Mark Spitz said he felt 'ecstatic' that Phelps had equalled his record
Mark Spitz hailed Michael Phelps "the greatest athlete of all time" after he equalled Spitz's 1972 feat of winning seven golds in a single Olympic Games.
Phelps came from behind to win the 100m butterfly, edging out Serbia's Milorad Cavic by a hundredth of a second.
"Not only is [he] the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he's maybe the greatest athlete of all time," Spitz said.
Spitz expects Phelps to beat his record in Sunday's men's 4x100m medley.
"The Americans have never lost that race since it's been an event in the Olympic Games," noted Spitz, who called Phelps's seventh gold an "epic" victory.
I'm just happy to be in the company of Michael Phelps
"You have to be very cautious on the relay exchanges and make sure nobody gets disqualified, but it should be just a matter of what the time is going to be and who's going to put the gold medal around their neck first."
Spitz, speaking from Detroit, where his son was playing in a basketball tournament, said he felt "ecstatic" on hearing that his 36-year-old record had been equalled.
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Phelps wins by a whisker
"I always wondered what my feelings would be," he added. "I feel a tremendous load off my back. Somebody told me years ago you judge one's character by the company you keep, and I'm just happy to be in the company of Michael Phelps. That's the bottom line.
"I'm so proud of what he's been able to do. I did what I did and it was in my day in those set of circumstances. For 36 years it stood as a benchmark.
"I'm just pleased that somebody was inspired by what I had done. He's entitled to every second of what's occurring to him now."