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Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Saturday, 9 August 2008 14:34 UK

Phelps opens with Olympic record

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Video - Phelps storms to Olympic record

Michael Phelps's bid to make Olympic history got off to the perfect start as he set a new Games record in winning his heat in the 400m individual medley.

The 23-year-old American is aiming to win eight gold medals in Beijing and beat Mark Spitz's record of seven golds set in 1972.

He cruised into Sunday's final with a time of four minutes 7.82 seconds.

In the women's event Britain's Hannah Miley finished second in her heat to qualify for Sunday's final.

Miley, who celebrated her 19th birthday on Friday, was the eighth fastest from the heats after finishing behind American world record holder Katie Hoff, but team-mate Keri-Anne Payne misses out after finishing fifth in her heat and 15th overall in a high-quality field.

In a blistering men's 100m breaststroke, Norwegian Alexander Dale Oen set a new Olympic record in the seventh heat to qualify fastest.

Britain's Christopher Cook made it through to the semi-finals, but Kris Gilchrist failed to qualify as five swimmers ducked under the minute mark in the heats.

Despite only qualifying as fourth fastest in the men's 400m individual medley event, fellow American Ryan Lochte remains one of Phelps's biggest threats.

Second fastest after the heats was Hungarian Laszlo Cseh, with Italian Luca Marin third fastest.

Phelps, who won six golds in Athens four years ago, was keen to lay down a marker and was inside his own world-record pace after the initial breaststroke leg and extended the gap to half a second at halfway.

He eased off in the latter stages but still finished over two seconds ahead of his nearest rival.

"I saw the first few heats go out, and I kind of wanted to be the top seed for tomorrow, that is all I went out to do," Phelps said. "It's going to be a tough race between three or four of us."

Britain's Thomas Haffield, fourth fastest in the world this year, could only finish a disappointing seventh in his heat and missed out on a final place.

"I will have to go back and talk to my coach and go back to the drawing board," said the 20-year-old.

"I think it was just one of those days. Everything was going great up until I got in. I got in the water and nothing happened. I did the first two strokes and it didn't feel right."

Fellow Brit Euan Dale also missed out after finishing sixth in his heat.

There was slightly better news for Britain in the women's 100m butterfly as Jemma Lowe made it into Sunday's semi-final.

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Video - GB's Lowe into butterfly semi

Lowe was the slowest of the 16 qualifiers after finishing fourth in her heat in a time of a time of 58.49 secs, but Francesca Halsall missed out after finishing fifth in the same heat.

"It was the hardest race I have ever done, everyone was so close," said the the 18-year-old Lowe.

"I was trying to focus on myself and make it to the semis and I did it. I hope I can go quicker tomorrow."

Britain's 4x100m freestyle relay women's team of Julia Beckett, Halsall, Caitlin McClathchey and Jessica Sylvester were 1.4 seconds inside the national record, but only scraped through to the final as they finished fourth in their heat to qualify as the eighth-fastest team.

McClathchey said: "That was a great British record. We all swam well, felt good and as a team did very well to make the final."

Australian Grant Hackett, aiming for a third straight Olympic 1,500m freestyle title, qualified fifth fastest for the final of the men's 400m freestyle.

Hackett won his heat, which also featured Britain's David Carry who, despite setting a new British record, failed to make Sunday's final after finishing fifth.

David Milwain also failed to progress after finishing seventh in his heat and 21st overall.

see also
Eight finals Phelps aims to win
08 Aug 08 |  Swimming
Ten to watch: Michael Phelps
05 Aug 08 |  Swimming
Olympics photos day one
09 Aug 08 |  Olympics
Hackett tips Phelps to set record
29 Jul 08 |  Swimming
Swimming on the BBC
02 Oct 07 |  Swimming

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