Since the thread didn't get moved, I'm updating it:
GOLDEN PHELPS WALKS ON WATER
RECORD 8TH GOLD IN RELAY
By MIKE VACCARO
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Last updated: 6:35 am
August 17, 2008
Posted: 3:30 am
August 17, 2008
BEIJING - Every Olympics has its forever snapshot, the lasting image that survives eternity, boiling 16 days of sweat, toil and tears into one eternal, evocative icon.
There was Jesse Owens, blazing a path clear through the heart of Nazi Germany in 1936. There was Nadia Comaneci, arms raised, another perfect 10 on the scoreboard in 1976.
VACCARO: IN YOUR DREAMS
VACCARO: PERFECT GAMES FOR SWIMMING ICON
PHELPS PLAYS CRAZY EIGHTS
GALLERY: THE BEST SPORTS YEARS
Now, forever, these Beijing Olympics, will be defined by one thing:
The sight of Michael Phelps, triumphant, staring at a scoreboard, the rest of the world contained neatly in his rear-view mirror, his mouth agape in wonder, the veins in his arms and his neck poised to burst right there in the Water Cube.
History will record the simple mathematics, that Phelps won eight gold medals at these Games of the XXIX Olympiad, the last one coming yesterday at the National Aquatics Center, the bright-blue Water Cube that Phelps transformed into his own backyard pool for 17 races across nine days, for eight victories and seven world records.
This time he was merely one-fourth of a team, the 4x100 individual medley relay, the third leg, the butterfly leg, the same stroke and the same distance he covered a day earlier during his miracle victory in the 100-meter butterfly.
This time, he was the one who rescued his team, who in the course of 100 meters turned third place into first and set the Americans up for gold. The final time was one more world record, 3:29.34. The final impression, one last time, was triumphant and timeless.
"I think the biggest thing is that nothing is impossible," Phelps said. "So many people said it couldn't be done. All it takes is an imagination."
And finally, the quest was over. At last, history had arrived, and it was every bit as satisfying, every bit as splendid, as anyone could possibly have imagined. One last time, the Water Cube was on its collective feet, emitting a collective roar that threatened to reduce the walls to mist.
One last time, Michael Phelps would climb a medal stand, hearing the opening chords of the "Star Spangled Banner," and never has the Anthem sounded so crisp, or affected a high-profile athlete as deeply.
He wasn't alone on that stand. There was Aaron Peirsol, the backstroke specialist, and Brendan Hansen, who'd swum the second leg, the breaststroke. There was Jason Lezak, who lost his featured event, the 100-meter free, but in both this race and the 4x100 free earlier in the week has anchored the teams that allowed Phelps to reach eight.
Phelps would be the first to say those others should be recognized, too. But in his heart, as an American who chased fame, who stalked the Olympics since he was 9 years old, he would have to understand: This day, this race, this meet, these Games, have been about one person and about one quest.
They have been about Michael Phelps, and the quest for eight. Eight is the luckiest number in the Chinese culture, and in the Mandarin language sounds phonetically familiar to the words "wealth," "prosper" and "fortune." For now, and forever, we understand why.
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