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Phelps relaxed headed into final Olympics

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps Credit: Michael Phelps (Getty Images)

Michael Phelps is quick to admit that the enormous expectations that followed him into the pool in each of the two previous Olympics - Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 - were, at times, a heavy burden.

Of course, the results from those Olympiads made Phelps a national celebrity and American hero. He established world records for the most gold medals total (14) and in a single Olympics (eight in Beijing) during his breathtaking run to glory, breaking the previously unapproachable mark of seven golds held by U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz in 1972.

But this time around, Phelps insists that he will stop and enjoy himself a bit more as he shoots for eight more medals.

"We've done a lot of cool, amazing, exciting things, and now it's just time to have fun," Phelps said earlier this month. "We're relaxed. This is just about what size cherry I want to put on top of my sundae."

He doesn't have to repeat his Beijing heroics to land atop the Games' ultimate podium.

With three more medals, be they gold, silver or bronze, Phelps will match legendary Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina's career mark of 18.

"He's the greatest Olympian of all time today and I think he will be after this summer," said Phelps' coach Bob Bowman.

(with Reuters)