Can France spoil Phelps' party?

Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps's coach, says the US swimmer's ambition of eight gold medals can be hampered by the French 4x100 team.

updated: August 14, 2008 16:54 IST
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Bob Bowman, the coach who is hoping to guide Michael Phelps to an historic eight gold medals in Beijing, says the French 4x100 metres relay team are the biggest threat to his unprecedented haul.

Having won six gold medals in Athens four years ago, Phelps, 23, is looking to break Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals from the 1972 Munich Olympics by winning eight in Beijing.

"The biggest threat to the eight is the French in the relay, they have posted the best times coming into Beijing and it will be a fierce battle," said Bowman, who coached Phelps to his six golds in Athens.

The French relay squad, led by 100m free world record-holder Alain Bernard, will be up against a US team buoyed by a world record-breaking performance in the heats.

The American team of Nathan Adrian, Cullen Jones, Ben Wildman-Tobriner and Matt Grevers clocked 3:12.23 to better the previous record of 3:12.46 set by the USA in August 2006.

Despite the performance of the preliminary swimmers, Phelps was expected to be inserted into the line-up for the final, as well as Jason Lezak and Garrett Weber-Gale, the top sprinters from the US trials.

Phelps got his eight golds quest underway today in sensational style when he broke the world record en-route to victory in the 400m individual medley.

Bowman admitted it was an emotional experience for coach and athlete.

With United States president George W Bush on hand to congratulate Phelps, Bowman admitted it had been a special moment.

"I just looked at the screen and saw him (Phelps) shed a tear, I started crying too," Bowman said of Phelps's overflowing emotions on the medal podium.

"When you see him come to an Olympic Games, win a gold medal with a really good time and have the president cheering you on, it's a big day."

Having swum the best 400m individual medley here at the Water Cube, Phelps has said he would like to drop the event from his competition schedule in future.

And Bowman says his young charge may now have earned the right, but the situation would be reviewed after Beijing.

"We might replace it with something, he has earned that," said Bowman with a smile.