posted on Aug, 15 2004 @ 01:57 PM
ATHENS (AP) - South Africa spoiled the expected duel between the United States and Australia in the 400-meter freestyle relay Sunday night, winning
the gold medal in world-record time and assuring that Michael Phelps won't surpass Mark Spitz's record of seven Olympic golds.
The best Phelps can do is tie Spitz after the South Africans cruised to a stunning win in 3 minutes, 13.17 seconds. The Netherlands took silver at
3:14.36, while Phelps and his American teammates could manage only bronze at 3:14.62.
It was the worst showing ever for the Americans, who had never lost an Olympic 400 free relay until they were upset by the Australians at the 2000
Sydney Games, with both teams breaking the previous world record.
The Aussie mark of 3:13.67 was shattered by the South African team of Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns, Darian Townsend and Ryk Neethling. Schoeman went
out strong, and Neethling closed it out with an amazing 47.91 on the final 100.
The Americans were doomed by Ian Crocker's dismal start. He went out in 50.05 the worst 100 of any swimmer and left his teammates with a margin they
could not make up.
Phelps went second and got the Americans up to sixth with a time of 48.74. Neil Walker and Jason Lezak tried furiously to catch the South Africans, to
no avail. Swimming the anchor, Lezak expended so much energy on his first 50 that he was passed by Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands at the
Also swimming for the silver medalists: Johan Kenkhuis, Mitja Zastrow and Klaas-Erik Zwering.
At least the Americans got a medal. The Australians were a disappointing sixth, unable to catch up even with Ian Thorpe swimming the anchor leg.