DAVID BIANCULLI

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Michael Phelps' Midas Touch: Every Outstretched Hand Turns to Gold
August 16, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 
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You had to see it to believe it, and even after seeing it -- from several angles and speeds -- believing it wasn't easy. But last night, by one-hundredth of a second, Michael Phelps somehow found a way to win gold, tie Mark Spitz's single-Olympics gold medal record, and set the stage for tonight's unprecedented opportunity. Be there. No excuses.

If the U.S team beats the Australians and the others in tonight's 4x100m medley relay, Phelps, with more than a little help from his friends, will accomplish what he set out to do when he came to Beijing. Win eight golds at a single Olympics. Going where no man, or woman, has gone before.

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So if you don't plan to watch tonight, live, you're nuts. The result of tonight's race is by no means a given -- and drama and excitement are guaranteed, no matter what. The anchor leg is being swum (is that really the right word?) by Jason Lezak, who made tonight possible for Phelps by turning in an astonishing, victory-snatching anchor leg during the 4x100m freestyle relay. Aaron Peirsol leads off with the backstroke, then Brendan Hanson with the breaststroke, then Phelps with the butterfly, then Lezak as freestyle anchor.

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NBC covered the event beautifully last night - and may have saved the best for last, as Bob Costas moderated a split-screen live conversation between Phelps, less than two hours after tying Spitz's record, and Spitz himself. Each world-class athlete spoke knowingly and admiringly of the other.

Like the rest of what Phelps has demonstrated in Beijing this week, it was hearteningly inspirational.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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