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.
"I wasn't comfortable after the first 200. We were pretty close together," Phelps said. "That's not how it usually is after 200."
The race soon fell into form, however, the crowd swelling as the announcer updated Phelps' amazing pace.
On the medal stand, Phelps, seasoned and salty in his third Games, clearly was moved as the National Anthem played. He had overcome a year of serious challeneges to his dominance; a wrist injury that required surgery; and the mounting pressure of mountainous expectation.
"I wanted to sing," he said, "but I couldn't stop crying. I have no idea why."
Like Phelps' corporate sponsors, the United States was elated, too.
Phelps said he wants this 400 IM to be his last, though coach Bob Bowman wants him to continue it. ... Havertown's Brendan Hansen shook off a shaky 100-meter breaststroke qualifying heat Saturday to finish with the fifth-best time in Sunday's semifinals, though his 59.94 seconds was well off his world record 59.13. Hansen, who won silver in Athens, swims in the final at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time Sunday on NBC. ... Katie Hoff saw her world record set at the U.S. Trials shattered in the 400 IM as she took the bronze, 2.26 seconds behind Austrialia's Stephanie Rice, who finished in 4:29.25, 1.87 seconds faster than Hoff's record.