- 17 Aug 08, 07:17 AM
Ok, I'll admit it, my crystal ball had clouded over when I predicted that Michael Phelps would not, could not, achieve eight gold medals in Beijing.
He had some scares along the way, notably the 4x100 metres freestyle relay, when he was indebted to Jason Lezak for keeping him on track, and to the timing device for putting Phelps ahead of Milorad Cavic in the 100m butterfly. But, however you dress it up, seven world records and one Olympic record just takes your breath away.
What superlative would you use for the world's greatest swimmer (fact) and greatest sportsman ever (arguably)? We will have to come up with some new ones for 2012 because he'll be in London for sure, and may well end up doing a completely different set of events from the eight he took on in China. His backstroke is world class, his breaststroke is improving beyond recognition, and the 100 and 400 metres freestyle would fit nicely into his programme next time.
It was an ok Sunday morning for the Brits, no medals but three records in the pool. Gemma Spofforth set a new European record in the lead-off leg of the medley relay, the quartet of Spofforth, Kate Haywood, Jemma Lowe and Fran Halsall also lowered the European mark to finish fourth overall. The equivalent race for the men resulted in a new British record for Tancock, Cook, Rock and Burnett.
"The elephants and pianos were all on my shoulders and my heart was pounding and my stomach was gone, and it's a long way when you're feeling like that," said Davies after finishing sixth in the final - but he will fare better in the 10k open water on the rowing lake next Thursday.
The man who had saved the best for last was Tunisia's Oussama Mallouli denying Grant Hackett his third Olympic title in a row.
Thanks to Rebecca Adlington's two golds, Great Britain has finished as the top swimming nation in Europe and fourth overall on the medals table. What's more, Team GB had 21 finalists in the pool, ten more than in Athens, so that was one thing I did get right! Roll on 2012, things are looking more than just encouraging in the pool for four years' time, they look incredibly positive. And just think how good Adlington will be then.
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