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Phelps' record haul and a heavyweight performance

Steven Lynch December 5, 2011
Michael Phelps will be hunting a record in London in 2012 © Getty Images
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I know that Michael Phelps has won 14 Olympic medals - are there any other swimmers close to him? asked John Foster
Michael Phelps has actually won 16 Olympic medals - he has two bronzes in addition to his record 14 gold medals. The only other person from any sport with more medals is the Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won 18 (nine of them gold) between 1956 and 1964: if Phelps stays fit he should easily eclipse that record in the pool in London next year. Two other swimmers have won 12 Olympic medals, both American women: Jenny Thompson, who won eight golds, all in relay events, and Dara Torres, who has four of each colour, the first one coming in Los Angeles in 1984 and the 12th one in Beijing in 2008, when she was 41. Three other swimmers - again, all Americans - won 11 Olympic medals: Mark Spitz (1968-72), Matt Biondi (1984-92) and Natalie Coughlin (2004-08). The leading non-American swimmer, with ten Olympic medals - none of them gold - is Germany's Franziska van Almsick (1992-2004).

Which boxers have held all four major heavyweight titles? asked Terry Johnstone
It's a difficult exercise these days keeping up to date with all the various boxing organisations and their champions. The four most widely accepted titles are conferred by the WBC (World Boxing Council), WBA (World Boxing Association), IBF (International Boxing Federation) and WBO (World Boxing Organisation). There are others too - not for nothing do some people disparagingly refer to today's champions as "the alphabet boys", harking back to the days when there was just one universally recognised world champion in each division. However, only one heavyweight has held all four of those major belts - Riddick "Big Daddy" Bowe, who took the WBA, WBC and IBF titles off Evander Holyfield in 1992 and, after losing them, relieved Herbie Hide of the WBO crown in 1995. All four belts currently belong to the Klitschko family - Wladimir is the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion, while Vitaliy holds the WBC crown.

Greg Hancock recently won the speedway world championship again after a long gap. Is it the longest interval between titles, and is he the oldest winner? asked Geoff Cooper
Greg Hancock recently claimed his second world speedway title, 14 years after his first one in 1997. That is indeed the longest gap between titles: the New Zealander Ivan Mauger won his first world championship in 1968 and his last in 1979, although he also won four others in between. Hancock, who was born in California in June 1970, is now 41, and became the oldest man to win the world title with his second triumph this year. The previous record-holder was again Mauger, who was nearly 40 when he won that sixth title in 1979.

Gary Woodland and Matt Kuchar hold the World Cup © Getty Images
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I was slightly surprised to discover that there was a golf World Cup. Have Great Britain ever won it? asked Mark Turner
Golf's World Cup started life as the Canada Cup in 1953, when it was won for the only time by Argentina. The name was changed to the World Cup in 1967. It's an event for two-man national teams, and it does probably deserve a higher profile. It was an annual fixture until 2009 (when it was by Italy's Molinari brothers), but is now due to be played every two years. There have been five World Cup victories by the home countries, which compete individually. Wales were the first to win it, represented by David Llewellyn and Ian Woosnam in 1987, and they won again in 2005 (Stephen Dodd and Bradley Dredge). England, represented by Nick Faldo and David Carter, won in 1998, and again in 2004 (Paul Casey and Luke Donald), while Scotland (Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren) lifted the title in 2007. Ireland have also won it twice, with Harry Bradshaw and Christy O'Connor senior in 1958, and Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley in 1997. The United States have won it most often - 24 times now, including the victory of Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland in China last week.

Has anyone ever retained the downhill skiing title at the Winter Olympics? asked Charlotte Norman
The competitive life of a downhill skier tends to be relatively short, which is perhaps why only one person has retained the downhill title at the Winter Olympics. That was the German Katja Seizinger, who won by over half a second at Lillehammer in 1994 and retained the title in Nagano in 1998, again by a reasonably comfortable margin (0.29 seconds). The nearest a man has come to this double was the Swiss skier Bernhard Russi, who won gold at Sapporo in 1972 but finished second (behind Franz Klammer) at Innsbruck four years later.

Has any runner won Olympic gold medals at 100, 200 and 400 metres? asked Nicky Thomas
Only one person has done this - the Australian "Golden Girl" Betty Cuthbert, who pulled off the 100/200m sprint double in Melbourne in 1956, then eight years later surprised the British favourite Ann Packer to win the 400m in Tokyo. The Jamaican Herb McKenley achieved a unique treble in 1948 and 1952, during which time he reached the finals of all three sprint events (it is sometimes stated that he reached all three finals at the same Games, but this is not true). In London in 1948 McKenley was fourth in the 200m and second in the 400 (behind another Jamaican, Arthur Wint), while in 1952 he took silver in the 100m - a hundredth of a second behind Lindy Remigino - and collected another silver in the 400m, behind yet another Jamaican in George Rhoden. McKenley did finally get his hands on a gold medal when the Jamaican quartet won the 4x400m relay in Helsinki in world-record time (they had been denied another possible gold in 1948 when Wint pulled a muscle during the final).

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