The difference between a Gold Medal and a Bronze Medal in the 200 Meter Butterfly swim competition in the 2000 Olympics in Sidney, Australia was a mere 0.69% in the men's competition.  The difference between a Gold Medal and no medal (fourth place) for women was even smaller, at 0.31%.

But the difference between the slowest men and the fastest women was a whopping 9.81%, which is 31 times greater than the difference between the woman Gold Medal winner and a woman who won no medal.



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SYDNEY, Australia -- Spurred by rousing cheers of "Thorpey! Thorpey!," Ian Thorpe gave the Australians a huge lead as they set the world record in winning the Olympic 800-meter freestyle relay Tuesday.

The Australian men's 4x200 relay team celebrated Tuesday after winning gold in a world-record 7:07.05.

It was the Aussies' second men's relay victory over the Americans, who narrowly lost to the host country in the 400 free relay last weekend.

Tom Malchow, however, gave the U.S. team reason to celebrate by winning the 200 butterfly and lowering his own Olympic record for the third time in two days.

His victory gave the Americans their sixth swimming gold medal in four days.

The Aussie team of Thorpe, Michael Klim, Todd Pearson and William Kirby won in 7 minutes, 7.05 seconds -- lowering Australia's world mark of 7:08.79 set in August 1999.

Australian officials said Thorpe would swim the 400 medley relay, with heats beinning on Friday. That means Thorpe gets another chance to add to the three golds and the silver he's already won at his first Olympics.

The U.S. team, comprised of Scott Goldblatt, Josh Davis, Jamie Rauch and Klete Keller, took the silver in 7:12.64.

The Netherlands earned the bronze in 7:12.70.

Australia's record was the 11th world mark set or tied in four days at the Olympic pool.

Thorpe led off and gave the Aussies a two-body-length lead over the Americans after 200 meters. He failed, however, to break the world record in the 200 free set by Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband on Monday night, missing by nearly seven-tenths of a second.

The crowd of 17,500 at Sydney International Aquatic Center was at its loudest throughout the race, then sang along as the public address system blared Men at Work's hit "Down Under" afterward.

The United States endured another defeat in a relay event dominated by Americans at the Olympics. They had won the 800 freestyle relay in 10 of the last 12 Olympics, including the 1996 Atlanta Games.

"I'm so excited for the silver," said Davis, who won three relay golds four years ago. "To me, it's the most special medal in these games. Everyone swam their hearts out. I'm glad we had Klete on the end. He's a big up-and-comer."

The Dutch, anchored by Van den Hoogenband, won their first Olympic medal ever in the event.

In the 200 butterfly, Malchow, of St. Paul, Minn., was first in 1:55.35, bettering his own Olympic mark of 1:56.02 set in Monday's semifinals.

Cristina Teuscher of New Rochelle, N.Y., added to the Americans' haul with a bronze in the 200 individual medley. The United States has 14 medals in four days at the Olympic pool.

In the 200 butterfly, Denys Sylant'yev of Ukraine won silver in 1:55.76. Justin Norris of Australia took bronze in 1:56.17.

Michael Phelps of Baltimore, a 15-year-old who is the youngest male U.S. Olympic swimmer in 68 years, finished fifth in 1:56.50.

Malchow added gold to the silver he won in the same event in Atlanta, where at 19 he was the youngest man on the U.S. swimming team.

Always a strong finisher, Malchow wasn't worried when he was fifth at 50 meters, third at 100 meters and second to Norris at 150 meters.

"I stuck with my wits," he said. "When you're a competitive person, it's hard to sit back and watch people ahead of you, but you've got to pick your moments.

"You don't want to get too far behind in the game. It's not an exact science. I still do some dumb things, but it usually works out well."

Having lowered his Olympic record in the prelims and again in the semis, Malchow fell 17 one-hundreths short of his world record of 1:55.18 set in June at a meet in Charlotte, N.C.

"For four years, I've wanted that moment," he said. "The world record was a little taste of how it was going to be, but that was unreal. I can't think of anything better."

After trying basketball and baseball, Malchow had learned to swim because he could do so inside, away from whatever pollutants would bother his asthma.

Phelps followed his usual pattern of lagging well back early but, this time, he failed to make much of a dent. He was eighth at 150 meters and pulled into fifth at the wall.

"I wish I was a little faster coming home, but I did my best," said Phelps, who was quicker in the preliminaries and semifinals.

In the women's 200 individual medley, Yana Klochkova won her second gold of the games -- the first two in Ukraine's swimming history. She won in an Olympic record 2:10.68, breaking the 8-year-old mark of 2:11.65 set by Lin Li of China.

Beatrice Caslaru of Romania took silver in 2:12.57. She claimed bronze in the 400 IM, where Klochkova was the gold medalist Saturday.

Teuscher won bronze in 2:13.32.

"I'm happy I stuck it in there for a medal," she said. "You can't complain when you get a medal in the Olympics."

Gabrielle Rose of Memphis, Tenn., was seventh at 2:14.82, slower than the personal best of 2:14.40 that she swam in the semis.

The evening began with a bang thanks to Van den Hoogenband. One night after winning gold in the 200 freestyle, tying his own world record, Van den Hoogenband broke the world mark in the 100 freestyle semifinals.

He swam 47.84 seconds, lowering Klim's mark of 48.18, which was set during the lead-off leg of the Aussies' victorious 400 freestyle relay Saturday.

"Breaking the 48, making history, I'm so happy," Van den Hoogenband said. "I was feeling very tired. I only got six hours of sleep last night. Hopefully, I will get more sleep tonight and beat 48 seconds again."

Klim swam in the previous heat and was almost a second behind in 48.80. Alexander Popov of Russia, the two-time defending Olympic champion, was third-quickest in 48.84.

Neil Walker of Verona, Wis., qualified fifth in 49.04.

"It's amazing," Walker said of the Dutchman. "I can't even fathom how fast that is. I'm sure he'll be faster tomorrow."

Gary Hall Jr. of Phoenix, the silver medalist in Atlanta, made Wednesday's final by finishing sixth in 49.13. He called Van den Hoogenband's swim "absolutely amazing."

"I don't know if anyone can catch him," Hall said. "Anything can happen in an Olympic final. If you can get a ticket, you should be there."

Australian Susie O'Neill touched off a raucous celebration by winning gold in the 200 freestyle. The crowd chanted "Susie, Susie" as O'Neill churned to the finish in 1:58.24.

"I tried not to listen because they were putting me off," O'Neill said. "I just closed my eyes and tried to swim my own race."

Martina Moravcova of Slovakia earned her second silver medal of these games in 1:58.32. She won silver in the 100 butterfly Sunday.

Claudia Poll of Costa Rica, the defending Olympic champion, settled for bronze in 1:58.81. She also won bronze in the 400 free Sunday. The United States failed to advance anyone to the final.

O'Neill barely had time to dry off before she returned for the 200 butterfly semis. The world record holder led eight qualifiers for the final in 2:07.57.

Misty Hyman of Phoenix was fourth in 2:07.96, while Kaitlin Sandeno of Lake Forest, Calif., was sixth in 2:09.40.

Domenico Fioravanti of Italy led eight men into the 200 breaststroke final, qualifying first in 2:12.37. Kyle Salyards of Lancaster, Pa., was third with a semifinal time of 2:13.38.