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Olympics: Phelps opens bid for history in convincing style

Olympics: Phelps opens bid for history in convincing style
AFP
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First Published: Sat, Aug 09 2008. 07 45 PM IST

US swimmer Michael Phelps competes during the men’s 400m individual medley swimming heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on 9 August 2008 in Beijing. (AFP Photo)
US swimmer Michael Phelps competes during the men’s 400m individual medley swimming heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on 9 August 2008 in Beijing. (AFP Photo)
Updated: Sat, Aug 09 2008. 07 45 PM IST
Beijing: Swimming star Michael Phelps made an impressive start to his bid for Olympic immortality Saturday, posting a Games record in the heats of the men’s 400 meters individual medley.
Phelps, who established the previous Olympic record in winning gold in Athens four years ago, clocked 4 minutes 07.82 seconds - the fourth-fastest time ever.
It was an impressively smooth performance from the man who lowered his world record in the event to 4:05.25 at the US trials in June, showing that the months of scrutiny leading into the Games haven’t taken a toll.
“Just the first-race jitters,” Phelps said of his pre-race nerves. “But getting that first race under your belt feels really good.
“I didn’t think I’d swim that fast in the preliminaries. I saw the first few heats go out, and I kind of wanted to be the top seed for tomorrow, that is all I went out to do.
“It’s going to be a tough race between three or four of us.”
US swimmer Michael Phelps competes during the men’s 400m individual medley swimming heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on 9 August 2008 in Beijing. (AFP Photo)
Phelps easily won his heat before a near-capacity crowd at Beijing’s Water Cube aquatic centre, where the crowd greeted his arrival on deck with enthusiasm but saved their loudest cheers for Chinese competitors.
The 23-year-old American, who is gunning for compatriot Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals at one Games, was never challenged, with Italian Luca Marin second-fastest in his heat in 4:10.22.
Hungarian Laszlo Cseh, who set the European record at a meeting in France in June, was the second-fastest qualifier for Sunday morning’s final, winning his heat in 4:09.26.
Marin was third-fastest overall and American Ryan Lochte, reckoned one of the chief challengers to Phelps in both the 400m and 200m medleys, was fourth-fastest overall, winning his heat in 4:10.33.
Cseh said the times promised an explosive final.
“I think if someone wants to win this race they are going to have to swim under 4 minutes 05 seconds,” he said.
“It was a good time, but I am tired now,” Cseh admitted. “I will try everything I can to beat those guys. It’s going to be very, very difficult.”
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First Published: Sat, Aug 09 2008. 07 45 PM IST