By John Lohn
BEIJING, China, August 15. HE'S one step closer to history.
In what was supposed to be one of his most difficult individual challenges of the Olympics, Michael Phelps delivered another no-doubt-about-it victory in the 200 individual medley. Racking up his sixth gold medal and sixth world record of the Games, Phelps popped a time of 1:54.23 to lower his prior standard of 1:54.80.
Phelps was expected to receive a major push from American teammate Ryan Lochte, but Mr. Olympia turned the race into a cakewalk, as he won by two-plus seconds of Hungarian Laszlo Cseh (1:56.52), who finished the slightest bit ahead of Lochte (1:56.53). The podium placements replicated the results of the 400 IM.
Phelps later qualified second for the final of the 100 butterfly and needs just that gold and one in the 400 medley relay to complete his quest for eight gold medals. His career Olympic totals now sit at 12 gold medals and 14 overall pieces of hardware. In the 200 IM, Phelps bolted to the lead on the fly leg, splitting 24.59. He turned after the backstroke in 53.40 and was at 1:26.90 following the breaststroke leg.
"I just wanted to step on it in the first 50 a little bit and get out to an early lead," Phelps said. "I knew that was a hard double for Ryan. In the first half, if I got a big enough lead I thought I could hang on and that's all I wanted to do."
Cseh won his third medal of the Games, to go along with previous top-three efforts in the 400 IM and 200 butterfly. The key for Cseh was building an early advantage over Lochte, who cut into that edge with every stroke over the final 100 meters. Finishing behind Lochte, who was coming off a gold-winning effort in the 200 back, was Brazil's Thiago Pereira (1:58.14).
Great Britain's James Goddard was the sixth-place finisher after notching a time of 1:59.24 and Canadian Keith Beavers went 1:59.43 for seventh. Great Britain's Liam Tancock completed the field in 2:00.76.