Phelps revels in the power of eight

He did it. Eight finals. Eight golds. Eight records, seven of them new world standards, and the other a fresh Olympic mark. By earning another gold medal yesterday, in the 4x100 medley relay, Michael Phelps did not so much rewrite the record books as start a new one. If he were a nation of one, he'd be looking at a top-10 finish in the medals table.

Mark Spitz's 36-year-old record of winning seven golds in one Games is gone. Phelps earned a $1m (£536,000) bonus from Speedo merely for equalling it on Saturday. He is now the most decorated Olympian by a margin of five clear golds, leading 14-9 in career tallies over his closest four rivals, Spitz, Carl Lewis, the Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi and the Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina.

Phelps has two bronzes too, from 2004 – when he won a pitiful six golds – and his total of 16 Olympic medals is now more than any other man ever. This weekend he overtook the Soviet gymnast Nikolai Andrianov's previous record of 15 (seven gold, five silver, three bronze). Only Latynina, with 18 medals (nine gold, five silver, four bronze) has more medals regardless of colour.

"Everything was accomplished that I set out to do," said the 23-year-old after he and his team-mates Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen and Jason Lezak had claimed the relay gold in a world record 3min 29.34sec. "It's hard to believe. All wins, all records. It was a dream that I've always lived for."

His immediate plans involved giving his mother Debbie, ever present in the stands, a big hug. And at some point soon, when the frenzy surrounding his astonishing achievements has abated, he wants a quiet lie down. "One of the things I really want to do is just lay in my own bed for five minutes and just relax," he said.

His other seven golds here were won in the 400m individual medley, the 4x100m freestyle relay, the 200m freestyle, the 200m butterfly, the 4x200m freestyle relay, the 200m individual medley and the 100m butterfly. The last of those was the only final not swum in a world record time. He settled for an Olympic record, and a winning margin over Serbia's Milorad Cavic of 4.7mm, or less than 0.01 seconds, on the touch.

Phelps recalled yesterday that at middle school, when he was around 12 years old, his English teacher told him he would never be successful. "I feel pretty successful right now," he said.

"The biggest thing is nothing is impossible," he added. "With so many people saying it [eight golds] couldn't be done, all it takes is an imagination. That's something I learned, something that helped me. Afterwards my mum just said congratulations [from the stands]. And then she started crying, and I started crying ... I don't know what to feel, so many emotions, so much excitement."

Excitement indeed, to the power of eight.

Phelps will now rest, then begin "a fun four years" of trying new events for London 2012.

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone