8 Gold Medals for Michael Phelps the Swimming Phenom

Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal, breaking Mark Spitz's record.

February 19, 2009, 3:51 AM

Aug. 16, 2008— -- He's done it again. Another gold, and another world record.

Michael Phelps' gold medal hunt in Beijing ends as the swimming superstar leaves the Water Cube eight golds heavier, breaking Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals in one Olympics.

Phelps already made history by matching Spitz's seven golds -- a feat previously achieved only once in the 112-year history of the modern Olympic Games -- and earning a $1 million bonus from Speedo for doing it. Now he's one-upped Spitz's record count, cementing his place as one of the best athletes of all time.

Superman. Magical. The King. The Dolphin. The Fish. The Phenomenon.

These are just some of the words being used to describe the face of the XXIX Summer Olympics in Beijing, Michael Phelps.

08-08-08 marked the beginning of the Beijing Olympics, and it will forever be remembered as Phelps' lucky number.

Phelps won six golds in Athens four years ago, bringing his current career golds to the whopping number of 14. As if winning gold medals wasn't impressive enough, Phelps broke the world record in seven of the eight events he swam in Beijing, four of which he previously held.

In some of the most exciting races of the Summer Games, and arguably in swimming history, twice it seemed Phelps' quest was going to come up short.

First in the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay when his teammate, the U.S. tri-captain and oldest member of the swimming crew, Jason Lezak, was losing to France's Alain Bernard in the anchor leg.

Lezak beat Bernard in the last meter by eight-hundredths of a second -- the closest finish in the event's history. Lezak's finish, and fastest split in history, was up there with New York Giant David Tyree's Super Bowl catch earlier this year as one of the most heroic moments in sports history.

The second nail-biter was Phelps' 100-meter butterfly. Phelps gave everyone a scare after hitting the wall seventh at the 50-meter mark and, still trailing Milorad Cavic of Serbia with five meters left in the race, he didn't seem like he was going to catch his rival.

In the closest race a swimmer can achieve, Phelps beat Cavic by one-hundredth of a second with a quick half-stroke.

The Serbians immediately filed a written protest to challenge the finish, but according to Cavic's Web site, he "had nothing to do with this filing," rather it was his Serbian Olympics committee and swimming staff who questioned the outcome. Cavic says he is "completely happy," and "there's nothing wrong with losing to the greatest swimmer there has ever been."

Rowdy Gaines, former three-time Olympic gold medalist and NBC commentator at this year's Olympics, screamed in awe following Phelps' butterfly finish, "He gets it done again! He gets it done again!"

Even Phelps' mom had two fingers held up because she believed her son finished second. When she looked at the scoreboard with her daughter seated beside her, and realized he won, a look of disbelief and nausea seemed to overcome her, so she took her seat.

Phelps: The Making of a Legend

The 23-year-old waterboy from Baltimore has been compared to golfing great Tiger Woods. Like Woods, he has perfected a craft like no other in the history of his sport. People want to be him. Sports scientists want to study him. And he does not like to lose.

The relay that was swum by Aaron Peirsol (backstroke), Brendan Hansen (breastroke), Phelps (butterfly) and Lezak (freestyle) with a time of 3:29.34, beating out the Australian men and smashing the U.S.'s previous world record. The squad of Peirsol, Hansen, Ian Crocker and Lezak won the gold in Athens, so it was the U.S. team's race to lose.

The Water Cube was packed Sunday morning to witness history in the making.

"There are definitely more people here than any other session. For the entire meet, pretty much the last four rows of the media section have been empty. Not this one though!" USA Swimming's biomechanics coordinator Russell Mark told ABCNews.com from his post in The Water Cube.

You can imagine the nerves of each athlete on the final relay team, let alone the men who swam in prelims. Matt Grevers, who swam the backstroke leg of the preliminary 4x100-meter medley relay and won silver in the 100-meter backstroke, said he didn't think the squad would ever make it out of China if they were disqualified.

Well, the U.S. men can sleep easier tonight, as they've helped a teammate achieve his goal.

Phelps' relay team member Hansen (fourth-place finisher in the men's 100-meter breastroke) said of Phelps' eight-medal achievement, "This beats the Tour de France, it beats the U.S. Open ... it beats every part of what sport is ... all athletes should tip their hats to Phelps."

When asked about the possibility of winning eight golds, and if he felt it was physically possible, Phelps replied, "In my dreams I always wanted it."

(Tipping my hat) If that's not motivating, I don't know what is.

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