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Today at the Olympics: Phelps's last race, and 100-meter prelims

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 4, 2012 06:28 AM

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LONDON -- Welcome to Day 8 of competition, which marks a transition in focus from the pool to the track. Michael Phelps will swim his final race, the butterfly leg of the 4x100-meter relay, while Usain Bolt has all eyes on him in the fascinating field competing in the 100-meter preliminaries Saturday morning.

Saturday's must-see event: Phelps's farewell. A medal would give him 22 overall -- for some perspective, that's 12 more than Carl Lewis -- and should he win gold, it would be his 18th, which would surpass all-time medalist runner-up Larisa Latynina's total count of 17. Colleague John Powers told me that Phelps, who has been more reflective here than he was in Beijing, has always enjoyed the team competitions more than his individual events, so the camaraderie that surround his final race is an appropriate final chapter on his transcendent Olympic career. Given that the US has won the 4x100 in every Olympics in which he has competed in the event, one last golden moment for Phelps looks inevitable.

Also worth watching: Plenty of good stuff going on in track -- excuse me, "athletics,'' as they eruditely call it over here. Bolt (10.09), and Americans Tyson Gay (10.08) and an absolutely blazing Justin Gatlin (9.97) all won their heats in the 100-meter preliminaries, the final of which is set for Sunday. The final of the women's 100 is Saturday night, with Carmelita Jeter of the US and Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown among the medal contenders. And two of the home team's favorites compete Friday, with Mo Farah trying to become the first Brit to win gold in the 10,000-meters, and Jessica Ennis the favorite entering the final events of the heptathlon.

At Wimbledon, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams go shot-for-shot in the women's tennis final, with both trying to win singles gold for the first time. The men's doubles gold is also at stake.

There will be medals awarded Saturday in badminton (women's singles and doubles), cycling (men's sprint, women's team pursuit), fencing (women's team epee), rowing (women's single sculls, men's and women's lightweight double sculls, men's four), shooting (women's trap and rifle 3 positions), women trampoline, women's triathlon, and weightlifting (men's 94-kg).

Friday's big story: It's hardly just Phelps who's hoarding medals in the pool for the US. The overall swimming medal count is up to 28 -- 14 gold, 8 silver, 6 bronze, and 19 more than second-place China -- after Friday night's haul that included Missy Franklin's third gold and fourth medal overall here. In setting a world record in the 200-meter backstroke, the 17-year-old Franklin became the first American since Melissa Belote in Munich 40 years ago to win the event. Saunderstown, R.I.'s, Elizabeth Beisel won the bronze to go with her silver earlier in the 400-meter individual medley.

The youngest member of the US swimming team, 15-year-old Katie Ledecky, broke a record that had already lasted seven years when she was born. Ledecky won gold in the grueling 800-meter freestyle with a time of 8 minutes 14.63 seconds, which broke the longstanding American record set by Janet Evans in 1990.

Tweet of the day: Even men in prison get their wives to visit. -- Sprinter Kim Collins (@kimcollins100m), who was not permitted by St Kitts and Nevis officials to run in the 100-meter prelims, reportedly because he stayed with his wife and kids overnight.

Mind the gap, and stick around for further updates.

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