American Michael Phelps became the first ever athlete to win eight gold medals at one Olympic Games in Beijing on Sunday as his teammates didn't let him down in the men's 4x100-meter medley relay final at the Beijing Olympics.
"I don't even know what to feel right now. There is so much emotions going through my head, so much excitement. I guess I kind of just want to see my mom," said the 23-year-old wunderkind.
The U.S. team started off strongly with two-time Olympic champion Aaron Peirsol in the 100-meter backstroke leading the first two laps unsurprisingly. But breaststroke specialist Brendan Hansen was still out of form, edged by Japanese breaststroker Kosuke Kitajima and Australian Brenton Rickard as well.
In the third 100 meters of butterfly, superfish Phelps came from behind vehemently to earn a 0.74 leading margin for the defending champion team and cheered veteran Jason Lezak up to touch the wall first in freestyle stroke in three minutes and 29.34 seconds, shaving 1.34 seconds off their previous world record set at the Athens Olympic Games four years ago.
Sprinter Eaman Sullivan helped the Australian team improve from the third position to a second finish, completing the race in 3:30.04. Japan snatched the bronze medal in a new Asian record of 3:31.18.
"I feel superb. I was glad to swim against Hansen," said Kitajima who defended his two titles in the breaststroke events in Beijing. "The relay event is something that requires collective strength. Our freestyle swimmer did a great job. This medal is the result of all of us putting in effort."
After the last pool event at the Beijing Games, the 25-year-old Peirsol said that "it's an honor to be on the relay, on the team and part of what Michael has done. And it's a great way to end our competition and it was the best relay I ever had. That's all why we are pressured at, to swim for Michael. It's a pleasure to be on that relay, but it by no means is the only thing that's going on."
Lezak was regarded as the "lifesaver" for Phelps's quest of eight gold medals as the 32-year-old defused a huge threat from the French team in the last leg of the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay on Monday, edging the French quartet anchored by the 100-meter freestyle winner Alain Bernard in 0.08 seconds.
"I was not really nervous in the race. Anything can happen in one race. I knew that Eamon was in the last leg, and obviously I took it out hard and held out strong," said Lezak, who also won his first individual Olympic medal by grabbing the bronze in the blue-ribbon 100-meter freestyle event on Thursday.
Phelps equaled legend Mark Spitz' seven-gold mark with a hard-won gold medal in the men's 100-meter butterfly on Saturday and finally added eight to the six gold medals he won in Athens, becoming the most prolific Olympic gold medalist beyond Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis, Paavo Nurmi and Larysa Latynina, who won nine Olympic golds each in their career.
"Some of the best memories you have are from the teammates. It's fun getting to know other guys. Playing spades with them, hanging around and relaxing, getting to know everybody on the team. Being able to be on the Team USA, be a part of the Olympic swimming team," said Phelps.