BEIJING – No drama from Michael Phelps this time. Just another gold medal, another world record and another rung up the chart of Olympic greatness.
Phelps won the 200-meter freestyle in 1:42.96, the fastest time ever by nearly a full second, giving him three golds and three world records thus far in Beijing. This also was his ninth career gold medal, tying Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis and two others for the biggest stash of Olympic gold.
And he’s still got five races to go.
The way Phelps looked Tuesday morning, Spitz’s other claim to fame – his record of seven gold at one Olympics – is in trouble.
Phelps led by a full body length after the first half lap. He was so far ahead for so long that it seemed as if he’d been given a head start. And, remember, the seven guys trailing him are among the best swimmers in the world. That included American Peter Vanderkaay, who won bronze.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” became an oft-heard tune at the Water Cube early on Day 4, as Natalie Coughlin and Aaron Peirsol won the next two medal races. Coughlin became the first woman to successfully defend her title in the 100 backstroke, then Peirsol won the men’s version in a world record. Margaret Hoelzer got bronze in Coughlin’s race and Matt Grevers was right behind Peirsol for silver. The next race, the women’s 100 breaststroke, was the first not won by an American — but Rebecca Soni was close, getting the silver.
Just like that, in about 30 minutes, the U.S. medal gold-medal count doubled from three to six, and the overall count jumped from 12 to 19.
It grew to 20 with a pleasant surprise: A bronze from the men’s gymnastics team, a group always overshadowed by the women and counted out by many after twins Paul and Morgan Hamm withdrew with injuries.
The gold was no surprise, going to the hosts from China. They have a whopping 10 gold, which is more amazing when you consider:
•Of the other 204 delegations, the U.S. and South Korea are the only ones to have won as many medals of any color as China has won of the very best shade.
•China has four golds in weightlifting alone, more than the total for any delegation outside the U.S. and South Korea.
•China has 10 different gold winners, so it’s not as if the pile has been padded by one standout, like Phelps.
Phelps and Coughlin didn’t have long to savor their success. Both were back in the pool within an hour trying to qualify for another final.
Both made it, Phelps with the fastest time in the 200 butterfly and Coughlin in the 200 medley.
More qualifying was to come Tuesday, including Eric Shanteau in the 200 breaststroke only a few months after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. He’s postponed treatment to compete in Beijing.
Walsh has her gold ring back on her hand and another golden prize in her sights.
The American beach volleyball player covered her wedding ring with a bandage, when she and May-Treanor beat a pair of three-time Olympians from Cuba in straight sets to all but assure themselves of a spot in the medal round.
Walsh, who is married to fellow pro Casey Jennings, lost the ring on Sunday in the first game of the round-robin. It was dug up by a volunteer after venue officials combed the sand with metal detectors and security wands.
“I didn’t know I was superstitious about it until I lost it,” said Walsh, who had already called her husband and asked him to have another made so he can bring it to China when he comes out on Thursday.
Walsh and May-Treanor, the gold medalists in Athens, beat Dalixia Fernandez Grasset and Tamara Larrea 21-15, 21-16 for their 103rd consecutive victory. The Cubans, ninth-place finishers in both Athens and Sydney, fell to 1-1.
Serena Williams advanced to the third round, needing only 44 minutes to dispatch Australia’s Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-0. Williams lost just five points in the second set and dropped only six points on her serve in the entire match.
Americans Mike and Bob Bryan won their first-round match in doubles, defeating Mark Knowles and Devin Mullings of the Bahamas 6-2, 6-1. The Bryan brothers are seeded No. 1.
Monday was like the opening round of a major: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and the Williams sister all advanced.
Nadal won his Olympic singles debut, beating Italy’s Potito Starace 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, and Federer beat Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 6-2, then received congratulations from one of the spectators – LeBron James.
Venus Williams, playing her first match since winning Wimbledon, beat Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 6-3, 6-2 and showed no sign of the knee injury that sidelined her in recent weeks.
Serena Williams finished out her weather-suspended match against Belarus’ Olga Govortsova.
Her sister, seeded fourth, won all four games when her match resumed after an overnight rain interruption, and she beat Olga Govortsova of Belarus, 6-3, 6-1.
Third-seeded Novak Djokovic beat Robby Ginepri of the United States 6-4, 6-4. American Sam Querrey lost to Igor Andreev of Russia 6-4, 6-4, leaving James Blake as the only man to make the second round for the U.S. team in singles.
Nicolas Massu of Chile opened his bid to repeat as Olympic champion by beating Steve Darcis of Belgium 6-4, 7-5. Massu won the gold at Athens in both singles and doubles.
No. 5 David Ferrer and No. 6 Andy Murray were eliminated.
After two of three qualifying rounds, Glenn Eller and Jeff Holguin were in good shape to advance to the afternoon finals of men’s double trap.
In 50-meter pistol, both American entries failed to advance. South Korea’s Jin Jong-oh won the gold medal and North Korea’s Kim Jong Su got silver.
American Spencer Mango won his opening match in the 55 kg class of Greco-Roman, defeating Romania’s Virgil Munteanu, 1-1, 5-2.
A day after the U.S. men routed China, the women won by an even more lopsided score.
Tina Thompson powered a 23-0 run in the first quarter that sent the Americans well on their way to a 108-63 victory. By the time Kobe Bryant and the rest of the men’s team settled into their seats at the end of the first quarter the U.S. was up 33-11.
“We were really locked in and focused,” U.S. co-captain Katie Smith said. “We didn’t want to let them stick around. We wanted to let the crowd know that we were ready to play. You don’t want to play around with teams, if you have a chance to make a statement and put them away early you do that.”
The U.S. seemed focused to play the host country after losing to them in the gold medal game of the Good Luck Beijing tournament in April. However, that U.S. team only had four players from the current Olympic team on it.
China figured to be the toughest test for the Americans in their pool. Up next will be a matchup with Mali (0-2), which lost Hamchetou Maiga of the Houston Comets to an ankle injury in the third quarter of a 81-47 loss to the Czechs.
In other games, Russia edged South Korea 77-72; Belarus topped Latvia 80-57; and Spain defeated New Zealand 85-62.