The Rulers of the Pool

By Steven Ehrenberg

U.S. swimmer Amanda Beard reacts after winning the gold medal in the 200-meter breaststroke at the Olympic Aquatic Centre on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2004. (Photo: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

 

Friday, August 20—The American swim teams are on a roll. They won medals in each of the four competitions on Thursday, setting several new records along the way.

Amanda Beard won the 200-meter breaststroke in Olympic record time on Thursday, outpacing Australian Leisel Jones by less than a quarter of a second.

"It feels absolutely amazing," said Beard after her victory. "I can't wipe the smile off my face." Beard won her last gold medal at the 1996 Games, when she was only 14 years old. She hugged her teddy bear during the medal ceremony.

On the men's team, Michael Phelps churned his way to another Olympic record and gold medal in the men's 200-meter individual medley. He finished the race in 1:57.14, ahead of teammate Ryan Lochte and Trinidadian George Bovell.

Phelps has had quite a week. He fell short of his goal of winning eight gold medals, but with four gold and two bronze medals to his name so far, few doubt that Phelps is one of the world's great athletes.

The 200-meter individual medley is one of Phelps's best events. He broke the world record last year, too. Two final medal opportunities await him tonight: the medley relay and the 100-meter butterfly.

His success keeps him awake at night. "It's all part of it; it's all part of the fun," he said. "Sometimes I have trouble going to sleep at night, my adrenaline's just going. But I have to wake up the next morning and deal with it."

The other American winners were Aaron Peirsol, who took the top honor for the 200-meter backstroke, and Natalie Coughlin, who won the bronze in the 100-meter freestyle. Peirsol almost lost the medal when he was accused of making an illegal turn on the last lap. The American team protested and the judges changed the ruling, awarding Peirsol the gold.

The runner-up to Peirsol, Markus Rogan, would have won the gold if Peirsol was disqualified. "I'm happy with my silver medal," said the Austrian swimmer. "[Peirsol] is one of my best friends, and no medal is as beautiful as friendship."

and the judges changed the ruling, awarding Peirsol the gold.

He also said he would not have been able to accept the gold under those circumstances. He called the judge's initial ruling "faulty."

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