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Sunday roundup: Phelps stands alone with 8th gold medal

August 17, 2008

BEIJING (AP) -- Michael Phelps got what he came for, capping the greatest Olympics for an individual athlete by winning his eighth gold medal in Beijing and 14th of his career.

Matt Emmons? Well, he probably prefers we talk more about Phelps.

The swimmer from Baltimore and the shooter who went to college in Alaska demonstrated Sunday how the Olympic experience can bring out the best and worst in people.

Phelps was the joyous part, of course, a big reason the U.S. team closed out a meet full of world records with yet another in the Olympic 400-meter relay. The victory also pushed him past Mark Spitz's record of seven golds, a record that's stood since 1972 and gave headline writers everywhere fodder for lines like "Great eight!" ''Eighth wonder!" and "Eight is enough!"

"I guess it's a lucky number for me now, too," Phelps said. "Seeing eight in '08, and opening ceremonies starting at 8:08, I guess it was maybe meant to be."

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Emmons thought he was headed for a meant-to-be moment, too.

After blowing gold by shooting at the wrong target four years ago, he was back in the lead on the last shot of the same event. He was determined not to make the same mistake again. He didn't -- he made a different one.

Emmons' gun fired before he was ready. Instead of the measly 6.7 he needed, he got an atrocious 4.4, dropping him to the cruelest spot of all, fourth. At least last time he got silver.

"I didn't feel my trigger shaking, but I guess it was," Emmons said. "It just hit the trigger, the gun went off and I was like, 'Uh, that's not going to be good.'"

Emmons is going home with three medals anyway: A silver from another event, plus a gold and a silver won by his wife, Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic. They hooked up after she consoled him following the flub in Athens.

Sunday was the most medal-filled of these games, with 36 titles decided. Several were in track and field, and a few more in tennis, with headliners Rafael Nadal and the Williams sisters going home with gold.

China won eight golds, giving the hosts a whopping 35 for these games, the most in the nation's history. And there are still seven days left. The Chinese are second in the overall medal count, with the United States owning 65 (19 gold) to China's 61.

Also Sunday, reigning women's 400-meter hurdles champion Fani Halkia of Greece became the latest doping casualty, the fourth caught by the IOC's Beijing anti-doping program.

The IOC and games organizers also called off their scheduled news conference for a second straight day, this time because it conflicted with Phelps.

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Track and field

Dang, those Jamaicans are fast.

Shelly-Ann Fraser broke away from the pack early and cruised to victory in the women's 100 meters, a day after Usain Bolt set a world-record in the men's race. About the biggest difference was that Fraser waited until crossing the finish line -- well, almost -- before celebrating. Two other Jamaicans, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart, tied for second, denying the American trio of Lauryn Williams, Torri Edwards and Muna Lee from making the medals stand.

The scoreboard flashed "Photo-Finish" for a couple of minutes before finally showing that Simpson and Stewart were both timed in 10.98 -- and were both credited with finishing second. Williams was fourth, Lee fifth.

In the women's 400, three-time U.S. national champion Sanya Richards won her semifinal in 49.90 seconds to move into Tuesday's finals where she'll go for an individual gold to go with the relay gold she won at the Athens Olympics. Americans Mary Wineberg and Dee Dee Trotter each failed to advance.

"Oh, man, I feel I can just taste it now," said Richards, who has dominated the event but never won a world championship or Olympic gold medal, in part because she has suffered from a rare disease that caused painful sores on her body and in her mouth.

Francoise Mbango Etone of Cameroon defended her triple jump title, Russia's Gulnara Galkina-Samitova set a world record in winning the first-ever women's steeplechase, and Primoz Kozmus won the men's hammer throw, giving Slovenia its first-ever track and field gold medal.

Kenenisa Bekele won his second straight 10,000 meters title, while Haile Gebrselassie -- who won the 10,000 at the 1996 and 2000 Games -- was sixth. He's been running the marathon since Athens, but switched back because the asthmatic runner was worried about the polluted air in Beijing. Turns out, it wasn't so bad for the women's marathon, which was won by Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania. The race also was incident-free, thanks in part to heavy security.

World record-holder Paula Radcliffe of Britain persevered through injuries, but finished 23rd. American record-holder Deena Kastor dropped out early because of a broken right foot. With Magda Lewy also pulling out because of a knee ailment, the only American to finish was Blake Russell, in 27th.

Also, reigning hurdles champion Liu Xiang of China said on his Web site that he has an inflamed hamstring. Heats begin Monday.

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Swimming

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