Michael Phelps was swimming blind as he raced to Olympic history in the 200m butterfly at the Beijing Games on Wednesday.
The American superstar clinched victory in a new world record time of 1min 52.03sec, shaving six-hundredths of a second off his old mark.
However, he might have posted an even more dominant victory over Hungarian Laszlo Cseh and Japan''s Takeshi Matsuda but for a glitch with his goggles.
"My goggles started filling up with water. I knew there was nothing I could do, I couldn''t rip them off, I couldn''t do anything," said the 23-year-old who claimed another gold on Wednesday in the 4x200m freestyle relay to take his Beijing tally to five and his career record to a staggering 11.
The inability to see was a potential disaster for a Phelps, whose technical skill on turns is one of his great assets.
"At the end, I really couldn''t see," he said. "I was looking for the ''T'' on the bottom of the pool. It got to the point where I was counting strokes and hoping I would hit the wall just about right.
"It was a malfunction, there was nothing I could do."
Phelps persevered and moved past Olympic icons Paavo Nurmi, Carl Lewis, Mark Spitz and Larysa Latynina, who all won nine golds in their careers.
Phelps had joined that select group on Tuesday.
It''s no wonder that Cseh, who took silver in a European record of 1:52.70, and Matsuda, who earned bronze in an Asian record of 1:52.97, seemed encouraged as they both finished within one second of Phelps.
New Zealand''s Moss Burmester and China''s Wu Peng were in a deadheat for fourth, 2.32sec adrift.
"It seems that I am getting closer to Phelps," Cseh said, while Matsuda added: "I pursued him better than I thought I would."
Without the benefit of the "malfunction" however, things might not have been so tight.
"Just think how fast that would have been," US men''s head coach Eddie Reese said.
"I''m just glad that when he needed to slow down, it was still on the right side of the world record."
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