Phelps in seventh heaven

Beijing, August 16:

The long arms of Michael Phelps brought him historic gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

At the Water Cube, Phelps won his seventh gold of the games by using every bit of those long arms to beat Milorad Cavic of Serbia in the 100 butterfly by a hundredth of a second.

“I was starting to hurt a little bit with probably the last 10 metres,” Phelps said after winning in an Olympic record time of 50.58 seconds. It was Phelps’ first final in China in which he failed to set a world record, but it was fast enough for him to equal Mark Spitz’s record of winning seven golds at a single games.

The American swimmer has one more event left to usurp Spitz and stand alone with eight golds, one better than Spitz managed at the 1972 Munich Games.

Phelps started slow in the pool and was seventh at the turn, trailing all but one of the eight starters. But he closed the gap on Cavic and finished with a mini-stroke that proved decisive.

The finish was so close the Serbs filed a protest. Swimming’s governing body had to review the tape down to the 10-thousandth of a second, and the Serb delegation finally conceded that Phelps won.

Rebecca Adlington won the 800m freestyle, breaking Janet Evans’ 19-year-old world record. The Briton finished in 8:14.10, bettering the oldest record in swimming of 8:16.22 and adding to her 400m freestyle gold.

Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe defended her Olympic title in the 200m backstroke, winning in a world-record time of 2:05.24 seconds, and Cesar Cielo sprinted to gold in the men’s 50m freestyle.

Roger Federer added a gold medal to his 12 Grand Slam titles, teaming with Stanislas Wawrinka to win the men’s doubles tournament. The Swiss duo beat Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson of Sweden 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3.

There were 29 gold medals awarded on Saturday, one less than scheduled because the rain-plagued tennis tournament forced the women’s singles final to be pushed back a day. Others were won in badminton, rowing, sailing, wrestling, cycling, weightlifting and fencing.

At the Bird’s Nest, Valeriy Borchin of Russia won the gold medal in the 20-km walk, finishing in 1:19:01, and Valerie Vili of New Zealand won the women’s shot put with a throw of 20.56 metres.

In the heptathlon, Nataliia Dobrynska won with 6,733 points, 33 clear of teammate Lydumila Blonska. Canada got their first gold of the Beijing Games when Carol Huynh won the women’s 48-kilogram wrestling competition. In baseball, defending champion Cuba beat Taiwan 1-0 and the US defeated Canada 5-4.

China stayed alive in the men’s basketball tournament by beating Germany 59-55. Yao Ming scored 25 points for the hosts. The US clinched first place in their group by beating Spain 119-82. Also, defending champions Argentina outplayed European champions Russia 97-82, and Greece routed Angola 102-61. Belgium, Brazil, Argentina and Nigeria reached the men’s football semi-finals. The Belgians will face Nigeria while Brazil take on Argentina.