Phelps catches breath for final push to history

Michael Phelps came up for air on Thursday morning, swimming just the semifinals of the men’s 200m individual medley as he positioned himself for the next step on his road to Olympic history.

“I just wanted to win my heat,” said Phelps, who did so in one minute, 57,70 seconds, second-quickest heading into the final behind the 1:57,69 of teammate Ryan Lochte.

“I guess it’s going to be me and Ryan in the middle tomorrow [Friday],” said Phelps, who owns the world record in the event of 1:54,80. “It’s fine. It’s all I wanted to do.
Tomorrow is going to be the real battle.”

Phelps won two golds on Wednesday, in the 200m butterfly and 4x200m freestyle relay, taking his tally in Beijing to five.

With his six golds from Athens he now owns the most golds of any Olympian in any sport.

If he can win the 200m medley and the 100m butterfly, and help the United States to victory in the 4x100m medley relay, Phelps will break United States swimmer Mark Spitz’s 36-year-old record of seven golds at one Games.

He was due to swim the 100m fly heats on Thursday night.

“I feel fine,” Phelps said. “I think over the next few days the biggest thing is going to be trying to get as much rest as I can. If I can do that, I’ll be fine.”

All five of his medals so far have come in world record times, but Phelps said he wouldn’t be worrying about records in his remaining races.

“I think medals mean more than times,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to be focusing on over the next three days.”

The hoopla attending Phelps’s history-making run has buoyed the entire US team, backstroker Aaron Peirsol said.

But Peirsol added that the superstar’s teammates—including the likes of Lochte—have their own golden ambitions that they want to fulfil, even at Phelps’s expense.

“It’s elevating the entire team,” Peirsol said. “However, we’ve all got our own goals. No one is racing for second.

“We absolutely respect and admire Michael’s dreams. The feeling in our team is we all race to win.”—AFP