Phelps breaks own record in 200-meter butterfly

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Michael Phelps is turning the world
swimming championships into kid's play.

The American earned his third gold medal with another world
record Wednesday night, producing the biggest time drop in the
200-meter butterfly in 48 years.

"I feel like a 12-year-old, being able to drop more than a
second off my best time," the 21-year-old superstar said. "I'm
showing I'm in solid shape now."

Phelps won with the same get-out-fast and blow 'em away strategy
he used in taking the 200 freestyle a night earlier.

He raced to the lead and stayed there, touching in 1 minute,
52.09 seconds. That was faster than the 1:53.71 he swam at a meet
in Columbia, Mo., on Feb. 17.

"I shocked myself," Phelps said. "I didn't know I would be
that far under it."

His 1.62-second improvement was the largest in the 200 fly since
American Mike Troy lowered his own record by 2.6 seconds in 1959.
Phelps also became the first man to go under 1:53 in the event.

"He is simply way too fast, way too fast. I couldn't see him."
-- Silver medalist Wu
Peng on Phelps.

Laure Manaudou of France followed Phelps' race with a world
record of her own, winning the 200 freestyle for her second
individual gold.

The United States leads with 14 swimming medals halfway through the
eight-day meet, including eight golds. Australia has eight medals
and three golds. Russia leads the overall medal count for the world championships with 20.

Phelps simply crushed his rivals, beating silver medalist Wu
Peng of China by 3.04 seconds. Phelps already owned the seven
fastest times in the event.

He was under world-record pace the entire race, and extended his
lead at every turn.

At 100 meters, he dipped 1.65 seconds under his mark and
stretched it to an amazing 1.78 seconds through 150 meters as fans
in Rod Laver Arena cheered louder and louder.

Phelps was going so fast, the red line that tracks world record
pace was actually behind him. He cruised home nearly two body
lengths and a world away from Wu, who finished in 1:55.13 for
China's first medal of the meet.

"He is simply way too fast, way too fast," Wu said through a
translator. "I couldn't see him."

Nikolay Skvortsov of Russia took the bronze.

Phelps hit the wall, turned around and raised both index fingers
in the air, signaling his two world records so far.

"I had a world record in mind after breaking it in Missouri.
That was my goal tonight," he said. "I wanted to do what I did
last night -- take it out."

Phelps is 3-for-3, with victories in the 400 freestyle relay,
the 200 free and 200 fly. He set a world record in defeating Pieter
van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands by 2 seconds in the 200 free

After that effort, Phelps came into his latest final exhausted,
his arms still tired from the night before.

"I felt horrible. I felt horrible in the warmup pool," he
said. "But it looks like things are rolling in the right

Indeed, Phelps remains on track to win eight golds.

Still left are the 100 fly, the 200 and 400 individual medleys --
he holds the world record in both medleys -- and two more relays
that are strong possibilities for U.S. gold.

"Incredible," teammate Katie Hoff said. "He's just really at
his prime right now."

Phelps returned later for the 200 IM semifinals and did just
enough to be the leading qualifier for Thursday's final. He
finished in 1:57.94. Teammate Ryan Lochte was second quickest in

Manaudou won the 200 free in a world-record 1:55.52. She was
under record pace the entire way and touched the wall almost a
second under the old mark.

That record of 1:56.47 was barely 24 hours old, having been set
by Federica Pellegrini of Italy in the semifinals Tuesday. The
Italian earned the bronze in 1:56.97.

Annika Lurz of Germany took the silver in 1:55.68.

Hoff finished fourth and U.S. teammate Dana Vollmer was sixth.

Manaudou earned another gold to go with her victory in the 400

"Today was a bit of a surprise," she said. "I'm much better
in the 400. But the 200 probably helps my 400."

Australian Grant Hackett's grip on the 800 free ended with a
seventh-place finish by the two-time defending champion -- 16
seconds slower than his world record.

Ous Mellouli of Tunisia earned his country's first gold medal at
the world championships, winning in 7:46.95.

"It's great," he said. "I'm just really happy to be here and
racing fast."

Mellouli is a University of Southern California student who
earned the silver in the 400 free, again beating Hackett, who
settled for the bronze. Mellouli's family traveled from Tunisia to
Melbourne to cheer him on, and he stopped along his victory walk
for a group hug with them.

Hackett had been downplaying his chances because of disruptions
in his training leading up to the meet. He has one more chance for
gold in the 1,500 free, where he'll seek a record fifth world
"It was tough for me tonight, and it's going to be even tougher
in the 1,500," Hackett said. "The fitness is not quite there."

Przemyslaw Stanczyk of Poland took the silver. Aussie Craig
Stevens was third.

Before Phelps got in the water for the first of two swims,
American Leila Vaziri set the first world record of the night in
the semifinals of the 50 backstroke -- a non-Olympic event.

The 21-year-old Indiana University student swam a meet record of
28.25 seconds in the morning preliminaries, then went even faster
in the semifinals, leading all the way.

Vaziri's time of 28.16 seconds erased the mark of 28.19 set by
Janine Pietsch in May 2005 at Berlin. The German swam in the lane
next to Vaziri in their semifinal, and was the fifth-fastest
qualifier for Thursday night's final.

"I definitely had in my mind to go that time," said Vaziri, a
world championships rookie. "You just want to break the world
record so bad. It's been awesome."

Oleg Lisogor of Ukraine won the men's 50 breaststroke, another
event that is not in the Olympics. At 29, he was the oldest swimmer
in the race and finished in 27.66 seconds, beating out American
Brendan Hansen by 0.03 seconds.

Hansen took the silver in 27.69. Cameron Van Der Burgh of South
Africa earned the bronze. Japan's Kosuke Kitajima was fifth.