go with compatriot Usain Bolt's dazzling world record display in the men's race.

Shelly-Ann Fraser grinned and punched the air as she crossed the finish line then leapt and danced for joy.

The US team lodged an appeal over the race, saying their sprinters believed there had been a false start, but it was rejected by athletics' governing body.

Africa had a good day with Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele triumphing in the men's 10,000 metres and Cameroon's Francoise Mbango Etone winning gold in the women's triple jump.

Despite Phelps' heroics, the US team have all but lost the battle with China to top the medals table.

With wins on Sunday in badminton, diving, gymnastics, rowing, shooting, table tennis and wrestling, the hosts reached 35 golds to the Americans' 19, already three ahead of their Athens haul with seven days of competition to go.

In 2004, the United States topped the table with 36 golds.

Nobody doubted it was Phelps's day, though.

The swimmer hugged his team mates after a world record-breaking 4x100 metres medley relay win, a relatively comfortable race compared to two finger-tip finishes.

The win gave him his eighth gold at these Games, one more than Spitz in 1972, and his 14th in all, five more than anyone in the Olympics' 112-year history.

SCREAMING FIT

The 23-year-old, who as a child in Baltimore had a screaming fit at his first swimming lesson because he did not want to get his face wet, showed that he was human after all.

"The first thing I'd like to do to my mum is just hug her, said Phelps, whose parents separated when he was young. "I've literally seen her for about 30 seconds this whole time."

Phelps overcame attention deficit disorder as a child. In Beijing he again showed his strength of character to withstand intense pressure. After his exploits, he said he wanted to lie down in his own bed for five minutes "and just relax".

"With so many people saying it couldn't be done, all it takes is an imagination," he said.

Sunday, day nine, was the busiest of the Aug. 8-24 Games, with 34 golds on offer. It began with a triumph for Romania in one of the Games' most gruelling events, 38-year-old Constantina Tomescu claiming a surprise win in the women's marathon.

In the evening, it was the turn of the Jamaican sprinters again, Fraser's exuberant celebration recalling that of Bolt's. It was the first clean sweep in the women's 100 metres.

"Nobody expected me to win so there was no pressure," she said. "I'm so excited, I really am. I can't wait to get home."

Remarkably these were island's first sprint golds, although three recent 100 metres champions were Jamaican-born -- Linford Christie, Donovan Bailey, and the now disgraced Ben Johnson.

The Water Cube saw more excitement in the evening as China's "diving diva" Guo Jingjing retained her three-metre springboard crown to become the most prolific women's diving medallist.

She has won four Olympic golds and had planned to retire, but said she had now changed her mind and wanted to carry on.

As China extended their lead at the top of the medals table, it has also been a fantastic weekend for the London 2012 hosts.

Britain have scored eight gold medals in two days in cycling, rowing, sailing and the pool, taking them to third place in the medals table with 11 golds. The British press was already dubbing it "the great haul of China".

NADAL'S YEAR

The tennis tournament wrapped up with more glory for Spain's Rafael Nadal. He won the singles in straight sets to add to his Wimbledon and French Open crowns.

There had been consolation for Switzerland's Roger Federer with a doubles gold late on Saturday, and America's Venus and Serena Williams also made up for singles disappointment by picking up a second Olympic doubles gold.

Elena Dementieva beat fellow Russian Dinara Safina to the singles crown, saying it was the greatest moment of her career.

In the highest-profile doping case of the Games, Greece's defending women's 400 metres hurdles champion Fani Halkia failed a drug test hours before she was to compete.

The furious chief of Greece's Olympic Committee told Reuters the "golden girl" of the Athens Games should have stayed home instead of dragging the country's name through the mud.

"If you want to commit suicide it is up to you, but you do not have the right to kill your country," Minos Kyriakou said.

There was a terrible sense of deja vu for U.S. shooter Matt Emmons, who threw away gold for a second successive Games with a misfire on his final shot.

After shooting at the wrong target in Athens, a nervous Emmons this time squandered a huge lead on his final shot when he pulled the trigger by mistake while lining up.

That error let China's Qiu Jian take gold in the men's 50m rifle three-positions. Emmons finished fourth. "I didn't feel my trigger shaking but I guess it was," he said.

(Reporting by Beijing Olympic bureau; Editing by Ralph Gowling)