Phelps in gold rush; doping scandals rumble on
Posted: Friday August 20, 2004 3:08AM; Updated: Friday August 20, 2004 3:08AM
ATHENS (Reuters) -- U.S. teenager Michael Phelps powered his way to two more golds in the Olympic swimming pool on Tuesday, setting a new Games record in the 200 metres butterfly and leading a 4 x 200 freestyle cliffhanger.
The 19-year-old took his tally to three golds and two bronzes and with three events still to go at the Athens Games, he now seems certain to become first swimmer to win eight medals at a single Olympics.
"It was probably the most exciting race I've ever been part of," Phelps said after the battle with arch-rival Ian Thorpe's Australians in the 4 x 200 that had everyone in the stadium on their feet roaring.
But doping scandals still plagued the Games and Greece's top two athletes Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou will appear before an International Olympic Committee hearing on Wednesday that will decide whether they are banned over missed drug tests.
The sprinters faced a media scrum when they emerged from an Athens hospital after a mysterious motorcycle crash that left Olympic 200 metres champion Kenteris with scratches and Thanou with no visible injuries, according to a medical report.
"After crucifixion comes resurrection," said Kenteris, echoing the pair's insistence throughout that they have done nothing wrong.
But host nation Greece was sick of the five-day-old scandal.
"It creates a bad image of the country, not only locally but on a world scale," said government spokesman Thodoris Roussopoulos.
World 100 metres champion Torri Edwards' appeal against a two-year drugs ban was dismissed by sport's supreme judge, the Court of Arbitration, ending her bid to compete at the Olympics.
Besides Phelps' swimming triumphs, Allen Iverson ignored a broken thumb on his shooting hand to help the U.S. men's basketball team rebound from a shock opening game loss to beat Greece 77-71, firing in 17 points.
"We played with a lot more energy tonight ... and that was the difference," said U.S. coach Larry Brown, comparing the game to Sunday's 92-73 loss to Puerto Rico.
China headed the medals table at the Games after the fourth day of competition with 10 golds, six silvers and two bronzes.
The United States followed with six golds, seven silvers and six bronzes, while Australia were in third place with six golds, three silvers and five bronzes. Japan were in fourth place after winning six golds, two silvers and a bronze.
Phelps posted the second fastest time in history to win the 200 butterfly in one minute 54.04 seconds, just 0.11 outside the world record he set at last year's world championships.
He returned to the pool an hour later to join Ryan Lochte, Peter Vanderkaay and Klete Keller for the dramatic relay battle with Australia.
Thorpe looked as though he would pass Keller in the final few metres but the American held on to reach the wall just 0.13 seconds ahead with Italy third.
"I knew Klete would come through ... He held off the greatest 200 freestyler in history," said Phelps.
Camelia Potec of Romania clinched the Olympic women's 200 metres freestyle title with a late surge down the final length of the pool as German world record holder Franziska van Almsick saw her dream of Olympic gold dissolve.
Yana Klochkova of Ukraine, the world's best all-round female swimmer for the past five years, captured the gold in the women's 200 metres individual medley.
In a big shock, world number one Roger Federer was bundled out of the tennis tournament by unheralded Czech Tomas Berdych.
"It's a terrible day for me," said Federer, who had stated earlier in the year his main aim in 2004 was to win in Athens.
Ahmed al-Maktoum, a member of Dubai's ruling family, entered the Olympic record books as the first medallist in history from the United Arab Emirates when he blasted his way to the men's double trap shooting gold.
Indian army major Rajyavardhan Rathore won his country's first-ever individual Olympic silver medal, taking second place in the men's shooting double trap.
The world's second most populous country had won only three individual Olympic medals previously, all bronzes. All India's eight gold medals have been won by the men's hockey team.
Romania underlined their superiority over the rest of the field by storming to the women's gymnastics team gold.
Greek fans went crazy when their new judo hero, Ilias Iliadis, took the host nation's second gold, aided by his father Nikos yelling instructions.
"I can't believe what's happened and I want to thank my coach as it's all down to him," said the Georgian-born Ilias, 17, who has yet to master Greek and spoke through his father.
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