12 Aug 2008

Phelps powers to third gold at the Water Cube

2:32 pm on 12 August 2008

Michael Phelps became only the fourth man to win a record nine Olympic golds when he powered to victory in the 200 metres freestyle swimming.

Phelps was imperious as he captured his third medal of the Beijing Games, leading from the start to win in a new world record time of one minute and 42.96 seconds, knocking nine tenths of a second off his old record, a huge margin.

The American is not even half way through his long march towards a target of eight gold medals.

But win number three sets him beside fellow US greats, Carl Lewis in athletics and the swimmer Mark Spitz, as well as the Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi in the record books.

The lanky 23-year-old also has Spitz's record of seven golds at a single Games in his sights.

His exploits have helped draw huge audiences for the Olympics back home, where broadcaster NBC said they had more viewers for any summer Games held outside the United States since 1976.

One woman, Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina, also has won nine Olympic golds.

Each of Phelps's victories in the Chinese capital have come in world record time.