Beijing: US swimmer Michael Phelps joined an elite list of Olympic greats on Tuesday becoming only the fifth competitor in history to win nine gold medals.
Phelps added his name to the prestigious group of Paavo Nurmi, Carl Lewis, Mark Spitz and Larysa Latynina when he won the men’s 200m freestyle with a world record swim for his third gold medal in Beijing.
He appears destined to become the greatest Olympian as he continues his quest for an unequalled eight gold medals in one Games and said the toughest three races were behind him.
Phelps won six gold medals in Athens four years ago and has already won gold in the 400m individual medley and 4x100m freestyle relay, both in world record time, at Beijing’s futuristic Water Cube pool.
People walk in front of a poster of US swimmer Michael Phelps in Beijing on 12 August 2008. (AFP)
Ahead lie the 200m individual medley, 200m butterfly, 100m butterfly, 4x200m free relay and 4x100m medley relay.
“That’s great,” said Phelps as he emerged from the water after leading all the way in the 200m freestyle final to post a new world record of one minute 42.96.
“I just wanted to be out on my own which I had done by the 100 metres mark, that was my goal. I was out in open water and I was out of the middle, which makes it difficult for the other guys to see me.”
Phelps’s freestyle victory launched a dominant morning for the United States in the pool.
Aaron Peirsol lowered his own world record in winning the men’s 100m backstroke, setting a new mark of 52.54sec, and Natalie Coughlin defended her women’s 100m backstroke crown.
Australian Liesel Jones broke the US stranglehold when she won the women’s 100m breaststroke title.
China lead the medals table with 11 gold, ahead of the United States on seven and South Korea with five as the leading three shared all the early medals on Tuesday.
In Beijing, security was stepped up around Olympic sites following recent violent incidents including the fatal stabbing of a US Olympic coach’s relative, and there were reports of further trouble in northwest Xinjiang region.
Three security staff were stabbed to death in the third deadly assault there in just over a week, state media said.
China added to their gold tally with their men’s gymnastics team, featuring three world champions, and the pair of Wang Xin and Chen Ruolin who won the 10m synchronised diving to give the hosts a clean sweep of the three diving events so far.
Jin Jong-Oh picked up South Korea’s fifth gold winning the men’s 50m Pistol from Kim Jong-Su of North Korea.
Germany, vying for their first gold at the Games, were headed for a nail-biting finish with Australia and Great Britain in the final phase of the three-day equestrian event in Hong Kong.
They had a second prospect in the men’s judo-81kg category where Ole Bischof upset world champion Tiago Camilo of Brazil in the quarter-final.
Further overnight rain improved conditions for outdoor Olympians, easing the smog over Beijing, and patches of blue sky were visible leaving midday temperature at an acceptable 27 degrees Celsius (81 Fahrenheit).
At the tennis venue, the Williams sisters continued their march with overwhelming second round wins.
Serena needed just 44 minutes to dispatch Australia’s Samantha Stosur and Venus and was on court only slightly longer in easily beating Iveta Benesova in straight sets.
Sixth seed Russian Dinara Safina is also through to the third round but Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, the 10th seed, lost to Danish teen Caroline Wozniacki 6-1, 6-3.
Incoming men’s number one Rafael Nadal will later face Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt, who last occupied the top ranking in June 2003 while top seed Roger Federer has a mismatch against El Salvadoran invitee Rafael Arevalo, the world 447.