Michael Phelps joined Paavo Nurmi, Larissa Latynina, Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis in the record book tonight, winning his ninth career gold medal in a dominating, world record-setting 200-meter freestyle swim. Phelps won't be sharing the record with them for long though. He should earn his tenth and eleventh golds tomorrow in the 200 butterfly and 4x200 freestyle relay, which would make him the most decorated Olympian of all-time.
The race was over after the start, as Phelps came up well-ahead of the field after his streamline. He built on his lead with each successive lap, winning over silver medalist Park Tae-hwan by almost two seconds.
Compared to the exhilirating relay yesterday, Phelps' 200 was sort of anticlimatic. The only intriguing part of the race was the fact that NBC's Cris Collinsworth was sitting next to Phelps' mom, hugging her through the final 50 meters as if they were old friends. Peter King must be so jealous.
Natalie Coughlin's race was a little tougher, as she desperately held on in the final meters to succesfully defend her 100-meter backstroke title. Aaron Piersol did the same, storming to a second straight victory and world record of his own in the men's 100 back. Teammate Matt Grevers came in second, en route to an American sweep. In the women's 100-meter breaststroke, Australian Leisel Jones finally won her long-awaited, and long-expected, gold medal. American Rebecca Soni, who was only added to the 100 breast after Jessica Hardy was banned from the Games, won silver.
Aside from Phelps and the magical 4x100 relay, the American swim team had been having a lackluster meet in Beijing. That all changed tonight.