The routine is always the same: Wipe down the starting block with a towel, stretch out each leg, step up from the side of the platform, flap those long arms so hard they slap him in the back. Then Michael Phelps gets down to business. A workmanlike Phelps won his opening race at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday night, providing a tantalizing glimpse of what might be coming.
Mariel Zagunis stood proudly atop the podium, the first American to do so at these Olympics. A former president was in the front row — and three red, white and blue flags were rising to the rafters. “It was a dream come true,” Zagunis said. Zagunis won the first U.S. gold medal of the Beijing Games, leading an American sweep Saturday in women’s saber fencing.
Michael Phelps lowered his own Olympic record as the fastest qualifier Saturday in the 400-meter individual medley preliminaries.
The American won his heat in 4 minutes, 7.82 seconds, bettering his Olympic record of 4:08.26 set four years ago in Athens. Phelps was under his world-record pace after 150 meters of the four-stroke race, but eased off to save something for Sunday’s final.
Laszlo Cseh of Hungary, the bronze medalist in Athens, was second in 4:09.26.
A Chinese man stabbed the in-laws of the U.S. Olympic men’s volleyball coach, killing one and injuring the other while they visited a Beijing tourist site near the main venue where Olympic competitions began Saturday.
With President Bush and the first family looking on, the United States women’s basketball team began its quest for a fourth-straight gold medal with a rout of the Czech Republic. Diana Taurasi scored 13 of her 17 points in the first half to lead the U.S. to the 97-57 victory in the opener Saturday night.
Michael Phelps kicked off his medal quest by breaking his own Olympic record in qualifying. Get the latest results from Beijing here.