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Phelps first, ex-Cat Basson fourth in 200 free

BEIJING – Michael Phelps joined a stellar cast, including Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis, to become one of the winningest Olympians ever by grabbing his ninth gold medal.

Phelps dominated once again at the Beijing Games, winning the 200-meter freestyle with a third straight world record Tuesday morning. His latest gold medal adds to an already remarkable career that shows no signs of slowing down and leaves him tied for most in Olympic history.

This was the “Race of the Century” at the Athens Games four years ago, when a 19-year-old Phelps took on the 200 free just so he could compete with Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband. He touched third that night. In China, he has no equal.

Racing out of lane six, he quickly surged to the lead and led by a full body length halfway through the second of four laps. Phelps was nearly two seconds ahead of the field when he touched in 1 minute, 42.96 seconds, breaking the mark 1:43.86 he set at last year’s world championships.

University of Arizona swimmer Jean Basson finished fourth for South Africa in 1:45.97.

Phelps is now 3 for 3 in Beijing, keeping him on course to beat Spitz’s 36-year-old record of seven golds in a single Olympics.

Along the way, he’ll take care of some other historical landmarks.

Phelps’s ninth career gold tied him with Spitz, Lewis, Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina and Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi for the most wins in Olympic history.

The mark isn’t likely to be shared for long. Phelps will go for his fourth medal of these games and 10th overall on Wednesday in the 200 butterfly, yet another event in which he holds the world record.

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