ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Ian Thorpe won the most anticipated duel at the Olympic pool, taking gold in the 200-meter freestyle Monday night and ensuring
that Michael Phelps won't match Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals.
Defending Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands got off to a quick start more than 1 second under world-record pace at the
halfway point but couldn't maintain it.
Thorpe wearing a black suit that left only his head, hands and huge feet exposed, caught van den Hoogenband on the final 50 meters, touching the wall
with an Olympic record of 1 minute, 44.71 seconds. The Dutchman claimed silver at 1:45.23, while Phelps never caught the top two. He was in third most
of the way, setting an American record of 1:45.23. But that was only good enough for bronze.
Phelps came into the games hoping to break Mark Spitz's 1972 record of seven gold medals, but his quest ended after only three races. He opened the
Olympics with a world-record performance in the 400 individual medley to win gold, but settled for bronze when the American team faltered in the 400
free relay Sunday.
Phelps has only five races left, meaning six golds is the best he can do. The 19-year-old from Baltimore had added the 200 free to his program because
of his desire for a head-to-head meeting with Thorpe. It was their only individual meeting of the Olympics.
The race was the most anticipated swimming event of the Athens Games -- perhaps the No. 1 event of the entire Olympics. There was Thorpe, the world
record-holder and holder of the eight of the nine fastest times in history. Beloved in his native Australia, the "Thorpedo" is known for his oversized
feet and imposing black suit.
There was van den Hoogenband, the defending Olympic champion. The "Flying Dutchman" pulled off a stunning upset of Thorpe at the Sydney Games four
years ago, sending the Aussies into a state of shock.
And, finally, there was Phelps, who lacks a catchy nickname but has become the world's greatest all-around swimmer. In the end, the Thorpedo held off
Hoogie and the young American and ensured Mark Spitz's record from the Munich games will live on for another four years.