Gold medal first for India as Phelps shines

BEIJING - India celebrated their first individual Olympic gold medal yesterday and American swimmers kept Michael Phelps' dream alive by a finger-tip.

BEIJING - India celebrated their first individual Olympic gold medal yesterday and American swimmers kept Michael Phelps' dream alive by a finger-tip.

The usually cool Phelps screamed and pumped the air with joy as his US teammates helped maintain his charge for an unprecedented eight golds in the pool, pipping France in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Indians banged drums and danced in the streets after the world's second most populous nation won their first individual Olympic title with Abhinav Bindra's gold in the men's 10m air rifle.

"Now I have lots of work ahead as he is the country's most eligible bachelor," joked his mother Babli Bindra, from the family home in Chandigarh.

Like many winners in Beijing yesterday, Bindra needed a remarkable comeback, shooting a near perfect hit at the end.

"It's the thrill of my life," he said after a win that left China's defending champion Zhu Qinan sobbing with only silver.

A familiar shadow fell over the Games when a Spanish cyclist became the first competitor to fail a drugs test in China.

Maria Isabel Moreno was caught taking the endurance-boosting EPO drug, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said.

Phelps is counting off the golds in world records as he bids to surpass Mark Spitz's record of seven golds in 1972.

Again watched by US President George Bush in the Water Cube, he left the Americans second after the first leg, trailing to a French team who had vowed to "smash" them.

With just a lap to go, France's former record holder Alain Bernard led by half a body length, but an astonishing comeback from Jason Lezak took the gold by a finger-tip.

"Jason finished that race better than we could even ask for," Phelps said. "I was so fired up."

The Americans took nearly four seconds off the world record. In all, five relay teams beat it, while Eamon Sullivan of Australia claimed the individual world record from Bernard.

The event left Phelps with two golds, after he destroyed his own world record on Sunday to win the 400 individual medley.

Also bringing the crowd to their feet, the most decorated Asian swimmer of all time, Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, justified his pre-race hype by shaving 0,22sec off the world record to win the 100 breaststroke.

Women swimmers were not to be outdone. Rebecca Adlington won Britain's first Olympic women's swimming title in nearly half a century with a last-gasp victory in the 400 freestyle. - Reuters

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