Phelps and 'Great Haul of China' take AP awards

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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YEAR-END HONOURS

Michael Phelps had just finished his work at the Water Cube, still wet but his place in history secure, when he walked up to his longtime coach.

"Good job," Bob Bowman said.

C'mon, coach, couldn't you come up with something a little more memorable? Didn't you have a "win one for the flipper" speech stashed away for such a momentous occasion?

Michael Phelps poses in the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach, Calif., in this Jan. 18, 2008 file photo. Phelps' Olympic performance, which saw him win eight gold medals in Beijing, has been selected as the top sports stories of 2008 by The Associa

Michael Phelps had just finished his work at the Water Cube, still wet but his place in history secure, when he walked up to his longtime coach.

"Good job," Bob Bowman said.

C'mon, coach, couldn't you come up with something a little more memorable? Didn't you have a "win one for the flipper" speech stashed away for such a momentous occasion?

"At that point, there was not much to say," Bowman recalled Monday when reached by phone, chuckling at the brevity of his comments on that August day in Beijing. "It had all been said."

Well, not quite.

The honours just keep on coming for the "Great Haul of China" - Phelps' feat has now been selected as the top sports story of the year by members of The Associated Press.

By taking down Mark Spitz's Holy Grail of records with eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, Phelps also was a runaway selection for AP's male athlete of the year. Only Olympic sprinting sensation Usain Bolt (five votes) and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (four) got more than a single vote. Phelps was named on 172 ballots, becoming just the third swimmer to claim the award.

"Every single moment over there - whether it was winning a gold medal, swimming for my county, spending time with teammates - I had a blast," the 23-year-old Phelps told the AP recently.

He one-upped Spitz's mark from the 1972 Munich Games by winning five individual golds and serving on three relay teams that also touched first - and by breaking seven world records along the way. Not bad for someone who couldn't sit still in elementary school (he was eventually diagnosed with ADHD), a once-scrawny kid with big ears who was picked on mercilessly and prone to fits of whining and crying.

"Some of the accomplishments have sunk in, but some haven't," said Phelps, who followed Don Schollander in 1964 and Spitz in '72 as swimmers winning the AP's annual top male athlete award. "I've been on the road a lot and haven't had time to myself to really sit there and think about what really did happen this summer and this whole year."

Trust us, Michael, it was quite a ride.

Your wake included the New York Giants' upset of New England in the Super Bowl, which ruined the Patriots' perfect season but had to settle for second place in story-of-the-year voting. Tiger Woods' saga - season-ending surgery after a gutty U.S. Open playoff win - was third, followed by Brett Favre's on-again, off-again retirement and move to the New York Jets. The Boston Celtics' worst-to-first turnaround that ended with an NBA title over the rival Los Angeles Lakers took the fifth spot.

Organizations: New York Giants, The Associated Press, Beijing Olympics Munich Games New York Jets Boston Celtics Los Angeles Lakers

Geographic location: China, Beijing, New England

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