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Sun 17 Aug 2008 11:26 PM

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Phelps' eight gold medals confirm legendary status

China on 35 gold, Jamaica and Great Britain shine on Super Sunday.

Michael Phelps cemented his place in Olympics history Sunday, capping a sensational week by becoming the first athlete ever to win eight gold medals in one Games.China also ensured the Games will go down as their greatest, reaching 35 gold medals to overtake their previous best of 32 in Athens with a week of competition remaining.After spending more than $40 billion on staging the Games, China wanted to showcase itself on the world stage.But while they have a clear 16 medal lead over the United States, who have won 19 finals, the most dominant performer has been American swimmer Phelps.He brought the curtain down on a record-breaking week of swimming when he directed the US team to victory in the 4x100m medley relay and overtook fellow US legend Mark Spitz's seven gold medals at Munich 36 years ago.The 23-year-old Phelps also broke seven world records through the week, became the most successful Olympian gold medallist of all time with a career 14, and pledged to continue his epic journey at London in 2012."There are some things I still want to do to raise the bar a bit more in the world of swimming. For me, it's still work in progress," said Phelps.His career total of 16 Olympic medals (14 gold, two bronze) is only two behind the all-time record of 18 by former Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina (nine gold, five silver and four bronze).Phelps's butterfly leg was key to the relay victory, as he turned a third-place behind Japan and Australia at the halfway point into a lead which freestylist Jason Lezak would never surrender.The busiest day of the Games, with 37 finals, proved to be auspicious for China where eight is a lucky number - Phelps won his eighth gold and the Chinese team won a total of eight to post their record Games performance.Their 33rd gold, to break the Athens record, came in the women's team table tennis final where Guo Yue and Zhang Yining won the decisive doubles rubber against Singapore.The significance of the achievement was highlighted by President Hu Jintao being in the VIP box alongside International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge.Jamaica and Great Britain also stepped into the limelight with Jamaica completing sprint dominance a day after Usain Bolt became the fastest man on earth winning the 100m final in world record time.The Jamaican women swept the women's 100m final with Shelly-Ann Fraser a surprise winner ahead of her higher acclaimed teammates Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson."I'm just so happy to put Jamaica on the map. No one expected me to win so there was no pressure," said Fraser.Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia won his second successive 10,000 metres gold producing a devastating burst of speed on the last lap while Romanian mother of two Constantina Tomescu raced away with the women's marathon.British athletes enjoyed their most successful day in Beijing, winning four golds in cycling, rowing and yachting to move to third on the medal table with 11, ahead of Germany on nine.Cyclist Rebecca Romero became the first woman to win medals in two different sports when she won the women's individual pursuit to go with the rowing silver medal she won in Athens.Finn class sailor Ben Ainslie became Britain's most successful Olympic yachtsman by winning his third gold medal, while the British cycling team beat their own pursuit world record in booking a place against Denmark in Monday's final.Tennis wrapped up with Spain's Rafael Nadal, who will be the new world number one on Monday, thrashing Chilean Fernando Gonzalez to claim the mens's singles title in straight sets.Elena Dementieva came from a set down to beat Dinara Safina in an all-Russian women's final while the Williams sisters Serena and Venus won the women's doubles to repeat their success in Sydney eight years ago.In a so far largely scandal-free Games, hours before the start of the women's 400m hurdles defending champion Fani Halkia from Greece was thrown out for failing a drugs test in Japan while preparing for Beijing.

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Sarah 12 years ago

While he has achievement has been significant, I truly do not believe he can be called the greatest Olympian of all times. He is fortunate that he participates in a sport with so many events, other athletes such as the Heptathletes and Decathletes, must be excellent at 7 to 10 different sports, yet the winner receives only one medal. There are numerous other examples of sports where the athletes have set records, or competed in several olympics, but their chosen sport does not offer the medal opportunities that swimming does.