Aug 13, 2008

Sport - Greatest olympian Phelps make history

Michael Phelps became the greatest Olympian in history on Wednesday, capturing the 10th gold medal of his Games career with a world record-setting triumph in the men's 200m butterfly.

Phelps clocked 1min 52.03sec to shave six-hundredths of a second off the world mark of 1:52.09 he set in winning the world title in Melbourne last year.

It was his fourth gold medal and fourth world record in Beijing's Water Cube, to go with six golds won in Athens four years ago.

The 23-year-old American moved past Olympic icons Paavo Nurmi, Carl Lewis, Mark Spitz and Larysa Latynina, who all won nine golds in their careers.

He had joined that group on Tuesday, and had a chance later Wednesday to add to his tally in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final.

Phelps continues to inch closer to another piece of Olympic history.

If he can win all eight of his Beijing events, he will surpass the record of seven gold medals at one Games set by US swimmer Spitz at Munich in 1972.

Hungary's Laszlo Cseh was second in the 200m fly in 1:52.70, and Japan's Takeshi Matsuda took the bronze in 1:52.97.

Phelps's triumph in an event in which he has owned the world record since 2001 wasn't the same kind of dominant display as his victory in the 200m freestyle on Tuesday, but Phelps said there was a reason for that.

"My goggles were filling up with water during the race, and I had trouble seeing the wall," he said.

"I wanted the world record. I wanted a 1:51 or better, but given the circumstances it's not too bad, I guess."

With the relay final scheduled later in the session, Phelps had no time to contemplate his place in history.

"He won't appreciate the history of what is happening here until later, maybe years later," Phelps's coach Bob Bowman said.

But the swimmer's pursuit of immortality was turning heads.

National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Kobe Bryant, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James and other members of the vaunted US men's basketball team were in attendance at the Water Cube on Wednesday to watch him, following in the footsteps of US President George W Bush.

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