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Stephen Parry secured Great Britain's first Olympic medal in the swimming pool for eight years on Tuesday night when he held on in the 200m butterfly to win a bronze.
The gold went, almost inevitably, to world record-holder Michael Phelps of the USA, whom Parry had edged into second in the semi-final the previous evening. But that was just after the American's own super-human effort to finish third behind Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband in the 200m freestyle, and a rested Phelps proved a different proposition 24 hours later.
Parry was briefly in the lead after being the fastest off the blocks, but once the 19-year-old Phelps got into his stroke, there was only ever going to be one winner. Parry stayed in contention though, a clear second throughout the first three lengths. But he tired in the last 50m, and while Phelps won in 1min 54.04sec, Japan's Takashi Yamamoto came through to take silver in 1.54.56. Parry's time was 1.55.52.
He said afterwards: "I'm absolutely made up. The Great Britain team needed a medal, I'm happy to get it. You've got two guys there who are number one and two in the world. It's weird, I feel disappointed, because I haven't won the race, but I have got a medal."
Harking back to Sydney four years ago, when he faded into sixth, Parry said: "The last 25m has always been a problem for me, I really didn't expect to be there, but this is a dream come true for me, ever since I watched Andy Jameson in '88. I wanted to do better than him, but I didn't quite manage it."
Jameson won a bronze medal in the 100m butterfly in Seoul, and his mother Diane was the young Parry's coach at the time.
Parry, who is something of the court jester of the team, responded well in that department too, saying: "My main motivation wasn't to win a medal for myself, but to do something for the team, anyone who has seen this team knows what a spirit there is. I didn't want to be part of another team that came home empty-handed. I think we're on a roll now, and other people on the team can win a medal or two. There's no reason why they can't do it, they're more talented than I am."
Less than an hour later, his young colleagues in the 4x200m freestyle relay - Simon Burnett, Gavin Meadows, David O'Brien and Ross Davenport - performed outstandingly to finish a close fourth. The race had a dramatic finish with Klete Keller of the USA holding off Australia's Thorpe by 13 hundredths of a second. Italy took bronze.
There is little, if no respite in swimming. The morning after what some described as one of the greatest races in history, Thorpe beating Van den Hoogenband in the 200m freestyle, the pair were back at it in the 100m event.
This is the better distance for Van den Hoogenband, since he holds the world record as well as the Olympic title. But this sport waits for no one. In Tuesday night's semi-finals, the Dutchman was beaten by Roland Mark Schoeman of South Africa, who led off the world-record breaking 4x100m relay squad two days ago. Thorpe finished third behind another surprising performer, Salim Iles of Algeria.
An even bigger surprise is that, for the first time since 1896, there is no US swimmer in Wednesday's final of this blue-riband event.
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