ATHENS, Greece -- American Michael Phelps won his fourth gold medal of the Olympics in the 200-meter individual medley Thursday night, leading the entire race.
Phelps finished in an Olympic-record time of 1 minute, 57.14 seconds, lowering his own mark of 1:58.52 set in the semifinals one night earlier.
Phelps, the world record-holder and current world champion, earned his third individual gold medal in Athens. Mark Spitz is the only other swimmer to win more than two in a single Olympics. Spitz won four -- and Phelps still has one individual event remaining, the 100-meter butterfly on Friday.
The 19-year-old from Baltimore was unsuccessful in his bid to break Spitz's record of seven golds in the 1972 Munich Games, but still could end up with eight medals.
He also has two bronze medals, giving him the largest personal haul so far of any athlete in Athens. His other golds were in the 200 butterfly, 400 individual medley and 800 freestyle relay.
Russian gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin is the only person to win eight medals at a single Olympics, earning three gold, four silver and one bronze in the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games. Eight athletes have won seven, including Spitz and U.S. swimmer Matt Biondi in 1988.
Just 30 minutes after winning the medley, he dove back in the pool and set an Olympic record in the 100 butterfly semifinals, setting up a showdown with teammate Ian Crocker in the final.
"Tonight was the toughest turnaround time I've ever had," said Phelps, who between races warmed down for 10 minutes, received his gold medal, then went straight to the ready room to prepare for the fly.
Phelps also is expected to swim the 400 medley relay, an event the United States has never lost at the Olympics.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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