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Michael Phelps sets world record in Olympic swimming

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BEIJING -- That could become a headline you see a few times within the next several days.

As dominant as Michael Phelps of Baltimore was four years ago in Athens, where he won six gold medals, it appears he is even stronger and certainly more mature than he was in 2004. In his first final Sunday morning, he broke his own world record in the 400-meter individual medley with a time of 4:03.84.

Actually, to say that he merely broke it is not giving him his full due. He shattered it, swimming 1.41 seconds faster than the previous record.

Imagine what he might have done if he had felt more like himself.

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‘I wanted to go 4:03,’' he said from the pool deck right afterward. ‘I didn’t know if I would. I really didn’t feel that great. Going into the ready room, I started getting these chills up my body. Right then and there, I was starting to get excited. I was pretty emotional after that race.’'

This is historically Phelps’ best event. But he also was up against one of his most potent challengers, fellow American Ryan Lochte. But Lochte, who is from Daytona Beach, could swim no faster than 4:08.09, a badly beaten third. Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh was second in 4:06.16.

Phelps could swim in at least seven more finals as he attempts to break Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in a single Olympics.

-- Randy Harvey


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