Of Michael Phelps‘ eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the swimmer said his best performance was the 200m freestyle.
“I look at that race, and today, still, and say that’s probably my best race I’ve ever swam in my life from start to finish,” Phelps said in 2015. “It was kind of over at 15 meters. I was in the best shape possible. My stroke was perfect. Everything about that race, to me, was the best.”
Phelps, in the seventh of 17 swims at those Games, took nine tenths of a second off his world record. He clocked 1:42.96, winning by 1.89 seconds, the largest margin in that event’s Olympic history. On his secretive goal sheet, Phelps had scribbled 1:43.5, according to his book “No Limits: The Will to Succeed.”
“As soon as I popped up, I saw myself almost a half-body length ahead after 15 meters,” Phelps said on NBC later that night, after swimming a 200m butterfly semifinal about 50 minutes following the 200m free final. “The plan was to take it out, dare them to try and catch me.”
All of Phelps’ eight gold-medal finals air on NBCSN’s Olympi Games Week on Monday. A full schedule is here.
The 200m free was perhaps the most fickle of Phelps’ Olympic events.
In 2004, he went against coach Bob Bowman‘s suggestion and contested it at the Olympics, finishing third in the “Race of the Century” behind Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband. He broke the American record.
In 2012, Phelps edged Ryan Lochte at the Olympic Trials. But he dropped the event off his London Olympic program, not wanting to attempt the same, daunting eight-event schedule as 2004 and 2008.
He chose not to race the 200m free at the 2016 Olympic Trials.
Bowman agreed that the 200m free was Phelps’ best in Beijing.
“His best in terms of just a pure performance,” Bowman said in 2016, while noting his personal favorite was the 400m IM, where Phelps set his only individual world record that still stands today. “A dominating performance.”
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