Michael Phelps clinches fifth gold medal

ATHENS, AUG. 21. Michael Phelps clinched his fifth gold medal and became the first man since Mark Spitz to hold four individual Olympic swimming titles when he won the 100 metres butterfly final on Friday.

His last-gasp victory over fellow American Ian Crocker also enabled the 19-year-old to match the record of Spitz in 1972 and Matt Biondi in 1988 of seven swimming medals in a single edition of the Games.

Medley spot for Crocker

Phelps is done for the Olympics.

Shortly after winning his fifth gold medal and seventh overall, the American told U.S. men's coach Eddie Reese that he wanted to give up his spot on the butterfly leg of the 400-metre medley relay team to Ian Crocker.

Phelps, who has five gold medals and two bronzes, could have had the chance to chase an eighth medal if he had taken part in the medley to match Soviet gymnast Alexander Dityatin's 1980 record for the most medals at one Games.

Crocker, who beat Phelps to win the world title in Barcelona and took the world record from him at the same time, took charge at the start and went out fast down the first length, turning inside world record pace at the 50 in 23.59, more than half a second clear of the field.

Phelps was back in fifth place at the turn in 24.36 but accelerated down the return length as it developed into a duel between the two Americans.

Final touch

Crocker led all the way until the final touch when Phelps stretched home with Crocker needing to complete one more stroke.

Phelps clocked 51.25 seconds, inside the Olympic record of 51.61 he posted in Thursday's semi-final but well outside Crocker's 50.76 world mark set last month.

Crocker, who was suffering from a sore throat last weekend when the U.S. had to settle for third in the 4x100 freestyle relay, was a mere 0.04 seconds adrift in 51.29.

World bronze medallist Andriy Serdinov of Ukraine, who broke the world record in the World championship semifinals last year only for the time to be bettered by Phelps in the next semifinal, finished strongly close behind the Americans to take another bronze in a European record 51.36.

Phelps had already won the 200 and 400m individual medley and 200 butterfly and 4x200m freestyle relay gold medals. He also collected bronze medals in the 200m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle relay.

Kirsty Coventry won the women's 200 metres backstroke final to become the first Zimbabwean to win an Olympic swimming gold medal.

Coventry all the way

The 20-year-old led all the way to finish first in a time of two minutes 09.19 seconds, breaking the African record she set in Thursday's semifinal.

Stanislava Komarova of Russia collected the silver in 2:09.72 while the bronze was shared by Reiko Nakamura of Japan and Antje Buschschulte of Germany, both of whom swam 2:09.88.

Coventry went into the final as the second fastest qualifier but stamped her authority on the race from the start.

She opened a narrow lead over Buschschulte and gradually pulled away from the field to win by half a body length.

Buschschulte faded on the last lap but managed to hold on to third place, albeit shared with Nakamura.

Coventry joined South African Penny Heyns as the only Africans to win individual gold medals in swimming at the Olympics.

Full set of medals

Her gold also gave her a full set of medals in Athens after she won silver in the 100m backstroke and bronze in the 200 individual medley.

Coventry was born in Harare but now lives in Alabama where she is studying liberal arts.

Hall keeps title

American Gary Hall retained his Olympic men's 50 metres freestyle title.

He won gold in a time of 21.93, outside the world record of 21.64, which belongs to Russian Alexander Popov, who failed to get through the heats.

Duje Draganja of Croatia was second in 21.94 for silver, while South African Roland Schoeman took bronze in 22.02.

Hall shared gold with compatriot Anthony Ervin at the Sydney Olympics four years ago after the pair finished in a dead heat.

Shibata prevails

Japan's Ai Shibata prevailed in a sprint finish to win the women's 800 metres freestyle gold medal.

French teenager Laure Manaudou of France, who was chasing her second gold medal of the Games, led for all but the final length of the longest race in the women's programme.

But 22-year-old Shibata came through in the last few metres to win in eight minutes, 24.54 seconds, well outside the world record of 8:16.22 set by Janet Evans 16 years ago.

Manaudou claimed silver in 8:24.96, American Diana Munz took bronze in 8:26.61. — Agencies