Swimming hat-trick for US as Phelps wins sixth gold

August 15th, 2008 - 7:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 15 (DPA) American swimmers scored a hat-trick of victories and set three world records at the Beijing Olympics Friday as superstar Michael Phelps took his tally of gold medals to six. Germany’s Britta Steffen broke the US domination with a remarkable comeback in the women’s 100 metres freestyle to give her country its first Olympic swimming gold in 16 years.

Outside the pool the US won gold in women’s gymnastics, Ukraine took the shooting event and sprinters Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay performed well as the athletics competition got under way.

Phelps took the men’s 200-metre individual medley in a world record time of 1 minute 54.23 seconds, while his friend and compatriot Ryan Lochte set a new best mark in the 200m backstroke.

Rebecca Soni, who finished second to Leisel Jones in the women’s 200m breaststroke, turned the tables on the Australian this time around as she took gold in a world record time of 2:20.22.

Phelps, who earlier in the week, broke the all-time record of nine Olympic gold medals overall, now holds 12 golds, as well as two bronze medals.

In the men’s medley, the medals went to the same swimmers who also stood on the podium in the 400m medley, with Phelps being followed by Hungarian Laszlo Cseh and Lochte.

Twenty minutes earlier, Lochte won his first individual Olympic gold when he beat compatriot Aaron Peirsol in the 200m backstroke in a new world record time of 1:53.94.

Lochte, who is equally at home on a surfboard and a skateboard as he is in the water, shared his secret for success with bemused journalists after the race.

“I have been eating McDonald’s here virtually for every meal. I think that has helped out,” he said.

Steffen gave a disappointing Germany its first swimming medal of the Games with a 53.12 performance in the women’s 100 metres freestyle to prevent a US whitewash at the Beijing Water Cube.

Lying just eighth at the turn, the German managed to overtake the leading Australian Lisbeth Trickett with the last touch, beating the world record holder by just 0.04 seconds.

“Before the race my coach told me you need to swim your own race and that the others would start very fast. I decided to close my eyes and just go for it and I think it worked quite well,” the 24-year-old said.

It was Germany’s first Olympic swimming gold since Barcelona 1992 when Dagmar Hase won the women’s 400m freestyle.

In the women’s 200m breaststroke, Soni proved too strong for Jones and went on to win in a time of two minutes 20.22 seconds, beating the Australian by 1.83 seconds.

“It’s been a long road to get here. I can’t believe what just happened. I’ve won a gold medal,” Soni said after the race. “I was nervous all day yesterday and this morning, but when I walked out the nerves passed. It was great.”

Nastia Liukin helped the United States women’s gymnastics team make up for the disappointment of finishing second to China in the team competition by winning gold in the all-around event at the National Indoor Stadium.

Ukraine’s Artur Ayvazian took gold in the men’s 50-metre prone rifle to deny defending Olympic champion Matthew Emmons of the United States a second successive winner’s medal in the event.

Emmons’ Czech wife Katerina won the first gold of the Olympics in the air rifle competition a week ago and added silver in the 50-metre rifle three positions event on Thursday.

In athletics, world record holder Bolt clocked 10.20 seconds in his heat to join fellow-Jamaican former world record holder Powell and US world champion Gay in the second round.

Powell was seen grimacing on a physio’s bench after his heat, pointing at his stomach. It was unclear what the problem was.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Su became the first athlete to lose an Olympic medal for doping when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) disqualified him for failing a drugs test.

Kim won bronze in the men’s 10-metre air pistol last Saturday and followed that up with a silver in the 50m pistol on Tuesday but loses both after testing positive for the beta-blocker propranolol.

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