BEIJING -- In swimming 17 times and winning eight gold medals,
That's why Phelps' unbridled release of defiance and joy after the U.S. team's remarkable 4x100 freestyle relay comeback was indelible. Part of it was the realization that his quest for eight gold medals would continue. Part was an in-your-face slap at
Go back to the 4x200 free relay in Athens, where the U.S. quartet of Phelps,
Phelps is a team athlete at heart wedged into an individual sport. This was the boy whose favorite childhood sports memories came from team sports such as lacrosse, baseball and football. It was the youth swimmer who talked his coach into making sure that one additional race he'd enter at the next meet would be a relay. It was the college student who would sneak off to a sports bar to watch his beloved NFL Ravens from almost anywhere. Ask him about his favorite race from Athens and he'll go right to the relay. Ask about his favorite race from Beijing, and he'll go straight to the relay. Ask about his favorite out-of-pool memories and he'll talk about indoctrinating the swim team's new members into long games of spades and poker. Ask him about goals and he'll yap about changing the sport of swimming, lifting his game to bring the game to others as he did one memorable day at the Water Cube.