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David J. Phillip, Associated Press
Michael Phelps celebrates setting a new world record to win a gold medal in the men's 200-meter freestyle.

BEIJING — Michael Phelps joined a stellar cast, including Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis, to become one of the winningest Olympians ever by grabbing his ninth gold medal.

Phelps dominated once again at the Beijing Games, winning the 200-meter freestyle with a third straight world record Tuesday morning. His latest gold medal adds to an already remarkable career that shows no signs of slowing down and leaves him tied for most in Olympic history.

This was the "Race of the Century" at the Athens Games four years ago, when a 19-year-old Phelps took on the 200 free just so he could compete with Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband. He touched third that night. In China, he has no equal.

Racing out of lane six, he quickly surged to the lead and led by a full body length halfway through the second of four laps. Phelps was nearly two seconds ahead of the field when he touched in 1 minute, 42.96 seconds, breaking the mark 1:43.86 he set at last year's world championships.

Phelps is now 3-for-3 in Beijing, keeping him on course to beat Spitz's 36-year-old record of seven golds in a single Olympics.

Along the way, he'll take care of some other historical landmarks.

Phelps's ninth career gold tied him with Spitz, Lewis, Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina and Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi for the most wins in Olympic history.

The mark isn't likely to be shared for long. Phelps will go for his fourth medal of these games and 10th overall on Wednesday in the 200 butterfly, yet another event in which he holds the world record.

In other finals Tuesday:

Aaron Peirsol has won the men's100-meter backstroke, defending his title with a world-record time and extending the United States' dominance of the event. Peirsol touched in 52.54 seconds, lowering his old mark of 52.89 set at last month's U.S. trials.

Teammate Matt Grevers earned the silver in 53.11. Arkady Vyatchanin of Russia and Hayden Stoeckel of Australia tied for the bronze in 53.18.

The U.S. has won the men's 100 back at four consecutive Olympics, with Peirsol taking the title in Athens in a time that was 0.17 second slower.

Natalie Coughlin of the United States captured the100-meter backstroke for the women, becoming the first woman to ever defend her title in the event.

Coughlin finished in 58.96 seconds, briefly going under world-record pace at the 50.

World record-holder Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe earned the silver in 59.19. American Margaret Hoelzer took the bronze in 59.34. Six of the eight finalists swam under 1 minute.

Coughlin earned her second medal of the Beijing Games, having won a silver in the 400 freestyle relay. Coventry was the silver medalist in the 400 individual medley.

In the semifinals of the women's 200 free, Katie Hoff advanced with the second-fastest time of 1:57.01. The 19-year-old American, who's like a little sister to Phelps, is still trying to win her first gold medal after settling for bronze and silver in her first two events. She still has three more individual races, plus a relay, to make up for that void.

Slovenia's Sara Isakovic was the top qualifier at 1:56.50.