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Olympics round-up, Phelps wins again

U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps carved his name among Olympic greats today, winning a record-equalling ninth gold on a dominant morning for Americans in the pool.

Only U.S. athlete Carl Lewis, U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz, Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi and Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina have won as many golds as Phelps, who could better them all on Wednesday when he swims in two more finals.

Phelps led an American fightback against Chinese dominance of the medal table, but China reclaimed its traditional leadership in men's team gymnastics and won the women's 10 metre synchronised platform diving to keep the competition tight.

The hosts, second to the Americans in 2004, are keen to end the Games in top spot. Sporting triumph would underline the message of new economic and political might that China wants to convey in its no-expense-spared hosting of the Games.

The Chinese have dominated in the weightlifting, winning four of six events, won all three diving golds so far and picked up victories in shooting and judo.

The gymnastics victory will be among the sweetest as four years ago the men's team failed to win a medal in Athens. Double world all-round champion Yang Wei led from the front to restore Chinese dominance in front of an ecstatic home crowd.

The victory was "a glory for China," said Yang.

The Chinese team took their inspiration from "Prince of Gymnastics" Li Ning, who lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony on Friday, circling high above the heads of spectators in a daredevil high-wire act.

Little has been left to chance by organisers desperate to make a good impression. Some of the opening ceremony fireworks were 'pre-staged' and then rebroadcast to enhance the event's televised choreography, organisers say.

And cheerleaders are being used to fill vacant seats in several venues to improve the mood and look of events.

In a scene of sporting detente across the divided Korean peninsula, South Korea's Jin Jong-oh beat the North's Kim Jong-su in the men's 50m air pistol contest.

Jin won silver in the 10m air pistol, while Kim won bronze, in Saturday's 10m air pistol. "We two are very close and happy we both got medals," said Jin.

RECORD BOOKS

Phelps threatens to rewrite many pages of the sporting records in a phenomenal individual display in Beijing.

His third gold in the Chinese capital keeps him on his long march to a target of eight wins. That would better Spitz's 1972 tally of seven golds in one Olympics.

Spitz set world record times in all of his victories at the Munich Games, a feat which Phelps could also eclipse. Each of Phelps' Beijing golds has come in a new world best time.

The lanky 23-year-old American was in imperious form in the 200m freestyle final, leading from the start and pulling a body length clear by the halfway stage. He hit the wall in 1:42:96 to destroy his own world record by 0.90 seconds.

"To be tied for the most Olympic golds of all time, with those names in Olympic history...it is a pretty amazing accomplishment, said Phelps, who was back in the pool winning a 200m butterfly semi-final less than an hour later.

His dazzling swim was the first of three victories for American swimmers in under 20 minutes, pushing the U.S. up to second spot in the medal table behind China.

World champion Natalie Coughlin forced Kirsty Coventry to settle for silver in the women's 100 backstroke, dashing the Zimbabwe national's ambition to bring sporting cheer to her troubled country.

American Aaron Peirsol smashed the world record he set just six weeks ago to retain his Olympic 100 metres backstroke title and maintain his long dominance of the discipline. He starts his defence of his 200 metre title on Wednesday.

INDIVIDUAL TRIUMPH

Australian world champion Leisel Jones, two individual silvers and bronze to her name from 2000 and 2004, finally won an individual Olympic gold in the 100 breaststroke.

Criticised for being a sore loser in Athens when she missed out on gold, Jones changed her coach and approach to swimming.

"It has been a long journey, a long eight years," said Jones, who first appeared at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000, when she won a silver in the 100 breaststroke when only 15-years-old.

American swimming success, led by Phelps, has helped draw huge audiences for the Olympics back home, where broadcaster NBC said they had more viewers for any summer Games held outside the United States since 1976.

On the fourth day of competition 19 golds are to be awarded, the most so far.

Chen Ruolin and Wang Xin, made it three out of three victories for China in diving, winning the women's synchronised 10m platform. The youthful Chen, just 15, and Wang, who turned 16 on Monday, dove with adult composure to dominate the contest.

China's money market traders are now betting the host country will win 40 to 42 golds in the games, up from 32 in 2004.

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