The unstoppable Michael Phelps won his sixth gold medal with his sixth world record of the Beijing Games on Friday, his triumph in the 200m medley moving him closer to an historic eight titles.
Phelps led throughout and pulled away on the final freestyle leg to win by more than two seconds in a world record of 1:54,23.
Hungarian Laszlo Cseh was second in a European record of 1:56,52, with American Ryan Lochte edged into third place in 1:56,53 — a repeat of the medal finish in the 400m medley on Sunday.
Half an hour earlier, Lochte threw down the gauntlet as he posted a world record to beat defending champion Aaron Peirsol convincingly in the 200m backstroke.
But he was unable to derail his superstar teammate’s bid for a record eight golds at one Games, which would surpass the seven-gold standard set by American swimmer Mark Spitz at Munich in 1972.
”Of course, I wanted to beat Michael Phelps,” Lochte said. ”No matter what the event is, I want to win. I wanted to, but it didn’t happen.”
Phelps has also won gold and claimed world records in the 400m medley, 200m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 4x100m free relay and 4x200m free relay.
Now with 12 for his career, including six from the Athens Games, Phelps has the most gold medals of any competitor in history in any Olympic sport.
He still has two events remaining, the men’s 100m butterfly and the 4x100m medley relay, and posted the second-fastest time in winning his 100m fly semifinal half an hour after winning the medley and just minutes after the medal ceremony.
”It was a bit of a tough session; I had literally five minutes between the award ceremony and getting into race mode,” Phelps said. ”I just about had time to put my cap on and march straight out. There is going to be a lot of time to rest over the next 18 hours, and then I’ll be ready to race tomorrow morning.”
Rebecca Soni, who underwent heart surgery in 2006, shocked world champion Leisel Jones to win the women’s 200m breaststroke gold, taking the Australian’s world record in the process.
Soni kept up with the Australian under world-record pace and pulled away in the final lap to lower Jones’s world mark by 0,32 seconds in with a time of 2:20,22.
Jones was second in 2:22,05, and Norway’s Sara Nordenstam was third in an European record 2:23,02.
”It just kind of flowed, it just happened, it felt great. I just kept it strong and powered to the end,” Soni said. ”The last 15 I had plenty left in me. I saw Liesel behind and just pushed for the wall. I didn’t know what was going on, I just went for it.”
In the 200m backstroke, Lochte ended Peirsol’s bid for a second straight Olympic backstroke double with a victory in 1:53,94.
The previous record of 1:54,32 was set by Lochte in winning the world title in Melbourne last year and equalled by Peirsol at the United States Olympic trials in July.
Peirsol finished second in 1:54,33, and Russian Arkady Vyatchanin, who set the pace through much of the race swimming out in lane eight, took bronze in a European record 1:54,93.
”I’m kind of tired now,” said Lochte. ”You forget about the pain when you win, I just forgot about the pain and got ready for my next race.”
Friday’s three world records took the total at the Water Cube to 21.
”That’s the theme of the meet — you have to break a world record to win,” Peirsol said.
Germany’s Britta Steffen didn’t beat the record clock, but she out-raced Australian world-record holder Libby Trickett in the final 10m to win the 100m freestyle in an Olympic record 53,12 seconds.
Trickett, who miscalculated her semifinal swim and only squeaked into the final when another swimmer was disqualified, took the race out fast in lane eight, but had nothing left when former world-record holder Steffen, next to her in lane seven, made her move.
”It was a fantastic battle,” Trickett said. ”Full credit for her, she kept working hard and driving through the wall.”
The Australian admitted she felt lucky just to be in the race. ”I was so thankful that I was in there in the first place and I got a lane.”
Trickett took silver in 53,16, and American Natalie Coughlin took the bronze in 53,39. — Sapa-AFP