Phelps becomes most successful Olympian
Friday, 15 August 2008

Sean Maguire

BEIJING, Aug 13 (bdnews24.com/Reuters) - American swimmer Michael Phelps became the most successful Olympian of all time by winning two more Beijing gold medals on Wednesday to take his career tally to an unprecedented 11 victories.

The mighty Phelps overtook an elite group including Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis who had won nine golds by breaking his own world record in the men's 200 meter butterfly.

Phelps brushed off a problem with his goggles that left them full of water. "Under the circumstances, it's not a bad result," he told reporters.

An hour later the 23-year-old he was back in the pool with his American teammates to win the men's 200 meters freestyle relay, in a world-beating time of six minutes 58.56 seconds.

Each of his five medals in Beijing have come in world best times and he is within reach of Spitz's record of seven golds in one games. Each of Spitz's 1972 golds came in record times.

Another highlight of the day came in gymnastics where China and the United States, already tussling for top place in the medals table, were facing each other in one of the Games' blue riband events, the women's team artistic gymnastics.

But strong performances in the pool grabbed the early attention with swimmers breaking six world records.

France's Alain Bernard took the record in the 100 meters freestyle semi-finals but lost it less than five minutes later to Australia's Eamon Sullivan.

Italy's Federica Pellegrini broke the women's 200m freestyle record in a victory that partly made up for losing in her favorite race, the 400 freestyle.

Australia's Stephanie Rice won her second gold in record time in the 200 meter individual medley.

Phelps's triumphs pushed him ahead of runner and jumper Lewis, Spitz, "Flying Finn" distance runner Paavo Nurmi and Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina on nine golds.

Latynina and fellow Soviet gymnast Nikolai Andrianov hold the record for the most career medals of any color, with 18 for women and 15 for men respectively.

U.S.-CHINA BATTLE

Americans might have brushed China aside in a basketball match earlier in the week, but they are so far trailing the hosts 13 golds to nine in the medals table.

Few contests are as closely watched as the women's team gymnastics. The Americans, who dethroned the Chinese as world champions in 2007, arrived with high hopes of winning their first Games team title on foreign soil.

But two of their gymnasts, Chellsie Memmel and Samantha Peszek, are nursing ankle injuries and they were outclassed in qualifying.

Their best hope is that the Chinese fail to cope with an unaccustomed early start, after the event was switched to the morning to catch the prime-time American television market. Some faced wake-up calls as early as 6 a.m..

"I'm tense about it because I'll be lying awake worrying about it all night," said Chinese gymnast Cheng Fei. "I'll be very tired in the morning."

China's men grabbed gold in their gymnastics team event on Tuesday, sparking national rejoicing after returning home from Athens in 2004 without a medal.

In a reminder of the struggle to keep the competition fair, two more possible doping incidents were revealed.

Bulgaria said it had sent home its men's volleyball captain for further tests after pre-Olympic doping controls showed he was close to anti-doping limits. Plamen Konstantinov would face further tests back home in Sofia, the volleyball federation said.

A Taiwanese baseball player tested positive for a banned substance in checks conducted before the games started, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported. Chang Tai-Shan will not start in Taiwan's opening game if he fails a second test, it said.

The road cyclists will be thankful that Beijing's weather has improved for Wednesday's time trial between two sections of the Great Wall. The women race one lap of the 23.8km circuit, while the men race two.

Suffocating heat and smog forced a third of the field in the men's road race to abandon their bikes on Saturday, while a day later thunderstorms and chill rain left the women cyclists to face treacherously slippery conditions.

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