British swimming and Michael Phelps had good days at the office here yesterday. Both went to bed dreaming of turning six gold medals into seven. And there the similarities end.
Before day dawned on the Chinese capital this Saturday morning, six was the number of swimming golds won by Britain at the Olympics since the Second World War, with Rebecca Adlington's 800 metres freestyle final to come.
And six was the number won by Phelps. At this Games. Since last Sunday. His 100m butterfly final today, for a magnificent seventh gold, was scheduled, like Adlington's race, for this morning here, the early hours of Saturday in the UK.
The American reached his weekend butterfly race – and a $1m (£537,000) deal for him because of potential bonus payments from Speedo – just a few minutes after he had stepped down from the top of yet another podium.
His sixth gold of these Games, and the 12th of his career, came in the 200m individual medley. The time he clocked to win it was his sixth world record in six finals. He led from the klaxon to the touch, clocking 1min 54.23sec, more than half a second faster than his own previous mark, set at the US Olympic trials earlier this year.
Britain also enjoyed a record-breaking time. In the evening session, the women's 4x100m relay team broke the European record by 0.19sec to qualify second fastest for tomorrow's final. The men's relay team also qualified, in fifth place, for their final tomorrow, the last swimming race at the Water Cube. David Davies qualified, in fifth place, for tomorrow's 1500m freestyle final, in which he won bronze in Athens.
Yet those positive developments are as nothing against one man's assault on history: Phelps's ongoing, mind-boggling, breathtaking achievements in this little stretch of water.
The peerless American already had nicknames before Beijing: the "Baltimore Bullet" and "Superfish" were two of them. Now he is also The Gooat (Greatest Olympian of all time), although there are those who dispute it. Arguments against his case can only be dented with more metal before the end of the Games. By then he wants to be The Gooatee – ever� providing the supplementary letters.
Yesterday morning's win moved him to within a solitary victory of equalling Mark Spitz's seven golds at one Games. Phelps's rivals can only get churned about like so much laundry in his wake. The 6ft 4in calorie furnace was a whopping 2.29sec ahead of Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, who took the medley silver in a European record-breaking time. And Cseh was just 0.01sec ahead of Phelps's compatriot Ryan Lochte, who took bronze. Cseh and Lochte are no mugs. Lochte had earlier won the 200m backstroke in a world record time. Cseh is the best that the European continent can muster in several disciplines. If Phelps had not been here, Cseh would almost certainly have won three gold medals this week. But Phelps – or Moo (Man of the Olympics) – has now beaten him into silver place in two individual medleys and the 200m fly.
Phelps was happy to deal with inevitable questions that his feats are too good to be true. He knows his freakishly proportioned body and an unmatched thirst for the success that his hard work brings are what propel him. "I know that I am clean," he said, in response to a question about drugs. "I did 'Project Believe' with USADA [US Anti-Doping Agency] where I purposely wanted to do more tests to prove that. People can question all they want but the facts are facts and I have the results to prove it."�
Project Believe is a voluntary programme where the participants provide additional blood and urine samples beyond regular testing. Phelps is also featured in the "My Victory"� campaign, encouraging young athletes to take a pledge against doping. He admitted his natural talent was not enough to succeed. "I have to work on speed and endurance and all four strokes. I need the speed to get the starts and the endurance to carry it through. You can't do it on talent alone. A lot of hard work, a lot of dedication."
Britain's Davies will have his work cut out to match his Athens bronze after his 1500m heat became the fastest ever. "Unbelievable,"� he said. "It's going to be tough in the final." The world record holder, Australia's Grant Hackett, lowered the Olympic record to 14:38.92 to qualify fastest, with Ryan Cochrane, of the US, second and Russia's Yuriy Prilukzov third in a European record.
Earlier, Britain's Fran Halsall finished eighth in the 100m freestyle final, as did Gregor Tait in the 200m backstroke. James Goddard and Liam Tancock were among those trailing far behind Phelps in his final. Like most people these days.
What I had for breakfast today
The revelation that the swimmer Michael Phelps eats a monstrously large breakfast, rich in foods we thought were bad for us, has prompted an 'Independent' survey into what the athletes are starting their days with in Beijing:
*Michael Phelps, US swimmer
Three fried egg sandwiches with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, fried onions and mayonnaise
Three chocolate-chip pancakes
Three sugar-coated slices of French toast
Bowl of grits
Two cups of coffee
*Karina Bryant, British judoka
Breakfast before her bout yesterday consisted of:
Cereal with milk
*David Price, British boxer
The 25-year-old super heavyweight from Liverpool is Britain's heaviest fighter and is now the best hope for gold. He is not a big fry-up man (unlike Audley Harrison, who had the full Monty before he won his Olympic gold in Sydney).
He says: "I don't overeat even when I'm not in training, because I want to stay lean and mean, not like some of the heavyweights around." On Monday when he next fights, he says he may have:
A small fillet steak topped by a poached egg
Cornflakes with skimmed milk
Lots of fruit
Fruit juice (but no tea or coffee)
Toast and jam
*Paula Radcliffe, British marathon runner
Pre-breakfast: One lemon (which she sucks to reduce the build-up of lactic acid)
One small energy bar
She then goes on the first of her two daily training runs. After this comes her breakfast proper:
*Khalid Yafai, British boxer
The 19-year-old flyweight from Birmingham, who makes his Olympic debut today, is the lightest boxer in the British team:
One piece of fresh fruit
One slice of wholewheat toast
One boiled egg