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"That's great, I just wanted to be out there at the 50 meter point and be there at the 100. After that it was just open water," said Phelps, who was back in the pool winning a 200m butterfly semi-final less than an hour later.His inspirational swim was the first of three victories for American swimmers in under 20 minutes, hauling the U.S. team up into second place in the overall medals table behind China. The hosts, second to the Americans in 2004, are keen to end the Games in top spot. Sporting triumph would underline the message of new economic and political might that China wants to convey in its no-expense-spared hosting of the Games. The Chinese have dominated in the weightlifting, winning four of six events, have done well in diving and picked up golds in shooting and judo DEFENDING CHAMPIONS American world champion Natalie Coughlin forced Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry to settle for a second silver in the women's 100 backstroke despite breaking the world record in the semi-finals. Coventry, second-placed in the 400 individual medley, had hoped to bring some rare sporting cheer to her troubled country. Coughlin was the first woman to defend successfully the Olympic 100m backstroke title. American Aaron Peirsol smashed the world record he set just six weeks ago to retain his Olympic 100 meters backstroke title and maintain his long dominance of the discipline. He starts his defense of his 200 meter title on Wednesday. Australian world champion Leisel Jones, two individual silvers and bronze to her name from 2000 and 2004, finally won an individual Olympic gold in the 100 breaststroke. Criticised for being a sore loser in Athens when she missed out on gold, Jones changed her coach and approach to swimming. "It has been a long journey, a long eight years," said Jones, who first appeared at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000, when she won a silver in the 100 breaststroke when only 15-years-old. American swimming success, led by Phelps, has helped draw huge audiences for the Olympics back home, where broadcaster NBC said they had more viewers for any summer Games held outside the United States since 1976 GYMNASTIC VICTORY On the fourth day of competition 19 golds are to be awarded, the most so far. China picked up its 10th overall Games gold in the men's artistic gymnastics team competition, reclaiming their traditional pre-eminence in the event after failing to get an Athens medal. The Chinese team took their inspiration from "Prince of Gymnastics" Li Ning, who lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony on Friday, circling high above the heads of spectators in a daredevil high-wire act. Amid jubilant celebrations from the home fans they dethroned 2004 champions Japan and pushed the Americans into third place. China also hopes for a clean sweep in the diving competition where they have picked up the first two golds on offer. Chen Ruolin and Wang Xin aim to make it three out of three in the women's synchronized 10m platform on Tuesday. Temperatures have fallen in Beijing to a comfortable 22 degrees Celsius (72 Fahrenheit) from the oppressive mid 30s at the weekend and the air has cleared, making life easier for outdoor athletes like rowers and tennis players. (Reporting by Beijing Olympic bureau; Editing by Jon Bramley)
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