Phelps first to win 11 Olympic golds

Beijing, August 13:

Michael Phelps became the greatest Olympian of all time today winning two gold medals in the space of an hour to lift his career total to an unprecedented 11 on his charge to Olympic immortality.

As world records continued to tumble in the pool, Phelps passed the halfway point in his drive to be the first person to win eight golds at one Games when he blitzed the 200m butterfly final and led the US 4x200 freestyle relay team. The American has now won five gold medals here, all of them in world record time, to go with the six he won in Athens.

But China lead the medal table with 17 golds to 10 for the United States. South Korea and Germany are third with six.

In a stunning performance in the butterfly final, Phelps was barely able to see as his goggles filled with water and he had to settle for 1min 52.03sec while his relay team slashed 4.48sec off their record setting a new time of 6:58.56. No other athlete has won more than nine career gold medals in the history of the Olympics, and Phelps is confident of meeting his next target of beating Mark Spitz’s record of seven golds in one Games.

Six world records were broken at the pool today with the 100m freestyle record broken twice in successive semi-finals by Frenchman Alain Bernard and his Australian rival Eamon Sullivan. Italy’s Federica Pellegrini broke the women’s 200m freestyle world record. Australia’s Stephanie Rice completed her Olympic medley double with a world record victory in the 200m final.

China pipped the United States in the women’s team gymnastics where the US coach blamed stadium officials for distracting Alicia Sacramone who fell off the balance beam. But a senior US official later said the disruption was due to a televsion scheduling issue.

In tennis, top seeds Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic moved into the final eight with Federer avenging his Athens 2004 defeat at the hands of Tomas Berdych by winning 6-3, 7-6 (7/4). Venus Williams’s hopes of a second women’s title remained on track as she moved into the quarter-finals and a date with home favourite Li Na. Sister Serena also progressed beating French teen Alize Cornet 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Argentina and Brazil remained on course for a semi-final showdown in the men’s football as the final eight was decided. Italy emerged as the best of the rest with the Netherlands, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Belgium also going through.

Swiss world champion Fabian Cancellara won the men’s cycling time trial to add to the bronze he won in the road race. The women’s race went to Kristin Armstrong with 49-year-old French great Jeannie Longo denied the dream finish she wanted finishing fourth a mere 1.3 sec behind bronze medallist Karin Thurig of Switzerland.

Georgia won two gold me-dals with Manuchar Kvirkelia taking the 74kg wrestling title and Irakli Tsirekidze the men’s -90kg judo competition to hand strife-torn Georgia a welcome boost. Georgia also beat Russia in a women’s beach volleyball which started with hugs all round but ended in acrimony.