Phenomenal Michael Phelps won his sixth gold medal with his sixth world record of the Beijing Games Friday, edging ever closer to an historic eight titles with a victory in the 200m medley.

Phelps led throughout and pulled away on the final freestyle leg to win by more than two seconds in a world record of 1min 54.23sec. Hungarian Laszlo Cseh was second in a European record of 1:56.52, with American Ryan Lochte taking bronze by just one-hundredth of a second.

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. Lochte claimed the first individual Olympic gold of his career, but he was unable to derail Phelps’s bid for a record eight golds at one Games, which would surpass the seven-gold standard set by US 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. But it didn’t happen.’ It was a hectic day, too, for Phelps, who was back on the blocks half an hour after his triumph, and just minutes after the medal ceremony, to post the second-fastest time in the semi-finals of the 100m butterfly.

‘I didn’t know I had as little time as I did, I didn’t even have time to go into the ready room,’ he said.

‘I went from the ceremony straight into putting my parka on and goggles, cap, and go. It was about two minutes, I knew it was tight, but not that tight.’ 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 owns the most gold medals of any competitor in history in any Olympic sport. In addition to the 100m fly on Saturday, Phelps has the 4x100m medley relay remaining, and his teammates safely booked a spot in Sunday’s relay final with the top time in the heats on Friday night.

Friday’s two women’s finals produced upsets as Rebecca Soni shocked world record-holder Leisel Jones in the 200m breaststroke, and Germany’s Britta Steffen out-dueled world record-holder Libby Trickett in the 100m freestyle. Soni, who underwent minor heart surgery in 2006, stayed with Jones’s early world record pace, then pulled away in the final lap to win in 2:20.22, 32-hundredths of a second faster than the Australian’s previous world mark.

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 Leisel behind and just pushed for the wall.’ There was no record for Steffen, just the satisfaction of overtaking Trickett in the final 10m to claim the gold.

Trickett, who miscalculated her semi-final 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 definitely wouldn’t have been the same if she hadn’t been there,’ Steffen said. ‘You want to race the best. ‘I wouldn’t have wanted to win without her there and never known what would have happened if she had been there.’

Trickett took silver in 53.16 and American Natalie Coughlin claimed the bronze in 53.39. In the 200m backstroke, Lochte ended Peirsol’s bid for a second straight Olympic backstroke double with a victory in 1min 53.94sec. 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 US 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. Lochte said the thrill of his first individual Olympic gold carried him through the medley final. ‘You forget about the pain when you win,’ he said.

‘I just forgot about the pain and got ready for my next race.’ While Phelps was closing in on Olympic immortality, Australian Grant Hackett launched his bid for his own slice of Games history. Hackett, vying to become the first man to win the same swimming event at three straight Games, clocked a blistering 14:38.92 in the heats of the 1500m freestyle.

Hackett’s time was the second-fastest ever, behind his own world record of 14:34.56. Canadian Ryan Cochrane was second-quickest into Sunday’s final in 14:40.84, followed by Russian Yuriy Prilukov (14:41.13). ‘I was very surprised,’ Hackett said. ‘I thought it was about seven seconds slower than the pace I was doing.’


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