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Phelps strikes gold, misses record

Phelps celebrates relay gold with the U.S while Australian rival Thorpe, left, has to settle for silver
• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece -- Michael Phelps launched the United States to a narrow victory in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay in Athens to grab his third gold medal in four days.

Phelps handed over to Ryan Lochte, Peter Vanderkaay and Klete Keller to win in seven minutes 07.33 seconds with Australia second and Italy third.

Earlier Phelps added the 200m butterfly gold to his 400m individual medley title, but was unhappy not to better his own world record.

Regarding his butterfly triumph he said: "The first 50 was something that could have been better. I'm happy with the gold medal but I really wanted the record."

Japan's Takashi Yamamoto was second more than half a second behind in 1:54.56, while Stephen Parry earned bronze in 1:55.52 -- Britain's first Olympic swimming medal for eight years.

Phelps was nearly half a second under his world record pace through 100m, winning in an Olympic record of one minute 54.04 seconds.

Phelps' bid to match Mark Spitz's historic 1972 haul of seven swimming gold medals has been thwarted by third place finishes in the 4x100m free relay and the 200m freestyle.

The 200m butterfly was where the Olympic experience began for Phelps, who was fifth in the event in Sydney when he was just 15 years old.

Phelps shows mixed emotions after failing to break his own world best

He was still 15 when in 2001 he became the youngest man to break a world record when he set the 200m fly mark at the US championships.

Yamamoto, silver medalist behind Phelps at the world championships last year in Barcelona, was third at every turn before a last-lap surge saw him take the silver in an Asian record of 1:54.56.

"I really wanted to beat Michael Phelps," Yamamoto said.

"But he's just too fast. I didn't think I could swim so fast. I wanted a gold medal. I tried to catch him in the last 50m, but he's so fast I couldn't catch up with him."

Defending Olympic champion Tom Malchow of the United States, a former world record-holder now nursing an ailing shoulder, finished last.

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