Beijing:Michael Phelps matched Mark Spitz's magical seven gold medals at a single Olympics today with a thrilling victory in the men's 100m butterfly.
Phelps, seventh at the turn, snatched victory by one-hundredth of a second over Serbia's Milorad Cavic, pounding the water in triumph and screaming with delight when he realized the enormity of his achievement.
"I was shocked at the end, it was kind of a little bit of a delayed reaction," said the American.
"I feel a little bit of everything - relief, excitement, everything. I had to take my goggles off to make sure the '1' was next to my name."
The 23-year-old phenomenon, who had appeared invincible as he set six world records in winning his first six golds at the Water Cube, displayed the sheer force of his will as he made up a deficit of more than half a second in the final lap to win in 50.58sec.
Cavic had challenged Phelps even before the race began. As the American took up his familiar pre-race stance alongside his block, facing the side of the pool, Cavic stood by his own block and faced him.
The two stood stock still and staring until the starter called them onto the blocks, but at the finish it was Cavic who blinked, missing out on gold in 50.59.
"When I saw the 50.58 and the 50.59 and I saw the '1' next to my name, that's when I sort of let my roar out," Phelps said.
As Cavic reached for the wall, Phelps gambled with one more stroke.
"I actually thought when I did take that half stroke, I thought I had lost the race right there, but I guess that was the difference in the end," said Phelps, who added he didn't realize how close it was.
"I had no idea," he said. "I was starting to hurt for the last 10 metres. It was my last individual race and I just wanted to finish as strong as I could."
Australian Andrew Lauterstein was third in 51.12. It was the only one of Phelps's five individual events in Beijing in which he both started and finished without the world record, which still belongs to fourth-placed compatriot Ian Crocker.
With his seventh gold medal, Phelps matched the record that US swimmer Mark Spitz established with seven victories at the Munich Olympics in 1972, and will have a chance to break the mark when he swims the 4x100m medley relay on Sunday.
"I think the biggest thing is when someone says you can't do something," Phelps said of his determination in pursuing a record once thought unassailable.
"It shows that anything is possible when you put your mind to it."
Phelps has won gold here in the 100m and 200m butterfly, 200m and 400m individual medley, 200m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle relay and 4x200m freestyle relay.
Phelps, who won six gold medals in Athens, had already moved ahead of Spitz on one score here. He surpassed the US swimming icon, along with Games greats Carl Lewis, Paavo Nurmi and Larysa Latynina, who were tied for the Olympic record of nine career gold medals.
With his seventh Beijing triumph, to go with six gold medals from Athens, Phelps has 13 Olympic gold medals for his career.
Britain's Rebecca Adlington broke the oldest swimming world record on the books, winning the women's 800m freestyle in 8:14.10.
She erased the 19-year-old record of 8:16.22 set by Janet Evans on August 20, 1989 in Tokyo.
Adlington, who snatched the 400m free gold at the final touch, crushed her opposition in this one with over six seconds to spare.
Italian Alessia Filippi took the silver 8:20.23 and Lotte Friis of Denmark claimed the bronze in 8:23.03.
Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe finally added gold to the three silvers she had won so far in Beijing, setting a world record to retain her 200m backstroke title.
Coventry clocked 2:05.24, bettering the world mark set by Margaret Hoelzer at the US trials in July. Hoelzer took silver in 2:06.23 and Japan's Reiko Nakamura earned the bronze in 2:07.13.
Brazil's Cesar Cielo Filho won the men's 50m freestyle gold in 21.30sec.
Amaury Leveaux was second in 21.45 with fellow Frenchman, and 100m free gold medallist, Alain Bernard third in 21.49.
World record-holder Eamon Sullivan finished a disappointing sixth.