Michael Phelps at the end of the 200m butterfly race yesterday, breathing heavily, rubbing his eyes and hanging on to the lane rope. His goggles filled with water at the start. (Agencies)
Michael Phelps swam into Olympic history yesterday, becoming the athlete to win the most gold medals ever.
And he did it swimming blind.
A day after etching his name alongside Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis, Paavo Nurmi and Larysa Latynina with gold No 9, the American claimed the record all to himself when he won the 200m butterfly at the Water Cube.
A problem with his goggles, however, meant that he swam most of the race without knowing what was going on around him.
Said Phelps of his leaky goggles: "I dove in and they filled right up with water. It got worse and worse as the race went on."
Phelps said he kept track of where he was between the walls by counting strokes.
"There was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't rip them off. (He was wearing two caps and the straps of the goggles were tucked in between them.) I just had to go on swimming.”
"At the 150 meter wall to the finish, I couldn't see the wall. I was hoping I was winning and hoping I would touch the wall first."
Not only did he touch it first, he did it in world record time, his fourth gold and fourth world record at Beijing.
He was timed 1 min 52.03 sec, lowering his old mark of 1:52.09 from the 2007 World Championships. Laszlo Cseh of Hungary took the silver. Takeshi Matsuda of Japan got the bronze.
There was a trace of disappointment when he said: "I wanted a world record, I wanted 1:51 or better, but in the circumstances not too bad I guess." Anyway, he had no such worries in his second race of the day, the 4x200m men's freestyle relay.
Phelps set a blistering pace of 1:43.31 that got the Americans rolling toward a world record time of 6:58.56.
Russia took the silver, more than five seconds behind the Americans, who mainly had to make sure they didn't jump in the water too soon. Australia won the bronze.
Phelps has three more races left: The 200m individual medley, 100m butterfly and 4x100m medley relay.
"There is still something left in the tank," Phelps said. "I've got three races left, so there had better be something left in the tank."