Michael Phelps banked his sixth gold medal of the world championships yesterday and Australia set a new world record, but their heroics were overshadowed by doping allegations against swimmer Ian Thorpe.
Phelps dethroned defending 100m butterfly champion Ian Crocker with a storming last 20m to touch in 50.77 seconds, the second fastest time in history and the first time the American has gone below 51 seconds.
His last-gasp victory drew him level with Thorpe as the only swimmers to win six gold medals at the same championships and keeps him on course for an amazing eight titles with the 400m individual medley and the 4x100 medley relay to come.
"That's how I won the Olympic medal," he said of his narrow win. "You have to nail the finish as best you can. I tried to get my hand on the wall and try to take it out in the first 50 as well."
His disappointed teammate Crocker took the silver in 50.82 with Albert Subirats Altes of Venezuela winning the bronze.
"It's never quite the race you want to [have]. It was alright," Crocker said. "I always want to go faster. I always want to put my hand first on the wall."
The Australian women held off the US to win the 4x100m medley relay gold medal, beating their own world record when anchor Libby Lenton touched in 3:55.74.
It was Lenton's fourth gold of the meet and Leisel Jones' third.
The US took silver and China won the bronze.
While Phelps added another chapter to his extraordinary story, Thorpe was reeling from a French newspaper report that claimed a sample of his last May showed abnormally high readings for testosterone and luteinizing hormone.
FINA said it had lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport on a doping test, seeking clarification of the adverse analysis, although it did not name the Australian swimmer.
The threat to Thorpe's reputation, who retired as one of the greatest swimmers in history, sparked a vigorous defense of his character.
"He is a young man of unbelievably strong principles and integrity and I've known him for a long time, so I will support Ian 1,000 percent," Swimming Australia executive director Glenn Tasker said.
Back in the pool, Kate Ziegler upstaged French favorite Laure Manaudou to win the 800m freestyle gold in 8:18.52.
Manaudou took silver in 8:18.80 and Hayley Peirsol of the US won the bronze (8:26.41.)
The US charge on the medals continued with Ben Wildman-Tobriner splashing his way to the 50m freestyle title in 21.88 with his teammate Cullen Jones second (21.94).
Another American, Margarat Hoelzer, swam the second fastest time in history to take the 200m backstroke gold medal in 2:07.16, with the 1991 record (2:06.62) of Hungary's Krisztina Egerszegi remaining intact.
Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry, the defending champion, took the silver and Reiko Nakamura of Japan won the bronze.
Sweden got its first gold of the meet when European champion Therese Alshammar sprinted harder than anyone else to win the women's 50m butterfly in 25.91 ahead of Australia's defending champion Danni Miatke (26.05).
Inge Dekker (26.11) of the Netherlands was third.
Earlier, Grant Hackett struck a psychological blow with a sub-15 minute heat win as he battles to hold on to his 1500m freestyle title.
Hackett, whose four-time world 1500m crown is on the line today, the final day of the championships, finished fifth fastest into the final behind Welshman David Davies (14:53.57).
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