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Phelps sets world record, clinches sixth gold

Michael Phelps of the United States won his sixth gold and set a new world record in the men's 200-metre individual medley with a time of one minute 54.23 seconds at the Beijing Olympics on Friday.

BEIJING, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Michael Phelps scorched to his
sixth gold and his sixth world record of the Beijing Olympics
on Friday, one of three wins in the Water Cube for the United

Phelps now has 12 career Olympic golds, three more than
anyone else, and is now chasing Mark Spitz's 1972 record of
seven golds at a single Games.

He showed little reaction apart from a quick shake of his
fist after victory in the 200 metres individual medley on

In the next-door Bird's Nest stadium, athletics action
finally began under blue skies, with Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell
and Tyson Gay coasting to victory in their heats of the men's
100 metres.

The United States team hope the track and field events will
give them a chance to catch up with China in the battle for
gold medals, to add to a growing haul of golds in the pool.

On Friday, America's Rebecca Soni won the women's 200
metres breaststroke in a world record time, coming from behind
to overtake the 100 metres winner Leisel Jones from Australia.

Ryan Lochte set another world best time as he won the men's
200 backstroke, from compatriot Aaron Peirsol.

That brought the United States up to 13 golds, still
trailing behind China's 22 at the top of the medals table.

The quest for dominance in the medals table is proving a
fascinating contest between the United States and China, which
came second in Athens in 2004.

The Communist Party is desperate to underline the country's
growing superpower status by overtaking the United States, and
its athletes has been playing to strengths in events like table
tennis, diving, gymnastics and weightlifting.

But the gap may narrow when action gets under way in the
Bird's Nest, and Friday's shot put contest in the Bird gives
the U.S. squad a great chance for a morale-boosting

It has been 48 years since one nation swept medals in that
event, but U.S. trio Adam Nelson, Reese Hoffa and Christian
Cantwell have the skill to match their 1960 compatriots.

"I give it a 50-50 chance," said world champion Hoffa.

"I would love to be the class of Olympic athletes to sweep,
but everything has to go right."

Twice an Olympic silver medallist, Nelson is the year's top
thrower with 22.12 metres. All three Americans have personal
bests ahead of their main rival, Andrey Mikhnevich of Belarus.

Medals will also be awarded on Friday in the women's 10,000
metres, where Ethiopia's runners dominate and could bring some
cheer to Africa which has had a disappointing Games so far.

Tirunesh Dibaba, who has two world championship titles, is
favourite. She expects to run the 5,000m too and hopes to
become the first woman to win the Olympic distance double.

"My expectation is that I will run both," she said. "It's
being said that it's a little hot here, so the final decision
will be made after the 10,000."

In what could be a tactical race, her older sister
Ejegayehu and another Ethiopian, Mestawat Tufa, look set to
help her and could end up on the medals' podium too.

Ejegayehu lost the 10,000m gold in embarrassing style in
Athens, failing to react when a Chinese athlete, who she
assumed was a lapped runner, swept past her at the death.


Away from the Bird's Nest and Water Cube venues, the
fixture list again threw up some politically intriguing

In baseball, Cuba face arch-enemies the United States,
while China take on Taiwan who they regard as a breakaway

The Games lost a dash of glamour when three of the biggest
names in tennis, Roger Federer and U.S. sisters Venus and
Serena Williams, crashed out at the quarter-final stage on

Security has been gradually ratcheted up at the Games,
since the father-in-law of the American volleyball coach was
stabbed and killed in Beijing on the first full day of the

X-ray and scanning machines have now been deployed at the
most heavily visited section of the Great Wall just outside
Beijing, an official said on Friday.

Sporadic protests have continued in Beijing despite the
clampdown. Foreign activists unfurled a banner proclaiming
"Free Tibet" over an Olympics poster at the newly built
headquarters of China's state television broadcaster on
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