And on the fifth day, he rests ... Sort of.
For the first time since the competition began in earnest at the Olympics, Micheal Phelps will not be swimming for a medal.
Don't worry, you will still see him on NBC's prime-time coverage Wednesday night here in the States, with the 200 individual medlay semifinals. As the NBC broadcasters pointing out in Tuesday night's telecast, all Phelps does is eat, swim and sleep. And we predict he might be carrying the flag at the closing ceremonies.
Shawn Johnson is ready for her closeup ...
The next American darling of women's gymnastics will compete on all four apparatus in the team finals Wednesday morning (Tuesday night in prime time in the U.S.).
The top eight teams from the qualifications on Sunday compete, although the scores do not carry over. The U.S. team trailed the host Chinese by 1.475 points.
It ended, for all intents, when Dwight Howard dunked and trimmed the three-point lead Yao Ming had given China to one point.
That made it 3-2. With that, the possibility of a shutout vanished.
Gone, too, were China's chances of beating Dream Team 2k8. More than 1 billion viewers worldwide (China has a population of 1.3 billion) were expected to watch the teams' Olympic debut, won by the United States, 101-70.
Visa, Speedo and PowerBar rejoiced as their workhorse, Michael Phelps, smashed his 2 1/2-week-old world record in winning the 400-meter individual medley. Phelps touched in 4:03.84, 1.41 seconds ahead of his mark at the Olympic Trials in Omaha on July 29, the first gold medal in his quest for a record eight at these Games. He won six gold medals and two bronze in Athens in 2004.
Teammate Ryan Lochte led the race at the end of the third lap, the first of the two backstroke laps, but Phelps regained it as the swimmers touched at the end of the backstroke stage and began the fifth lap. From there, Phelps buzzed through the breaststroke and, in the freestlye leg, opened a sizable lead over Lochte and Hungarian Cseh Laszlo, who won the silver, 2.32 seconds behind Phelps. Lochte won the bronze, 4.25 seconds off the pace. It was his third Olympic medal, having won silver in the 200 IM and gold in the 4x200 relay in Athens.
As President George W. Bush and his father, the former President, looked on, Phelps, 23, said he looked to his right and smiled shook off his competition, which, he said, was surprisingly close early.
Ryan Zweng was on his way to an study group meeting at a cafe next to the Drum Tower but noticed a much larger than usual crowd milling about the square outside the north gate, most of them press types.
He soon learned that Todd Bachman, 62, wife Barbara, also 62, and their Chinese tower guide had been attacked on the tower's second story by a Chinese national wielding a knife. The assailant, Tang Yongming, 47, killed Todd Bachman, critically injured Barbara and also injured the guide before leaping to his death 130 feet below.
Zweng, like the Bachmans, looks painfully American. A 23-year-old San Franciscan freshly graduated from NYU, he was asked if he feared for his safety during his month-long stay here:
Less than 4 hours after the murder there were no police; no crime-scene tape; no securing of the area. None of the locals seemed to have been disturbed by the killing of an American a stone's throw from their homes and shops.
It was as if nothing happened.
But then, here, that's no surprise.
It began, sadly, with a long wait.
The local organizers failed to announce an interruption of bus services to and from the main press center (MPC), a logical interruption necessary to manage the athletes' passage from their Village to the stadium for Opening Cermonies. The interruption in bus service stranded hundreds of media types who were uninterested or unable to attend the Opening Ceremonies.
Where to start? Yes, it is as foggy, smoggy as advertised. It's a sunny Friday morning here, but the sun is a round yellow ball amid a sea of light gray. It's muggy but not intolerably so. We've had days like this in Philly. But not a summer's worth.
I expected it to look different than when I accompanied a high school soccer team here in 1984. But it's still a shock seeing all the highways, all the cars, all the buildings. Now when Chinese men huddle in crouches to play their various gambling games (I presume), they do so on cleanly paved sidewalks and amid flower-lined walls. Back in 1984, it was a scene often played out on dirt roads and rubble. Beijing looks very Western these days.
This may go down as the most manned Olympics of the five I have attended. The effort to be helpful may be unparelled. Australia had the weather and the water, and the people were great. Much more would have been made of Turin's rainy weather -- indeed days here look like days there only warmer. But Turin had the Alps nearby, and the food and wine. and their people were so welcoming.
Right after Sudanese immigrant and Team USA flag bearer Lopez Lomong relayed his heart-rending, significant narrative of a life torn by trials, punctuated by his overwhelmed and thankful gushing about being elected the flag bearer by his Olympic teammates, the Dream Team sauntered into their press conference, late and haughty and regally smug . For an hour, the First Name guys -- Kobe, LeBron, Melo et al -- asserted in world-weary tones that they would really try hard this time, that winning for country was more important than winning for NBA city or franchise.
Sadly, nobody asked them if winning for country was more important than winning for sponsor .
But then came Team Lopez.
The air might be a little dingy, but the Temple of Heaven was spotless. The attendant sweeping debris even picked up the rare fallen leaf.
Clean, too, was the subway that got me there, not to mention the station. Unusual, waiting for a subway that doesn't smell like an overused American Standard product.
A pair of volunteer graveyard-shift concierges at the Media Village offered to act as tour guides today, Thursday, which was yesterday, Wednesday night, in Philly. I think. An adventure.