Down Under swimmer captures gold in freestyle

Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe won gold in the men's 200-meter freestyle Monday night, ending American Michael Phelps' chances of tying Mark Spitz's Olympic record.

The 19-year-old Phelps finished third for the bronze, while defending Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands won the silver. Phelps, who won gold on Saturday with a world record time in the 400-meter individual medley, now has no chance at match Spitz's record of seven gold medals set at the 1972 Munich Games.

Phelps also won a bronze as part of the 400-meter freestyle relay team on Sunday. Thorpe captured his second individual gold, also winning the 400-meter freestyle. Thorpe's time in the 200-meter freestyle was 1:44.71, which was a new Olympic record, previously held by van den Hoogenband, who came in second Monday by 52 seconds. Phelps was 61 second behind Thorpe, while American Klete Keller was fourth, reports HoustonChronicle.

Sport.telegraph marks that the Australian was too quick for Michael Phelps, who can now no longer equal Mark Spitz's record seven Olympic golds. Phelps had come to Athens aiming to beat the record with eight wins.

The American could finish only third behind Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband. British hope Simon Burnett came seventh. It was van den Hoogenband who made the early running, leading at the turn for the final 50 metres.

The Financial Times writes that Thorpe greeted his victory with a rare display of triumph, and there was a sting in the tale for critics at home. Referring to Van den Hoogenband, he said: "I knew he was going to go out quick. Now we are even. It will be another tough race in Beijing [2008]. I think that justifies my decision to change coaches."

Van den Hoogenband said: "I gave my best, but Thorpe was better. He is the man in this distance. Maybe I started too fast." The Dutchman will have a chance to rectify matters when he begins his defence of his 100m freestyle title.

A tired Phelps was back out within 30 minutes to compete in the first semi-final of the 200m butterfly, and was unexpectedly beaten by Britain's Stephen Parry. Parry had been the best of the bad British lot in Sydney, who failed to win a single medal for the first time in Olympic history.

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