Another gold for Phelps in Beijing

Michael Phelps stunned even himself with a desperate last lunge to grasp a record-equalling seventh Olympic gold medal in Beijing, ahead of Saturday’s showpiece, the athletics’ men’s 100m final.

Phelps, his quest for Olympic immortality seeming derailed when seventh at the turn, stormed home in the 100m butterfly to claim a finger-tip victory and draw level with fellow United States pool legend Mark Spitz’s record of seven golds at one Games set 36 years ago.

“When I did take that extra half-stroke I thought I’d lost the race. I’m really sort of lost for words,” a thrilled Phelps said after being awarded the gold over Serbia’s Milorad Cavic by just one-100th of a second.

“I feel a little bit of everything—relief, excitement, everything,” he added as he stayed on course to break Spitz’s mark in the 4x100m medley relay, which brings the curtain down on pool competition on Sunday.

The sensational victory lifted the US to 15 gold medals, 11 behind table leaders China with 26.

On a day of 29 Olympic finals, the closing athletics event will be vying to snatch the headlines from Phelps when the three fastest runners of all time—Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay—front up for a classic 100m final, assuming they get through the semis.

Bolt staked the strongest claim in the heats on Friday, posting the sixth-best time in the world this year despite slowing up after taking the lead.

“I just ran the first 50m, then I looked up to make sure I was safe and I shut it off,” said Bolt after clocking 9,92 seconds in his qualifying heat for the semis.

Powell ran an effortless 10,02 while Gay could only finish second in his heat at 10,09.

American Torri Edwards led favourites in the women’s 100m into the second round in Saturday’s heats to decide the world’s fastest female.

At the pool, Phelps’s desperate last leg of the 100m fly was the only one of his gold-medal swims this week where he has failed to break the world record.

That put the spotlight on Britain’s Rebecca Adlington, who shattered the longest-standing world swimming record, the women’s 800m freestyle, taking 2,12 seconds off the 19-year-old mark set by American great Janet Evans in 1989.

Adlington’s spectacular success followed her victory in the 400m freestyle final last Monday—the first swimming gold won by a British woman at the Olympics in 48 years.

Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry also set a world record in defending her women’s 200m backstroke title.

Brazil’s Cesar Cielo Filho won the men’s splash-and-dash 50m freestyle final with 100m champion Alain Bernard third behind French compatriot Amaury Leveaux.

The first athletics gold of the day went to Russian Valeriy Borchin, who held off former champion Jefferson Perez of Ecuador in the men’s 20km walk.

Meanwhile, outgoing tennis number one Roger Federer will put a gold or silver lining on one of his worst seasons when he partners Stanislas Wawrinka in the men’s doubles final. The Swiss duo take on Sweden’s Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson for the gold medal.

In the women’s singles semifinals, giantkilling Chinese Li Na is up against Russia’s Dinara Safina and the second semi is a Russian derby featuring Vera Zvonareva and Elena Dementieva.

China’s badminton domination is expected to continue a day after Du Jing and Yu Yang won the women’s doubles final.

An all-China women’s singles final features world number one Xie Xingfang against defending Olympic champion Zhang Ning, and the men’s doubles final pits China’s Cai Yun and Fu Haifent against Hendra Setiawan and Markis Kido of Indonesia.

There are also finals on Saturday in fencing, rowing, yachting, shooting, weightlifting and wrestling.—Sapa-AFP