Phelps' big day: 2 golds

U.S. 800 relay team is first

American squad atones for huge disappointment in 100-meter freestyle

Men's Swimming

Athens Olympics

Prime time tonight: Gymnastics, swimming, track and field. Chs. 11, 4 at 8 p.m.

August 18, 2004|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

ATHENS - One of the worst mornings ever experienced by an American men's swim team led to one of its best nights.

That turnaround was delivered by Michigan men and one who is headed there.

As fragile as the dynamics are among the U.S. men in the 100-meter freestyle, they are that solid among the group that races twice as far.

The resolve displayed by the 800 freestyle relay team repelled Australia and produced a third gold medal for Michael Phelps last night. The team found inspiration in a 60-something native of Hungary and a race that occurred the year before Phelps was born.

Things went miserably for the United States on Sunday night, when Ian Crocker's poor leadoff leg buried the 400 freestyle relay in last place. A presumptive gold medal for Phelps turned bronze, Crocker complained of a sore throat, and he didn't look any fitter in the preliminaries of the 100 freestyle yesterday morning.

Jason Lezak and Crocker, who went 1-2 at the U.S. trials, failed to get out of the preliminaries. Not only will the Americans be without an Olympic finalist in the 100 freestyle for the first time, but they also didn't advance a man to the semifinals, where Russian legend Alexander Popov was another casualty.

What was supposed to be the best Olympic swim team ever had endured another pratfall. An hour later, a foursome that included two University of Michigan swimmers got the United States through the preliminary of the 800 relay by posting the fourth-fastest time ever by an American foursome.

That was without Phelps and Klete Keller, the bronze medalist in the 400 freestyle in 2000 and here. They were joined in the final by the morning's two fastest swimmers, Ryan Lochte and Peter Vanderkaay, who is a rising junior at - where else? - the University of Michigan.

Keller has been the volunteer assistant coach at Michigan to John Urbanchek, a hard-driving, wise-cracking man whose English tells of his birth in Hungary.

Urbanchek is retiring in two weeks. His replacement is Bob Bowman, whose eight years at North Baltimore Aquatic Club turned Phelps into the most versatile swimmer in the world. Phelps will follow Bowman to Ann Arbor, replace Keller in the volunteer assistant's position and switch his allegiance to Club Wolverine.

At the U.S. trials, Bowman looked at members of the Australian press and predicted an American victory here. Since then, he has jogged at 5:30 a.m. with Urbanchek and picked his brain about the program he is inheriting.

After the preliminary, all those men gathered with head coach Eddie Reese for a pep talk that evoked the "Grossbusters" of 1984, when the Americans took the gold medal and world record from Germany and Michael Gross.

Australia was loaded with similar star power in Ian Thorpe. Reese, under fire after the 400 freestyle relay, went with the same bookends the United States used at the 2003 world championships, when Phelps led off in an American record of 1 minute, 45.99 seconds and Keller anchored with the exact same split.

The strategy worked to perfection last night, as Keller's American record split held off Thorpe's second-best ever.

As much as anyone, Urbanchek is the reason Phelps wore a Michigan cap all those years. Before he hardened Vanderkaay and Keller, Urbanchek helped Mike Barrowman, Tom Dolan and Tom Malchow become Olympic champions.

"This is better," Urbanchek said. "This is all about the team."

The 2000 gold medalist in the 200 butterfly and the last man to beat Phelps in that race, Malchow finished eighth in his Olympic swan song last night. He waited on the deck as Phelps climbed out of the pool, another instance of those Club Wolverine guys sticking together.

8 days, 8 events, 8 chances for Phelps

How Michael Phelps has performed in Athens and whatM-Fs ahead:

SATURDAY, AUG. 14 - GOLD MEDAL

400 IM

Won gold medal with world-record time.

Prelim: 4:13.29

Final: 4:08.26

SUNDAY, AUG. 15 - BRONZE MEDAL

400 free relay

U.S. team finished 3rd.

200 freestyle

Prelim: 1:48.43

Semifinal: 1:47.08

MONDAY, AUG. 16 - BRONZE MEDAL

200 butterfly

3:38 a.m.: Prelim

1:31 p.m.: Semifinal

200 freestyle

12:43 p.m.: Final

YESTERDAY, AUG. 17 - GOLD MEDAL, GOLD MEDAL

200 butterfly

12:48 p.m.: Final

800 freestyle relay

1:46 p.m.: Final

TODAY, AUG. 18

200 IM

4:47 a.m.: Prelim

1:35 p.m.: Semifinal

TOMORROW, AUG. 19

100 butterfly

4:10 a.m.: Prelim

1:35 p.m.: Semifinal

200 IM

1:14 p.m.: Final

FRIDAY, AUG. 20

400 medley relay

5:28 a.m.: Prelim

100 butterfly

12:37 p.m.: Final

SATURDAY, AUG. 21

400 medley relay

1:25 p.m.: Final

Medals leaders

Country G S B Tot.

United States 6 7 6 19

China 10 6 2 18

Australia 6 3 5 14

Tracking Phelps

Yesterday

200 butterfly Final: 1:54.04, gold medal

800 freestyle relay Final: U.S. team won gold

Today

200 IM: Prelim, semifinal

Complete Phelps schedule. Page 9E

Today in Athens

Gymnastics: men's all-around

Track and field: men's and women's shot put

TV schedule: Page 8E

On the Web

Breaking news and results: baltimoresun.com/olympics

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