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Purists would mention that one of Phelps' medals was awarded for the 4x100-metre medley, in which he competed in the semi-final but not the final, but the sport's governing bodies, the IOC and FINA, stipulate all competitors on a team receive the medal.
But aside from the hair splitting, what Phelps achieved in the Athens pools will be remembered as one of the Olympic Games' greatest exploits.
Phelps gladly gave up his place in the medley final, explaining that he felt Ian Crocker was the better relay man because of his superior start.
And with four individual titles to his name, Phelps joined fellow swimmers Spitz, Hungary's Tamas Darnyi, Germany's Roland Matthes and Russia's Alexander Popov, although only Spitz and Phelps managed the feat at a single Games. He also became only the second athlete to claim eight medals at a single Games, joining Soviet gymnast Alexander Dityatin, who did so in 1980.
"I wanted to achieve something nobody else had ever done in the pool," Phelps said. Mission accomplished.
In addition, the competition was much stiffer than it was in Spitz's day. Phelps' 100 freestyle relay team managed only bronze, while Spitz's took gold. Phelps also raced 17 times in seven days, while Spitz raced only 13 times.
Finally, Phelps dominated the butterfly and medley but had the massive task of facing up to swimming superstars Ian Thorpe of Australia and Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands in the 200 freestyle, not his speciality, in which he came in third.
While Phelps was the poster boy of the Athens Games on account of his stunning exploits, Britain had a star of their own as Kelly Holmes finally came good to claim Olympic gold - twice.
She has suffered a string of near misses at major championships, but it all clicked in Athens as first she repelled the threat of the brilliant Maria Mutolo in the 800m before backing it up in the 1500.
In the 1500m, Holmes set a new British record with a time of 3:57.90 seconds. It was a remarkable run, as Holmes came from eighth place at the bell to win going away from Tatyana Tomashova.
Matthew Pinstent emerged from the shadow of Steven Redgrave to claim a fourth gold in the coxless fours, with the race being one of the finishes of the entire Games, while Britain's 4x100m quartet of Darren Campbell, Jason Gardner, Mark Lewis-Francis and Marlon Devonish pulled off a shock success on the track.