BEIJING (Reuters) - The biggest threat to swimmer Michael Phelps’s bid to win eight Olympic gold medals will come from within his own team, according to Australia’s head coach.
Alan Thompson said the American was more than capable of the record feat but his team mates Ian Crocker and Ryan Lochte could spoil the party.
“There are a lot of people hoping to see history but the major competition in most events will come from his own countrymen,” Thompson said of Phelps, who is aiming to beat Mark Spitz’s record of seven golds at a single Games.
“Michael Phelps is a fantastic swimmer, If anyone can do it (win eight golds) it will be Michael. It will be magnificent of he does achieve it.”
Phelps is due to swim the 200 and 400 meters individual medley, the 100 and 200 butterfly, the 200 freestyle and three relays in Beijing -- and is favorite to win all of them.
He won seven gold medals at last year’s world championships in Melbourne and was deprived of an eighth when the U.S. team were disqualified in the medley relay.
Thompson, and many others, have warned the biggest danger to Phelps at Beijing’s “Water Cube” will be 100 butterfly world record holder Crocker, and Lochte in the medley events.
Sporting a well-groomed moustache, man of the moment Phelps slipped into Beijing through a back door on Monday to avoid fans and hoards of reporters.
He has shunned talk of an eight-gold target and became agitated at a news conference on Saturday when he insisted he wanted to be “the first Michael Phelps” and not another Spitz.
The now-retired Ian Thorpe, winner of five Olympic golds, this week said he doubted the 23-year-old could win all eight.
“I don’t think he can’t do it,” he said. “I just don’t think he will. Look at the competition.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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