Michael Phelps swam into history Wednesday as the athlete to win the most Olympic golds ever with his 10th and 11th career gold medals - and five world records at the Beijing Games.
A day after etching his name alongside Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis, Paavo Nurmi and Larysa Latynina with gold No. 9, Phelps claimed the record all to himself when he won the 200-meter butterfly Wednesday morning. An hour later, he returned to swim the leadoff of a runaway victory by the U.S. 800 freestyle relay team, which shattered the old mark by more than 4 seconds.
"He is just another person, but maybe from a different planet," said Alexander Sukhorukov, who swam the anchor leg for the second-place Russians.
Phelps claimed the 200 butterfly record in 1 minute, 52.03 seconds, lowering his old mark of 1:52.09 from the 2007 worlds. Laszlo Cseh of Hungary took the silver in 1:52.70. Takeshi Matsuda of Japan got the bronze in 1:52.97.
In his individual event, Phelps had a problem with his goggles. But that didn't keep him from touching first.
No such worries in the relay. Seemingly impervious to fatigue, the gangly American set a blistering pace of 1:43.31 that got the Americans rolling toward a winning time of 6:58.56 - the first team ever to break the 7-minute barrier.
"Come on! Come on!" he screamed at teammates Ryan Lochte, Ricky Berens and Peter Vanderkaay.
The previous record of 7:03.24 was set by the Americans at last year's world championships. Russia took the silver, more than 5 seconds behind the Americans, who mainly had to make sure they didn't jump in the water too soon. Australia won the bronze.
"Safe start! Safe start!" Phelps yelled at Berens before he dove in.
Phelps is now all alone at the top of the career golds list, with three more chances to stretch his lead before he leaves China. He'll swim in the 200 individual medley, 100 fly and 400 medley relay.
"There is still something left in the tank," Phelps said. "I've got three races left, so there had better be something left in the tank."
In his signature stroke, Phelps was second at the first flip, then pushed it into another gear.
Phelps barely smiled as he looked at the board, breathing heavily and hanging on the lane rope. He rubbed his eyes and said climbing from the pool, "I can't see anything." A pair of leaky goggles kept him from even seeing the wall as he touched.
"My goggles kept filling up with water during the race," Phelps said. "I wanted a world record, I wanted 1:51 or better, but in the circumstances not too bad I guess."
Still, he had two more golds and two more records before lunchtime, leaving him just three wins away from beating Spitz's record of seven gold medals in a single games.
He is also keeping pace with Spitz on the record front. Spitz's set new world standards in all of his wins at Munich; Phelps is now 5-for-5 in China.
"I'm pumped about our relay," Phelps said. "It's the most fun thing to be in a team environment and be part of a relay. It's cool when you get four Americans who all swim well together. Everyone has to play their part or it's just not going to happen. We've been lucky that we've been able to do that."
The Americans are lucky to have Phelps, who is already recognized as the greatest swimmer ever and plans to keep competing at least through the 2012 London Games.
Three worlds records fell before Phelps walked on deck the first time.
In the semifinals of the 100 free, Australia's Eamon Sullivan and France's Alain Bernard exchanged the record Sullivan set two days earlier.
In the first heat, Bernard won in 47.20 to knock down Sullivan's mark of 47.24 from the leadoff leg of the memorable 400 free relay. That record lasted all of 2 minutes. Sullivan won the second heat in 47.05, setting up a thrilling showdown in Thursday's final.
"Records don't mean much," Sullivan said. "They don't win medals at the end of the day, unfortunately. But it gives me confidence that I can swim my own race under pressure."
Then it was Federica Pelligrini's turn in the women's 200 free. The Italian broke the mark she set a day earlier in the semifinals, winning gold in 1:54.82. The old record was 1:55.45.
Sara Isakovic of Slovenia claimed the bronze in 1:54.97, and China's Pang Jiaying thrilled the home fans by passing Katie Hoff of the U.S. on the final lap to take bronze in 1:55.05.
In the 200 individual medley, Australia's Stephanie Rice completed her IM sweep with another world record, her time of 2:08.45 erasing the mark of 2:08.92 set at the Australian trials in March.
Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe took the silver in 2:08.59, also below the previous world record. Natalie Coughlin of the U.S. won the bronze in 2:10.34, her third medal of the games, beating Hoff by 34-hundredths of a second.
"It's a big surprise for me," said Coughlin, who only began swimming the IM a few months ago. "Any medal in an event that is not on your (regular) program is great."
The glamorous Rice, wearing big green earrings that matched her country's colors, added to her victory in the 400 IM.
"It's something I have dreamed about for a long time," she said. "It's the ultimate goal."
Then there's Hoff, who looked to be one of the big stories of the game when she qualified in five individual events - the same number as Phelps.
The 19-year-old American, who says Phelps is like a big brother, has yet to match his success in the water. In her first two races, Hoff settled for a bronze and a silver. Now, she's got only one more event - the 800 free - to win an individual gold.
"I would have liked to medal, but I got my first personal best of the meet and I think that's a good effort," Hoff said after the 200 free. "I can't be upset with that, and I'm just moving on to the next heat."
An inspiring Olympic story came to an end in the semifinals of the 200 breaststroke.
Eric Shanteau, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer just before the U.S. Olympic trials and put off surgery until after the games, failed to advance to the final.
He finished sixth in his semifinal heat and 10th overall, 13-hundredths of a second out of the last spot into the final.
Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, trying for his second straight sweep of the breaststroke events, cruised along as the top qualifier at 2:08.61. He already won the 100 with a world record after taking both golds in Athens four years ago.
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