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Phelps wins record eighth Olympic gold, China equals Athens medal haul
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American swimmer Michael Phelps broke Mark Spitz's record of gold medals in a single Olympics, set in Munich in 1972, after taking his eighth at the Beijing Games on Sunday.

Along with the six golds he won in Athens in 2004, the 23-year-old Phelps has the most gold medals overall - 14 - in Olympic history, far ahead of legends Spitz, Carl Lewis, Paavo Nurmi and Larysa Latnina, who won nine Olympic golds each in their career.

Phelps rounded out his eight-gold quest, which was perceived by many as "A Mission Impossible", when the US team won the men's 4x100m medley relay in a world-record of 3 minutes, 29.34 seconds Sunday, lowering the old mark of 3:30.68 set four years ago in Athens. The American quartet also included Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen and Jason Lezak.

"Nothing is impossible. With so many people saying it couldn't be done, all it takes is an imagination, and that's something I learned and something that helped me," said Phelps.

What made Phelps' feat even more marvelous was the fact that seven world records were set or shared by him in the process.

"I literally wanted to do something that no one's ever done before in this sport. Without the help of my teammates it wouldn't have been possible," he said.

China has so far garnered 32 gold medals, equaling its total haul in Athens four years ago. The hosts are expected to surpass the mark later in the day as they have a realistic shot at the women's team table tennis and women's 3m springboard diving.

The United States followed with 19 golds, but had 63 overall medals, ahead of China's 57.

American Matthew Emmons, who fired at the wrong target and gifted Chinese Jia Zhanbo a gold medal in Athens four years ago, failed his last shot again to hand Qiu Jian of China the gold in the men's 50m rifle three positions.

Leading by 3.3 points and needing only a mediocre shot of 7.6 to dispel the 2004 ghosts, Emmons fired a 4.4 on his final attempt to drop to fourth.

"I did not feel my finger shaking, but I guess it was," he said.

The unexpected gold helped China top the final shooting medals table with five golds, followed by the United States, the Czech Republic and Ukraine with two each.

China's dominance in gymnastics continued as Zou Kai and Xiao Qin won the men's floor exercise and pommel horse respectively.

China's Wang Jiao overwhelmed two-time world champion Stanka Zlateva of Bulgaria to win the women's freestyle wrestling 72kg gold, and Tang Bin, Jin Ziwei, Xi Aihua, Zhang Yangyang added another in the women's quadruple rowing event.

After four golds on Saturday, Britain's sailors, rowers and cyclists added four more to lift their total to 11 golds, moving them up to third place in the overall medal table.

Also at the Water Cube, Germany's Britta Steffen won the women's 50m freestyle by the slightest margin to add to her 100m freestyle triumph. Steffen touched home in an Olympic record time of 24.06 seconds, just one hundredth of a second ahead of U.S. five-time Olympian Dara Torres.

Grant Hackett's bid for a third straight title in the men's 1,500m freestyle was foiled by Tunisia's Ous Mellouli. Melloui held off the Australian veteran in the late stage and finished in 14:40.84 to give the African country its first Olympic swimming gold. Hackett was second in 14:41.53.

Australia defeated the United States to win the women's 4x100m medley relay in a world-record time of 3:52.69. The previous world mark of 3:55.74 was also set by Australia at last year's world championships in Melbourne.

Romania took its first track and field gold with Constantina Tomescu in the women's marathon. The 38-year-old veteran beat a field of 81 competitors to finish the 42.195-kilometer race in a season-best time of two hours, 26.44 minutes.

"The experience of age helped me," Tomescu told reporters. "I have raced a lot before, I know a lot about running."

Kenya's Catherine Ndereba was second in 2:27.06, just a second ahead of Zhou Chunxiu of China.

"I think I performed quite well today. Although I couldn't catch Ndereba, I tried my best and I'm really satisfied with the result," said Zhou.

In tennis, world number one Rafael Nadal of Spain crushed Chilean Fernando Gonzalez in straight sets to claim the men's singles title, while Elena Dementieva beat fellow Russian Dinara Safina 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to win the women's singles gold.

There are 37 gold medals at stake on Sunday, the most of a single day in the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2008)

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