Thursday: Phelps powers way to Games record
Posted: Friday August 20, 2004 2:48AM; Updated: Friday August 20, 2004 2:48AM
ATHENS, Aug 19 (Reuters) -- American Michael Phelps captured a fourth gold at the Athens Games on Thursday, keeping him on course to be the first swimmer to win eight medals at a single Olympics.
Phelps, 19, has four golds and two bronzes in Athens and with two more events to go, he also seems certain to go into the record books with Soviet gymnast Alexander Dityatin (1980) as the only people to win eight medals at one Games.
"You can't get away from numbers. I'm almost finished here. The countdown has begun," Phelps said.
But the focus now switches to what most regard as the centrepiece of the Games when the first day of the athletics programme begins on Friday with Haile Gebrselassie bidding to become the first man to win three Olympic 10,000 metres titles.
The Ethiopian, struggling with an Achilles injury, said he would have withdrawn if it had not been the Olympic event.
His heir apparent and training partner Kenenisa Bekele looks almost certain to dethrone his mentor, just as he did at the 2003 world championships, and Gebrselassie seems happy to help.
"The important thing is that Ethiopia wins ... for me, any medal would be fantastic," he said.
The other medal of the day will be when Ecuador's world champion and record holder Jefferson Perez launches his bid for a double in the 20 km and 50 km walk events.
But despite the heroics in the sporting action, doping, politics and security issues refused to leave the headlines coming out of the Games.
World weightlifting officials said seven lifters from Morocco, Moldova, Hungary, India, Turkey and Myanmar had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in pre-Olympics tests and had been kept out of the Games.
In a scandal that has rocked the host nation, state investigators were reported to have grave doubts about an alleged motorcycle crash that put Greece's top two sprinters in hospital last week just as Olympic officials were hunting them for a doping test.
Olympic 200 metres champion Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou withdrew from the Games, maintaining innocence.
A judicial source told Reuters that police could not find the oil patch on a street where they said they had gone into a skid.
International judo officials cleared Iran over what many had viewed as a political boycott of Israel at the Athens Games, as Israeli athletes remembered the 1972 Munich massacre.
At a tearful memorial service for the 11 Israelis slain at the Munich Olympics, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said: Sports is a universal language. Let us show the world we can live together.
In a day of mixed signals, the International Judo Federation said it would take no action against Iran, who had said they stopped twice-world champion Arash Miresmaeili from fighting an Israeli as a gesture to the Palestinian cause.
The federation said it accepted after an inquiry that Miresmaeili had a genuine medical reason for showing up too heavy to fight Vaks in the 66 kg category.
In a security scare anarchists claimed responsibility for a bomb threat at the Greek Athletics Federation's headquarters, but police said they found only a bag filled with minced meat and syringes.
After day six of the Games action, the United States narrowly took over the top spot from China in the eagerly watched medals table for world sporting supremacy, with Japan in third place and Australia fourth.
The United States had 14 golds, 11 silvers and 10 bronzes, while China had 14 golds, nine silvers and six bronzes.
Sixteen-year-old Carly Patterson upstaged Russian diva Svetlana Khorkina to become the first American in 20 years to win the women's Olympic gymnastics all-round gold medal.
Khorkina, competing in her third and final Olympics, failed to match a rival nine years her junior.
But after two previous failed attempts in Sydney four years ago and in Atlanta in 1996 to win even a medal in the event, Khorkina was ecstatic to claim the silver.
"I think it's the best day of my life," said Khorkina, with tears of joy streaming.
Weightlifting phenomenon Liu Chunhong, 19, took the title and set a world record in the women's 69 kg with lifts totalling 275 kg, giving China its fourth weightlifting gold of the Games.
Zhang Jun and Gao Ling of China tossed another gold on to China's pile at the mixed doubles badminton. Zhang Ning won gold in individual competition at a badminton grand old age of 29.
In a brave display, France's Damien Touya helped his country to win the one men's fencing title that has always eluded them, despite having a sabre slice through the skin webbing around his knuckles and emerging through his palm in an earlier semi-final.
"It was very painful," said Touya in matter-of-fact fashion after France beat Italy 45-42 in the team sabre final.
"I was just glad that the medical staff could sew it up."
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