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Phelps joins elite club of nine-gold winners
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US swimming sensation Michael Phelps became the fourth man to win a record nine Olympic gold medals overall when he cruised to victory in the men's 200m freestyle final in Beijing on Tuesday.

On a day which saw world records continue to fall in the pool, Phelps claimed his third gold at the Beijing Games with the sort of ease that suggests his quest for an unprecedented eight golds remains right on track.

It was Phelps' ninth Olympic gold overall, allowing him to join an elite club with U.S. swimming great Mark Spitz, American track and field star Carl Lewis, former Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina and Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi for the most gold medals all-time at the Games.

"To be tied for the most Olympic gold for a long time with those names in Olympic history, it is a pretty amazing accomplishment. It is definitely a honor," said the 23-year-old American.

China clinched four more golds Tuesday to lift its total to 13 golds and remain atop the medals table, while three golds in swimming and one in shooting in Day Four propelled the United States to the second spot past South Korea.

Phelps finished more than a body length ahead of South Korea's Park Taehwan, smashing his own world record by .90 seconds to finish in 1 minute, 42.96 seconds.

His fellow American Aaron Peirsol also broke the world record on his way to triumph in the men's 100m backstroke, and Natalie Coughlin defended the gold she won four years ago in Athens in the women's 100-meter backstroke.

However, US attempts to sweep all golds in the pool on Day Four were foiled by Australia's Leisel Jones, who pipped American Rebecca Soni to win the women's 100m breaststroke title.

Jones, with two individual silvers and a bronze to her name from the 2000 and 2004 Games, finally snared an elusive individual Olympic gold.

Chinese male gymnasts made amends for a disappointing fifth place at the Athens Olympics when the six-man team of Li Xiaopeng, Xiao Qin, Chen Yibing, Huang Xu, Yang Wei and Zou Kai produced nearly flawless routines on all six apparatus to take the men's team title.

China finished with a total score of 286.125 points, more than seven points ahead of defending champion Japan. An injury-hit US team took the bronze.

"After eight years we finally have the gold medals around our necks again. During the past four years we have worked hard and sacrificed a lot," said an emotional Huang Yubin, head coach of the Chinese team.

The Chinese gymnasts bagged home only one gold four years ago, their worst ever performance since the 1992 Games. Huang had vowed to leap from the city's tallest building if his team fail to improve on their 2004 medal haul.

"Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to stay," Huang quipped.

Like Phelps, the Chinese divers are aiming for eight golds. And, like Phelps, they already have three.

Chen Ruolin and Wang Xin earned the highest marks in all five jumps of the final to add women's 10m platform synchronized title to teammates' victories in women's 3m springboard and men's 10m platform synchronized events.

In fencing, a sport usually dominated by Europeans, Zhong Man pulled off an unexpected win for the host nation. The 25-year-old Zhong defeated Italy's former world champion Luigi Tarantino and Julien Pillet, a member of French 2004 Olympic gold-winning team, en route to notching up the men's sabre gold.

It was China's second Olympic fencing title, 24 years after Luan Jujie won the women's foil in Los Angeles in 1984.

"It's a dream come true for me," said Zhong. "I'd like to dedicate this gold to my coach Christian Bauer who has given us a lot of help and taught us a lot about technique and confidence."

There was more Chinese success in weightlifting when pre-Games favorite Liao Hui lived up to expectations with triumph in the men's 69kg class.

So far, the Olympic hosts have won five out of seven weightlifting events.

In the absence of Chinese strongwomen, DPR Korea's Pak Hyon Suk edged Kazakhstan's Irina Nekrassova by a single kilogram to win the women's 63kg weightlifting gold.

Chinese Taipei's Lu Ying Chi, cheered on by a packed crowd, took the bronze.

Russia, which had yet to win a gold after three days' competition, collected two golds in Day Four, both from Greco-Roman wrestling, with Nazyr Mankiev winning the 55kg category and Islam-Beka Albiev the 60kg class.

Germany also nabbed its first gold at these Games with Alexander Grimm in the men's kayak single. Meanwhile, Benjamin Boukpeti finished third to give Togo its first-ever Olympic medal.

Boukpeti was born and raised in France, but qualified to compete for the African nation because his father was from Togo.

"In France selection is very hard. When I was younger I had dislocation of my shoulders, and then I was too old to compete for France. That's why I decided to compete for Togo," said Boukpeti.

Ole Bischof added a second gold for Germany when the former European champion upset Asian champion Kim Jae Bum of South Korea in the men's 81kg judo final.

Japan, judo's birth country, collected its second gold in the sport when Athens Olympic champion Ayumi Tanamoto achieved back-to-back victory in the women's 63kg category.

In shooting, Jin Hong Oh ended South Korea's 16-year Olympic gold drought when he edged Kim Jong Su of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea by 0.2 points to grab the men's 50m pistol title.

Chinese veteran Tan Zongliang, a four-time Olympian, fared poorly in the 10-shot final and had to settle for a bronze.

The men's double trap gold went to American Glenn Eller, who set an Olympic record of 190 hits.

In men's basketball, China pushed world champion Spain to overtime before losing 85-75 in a preliminary round game.

In women's soccer, China downed Argentina 2-0 to advance to the quarterfinals, Brazil also reached the last eight after a 3-1 comebck win over Nigeria.

In Hong Kong, Hinrich Romeike claimed the equestrian individual eventing gold on "Marius", two hours after leading Germany to the team crown.

(Xinhua News Agency August 13, 2008)

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