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Phelps becomes leading Olympian as world records tumble

13 August 2008

BEIJING – Michael Phelps on Wednesday rewrote the Olympic record books when he won his 10th and 11th gold medal in another awesome swimming session as six more world records tumbled.

China won the women’s gymnastics team event for the first time ever, boosting the hosts’ gold medal tally to 14, four ahead of second-placed USA, whose 10 golds include the five Phelps has now won in Beijing.

The American superstar became the all-time leading Olympian in a world record time in the men’s 200m butterfly and then also led the US 4x200m relay team into a new dimension in the sport.

His 11th gold medal lifted him two clear atop the all-time list, past Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, Finnish athlete Paavo Nurmi, US swimmer Mark Spitz and US athlete Carl Lewis, who all have nine.

Phelps said the realization that he had made history left him speechless. "Growing up, all I wanted to do was become an Olympian. And now to be the leading Olympian. Well, I suppose that’s a pretty cool title to have."

Phelps won six golds 2004 in Athens and now has five golds in Beijing from as many races. He is set to compete in three more races eyeing an unprecedented eight golds at one Games.

His time of 1 minute 52.03 seconds in the 200m butterfly was six hundredths faster than his record set at the world championships in Melbourne last year, and his 25th career world record.

Hungarian Laszlo Cseh was second with a European record 1:52.70, while Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda took the bronze in 1:52.97.

Phelps said that he had some troubles in the race. "I couldn’t see anything for the last 100 metres, my goggles pretty much filled up with water, it just kept getting worse and worse through the race.

"I was having trouble seeing the walls to be honest. But it’s fine, I wanted to break the record. I wanted to go 1:51 or better, but for the circumstances I guess it’s not too bad."

Less than an hour later, Phelps helped the US 4x200m freestyle relay team become the first team to swim under seven minutes as they took an astonishing 4.68 seconds off their own world record set in Melbourne at the world championships last year.

The US won in a time of 6:58.56, while Russia took silver in 7:03.70. Australia was third in 7:04.98.

Stephanie Rice of Australia got gold in the women’s 200m medley, edging Zimbabwean Kirsty Coventry on the final metres. The two had already finished in the same order in the 400m IM.

Rice clocked 2:08.45 minutes. Coventry got silver in 2:08.59 which was also faster than Rice’ previous world record 2:08.92 from March. Bronze went to Natalie Coughlin of the US in a time of 2:10.34.

Earlier in the session, Federica Pellegrini won the women’s 200m freestyle gold with another world record-breaking time. The Italian bettered her record of 1:55.45 from the semi-finals to 1:54.82.

Slovenian Sara Isakovic won an unlikely first-ever swimming medal for her country as she took silver, 0.15 off the pace, while Pang Yiaying was a popular bronze medal winner for the hosts in a time 1:55.05 as all three medallists bettered the old record.

The morning session already began with a bang as Frenchman Alain Bernard took back the 100m freestyle world record he had lost two days earlier to Australian Eamon Sullivan. Bernard’s time of 47.20 in the semis shaved 0.04 off Sullivan’s record.

The Australian countered in the next semi-final, when he swam a 47.05 to reclaim the record.

In the gymnastics hall, China prevailed over reigning world champion the United States to win a first ever Olympic gold medal in the women’s team event.

The six-woman team of Cheng Fei, He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan, Li Shanshan, Yang Yilin and Deng Linlin amassed a total of 188.900 points before an ecstatic home crowd.

Just as in Athens four years ago, the United States had to settle for silver with 186.525 points while defending Olympic champion Romania beat Russia in the battle for bronze with 181.525.

In cycling, former world champion Kristin Armstrong of the United States captured gold in the women’s road time trial, as Emma Pooley of Britain took silver and bronze went to Switzerland’s Karin Thurig.

French legend Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli, 1996 road race gold medallist and nine-time world champion who turns 50 in October, missed bronze by less than two seconds on her last Olympic outing.

[dpa / Expatica]

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