LONDON: Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time on Tuesday, winning a record 19th medal in the pool as China's swimming sensation Ye Shiwen grabbed her second gold of the Games.
Phelps anchored the US team to a convincing victory in the 4x200m freestyle relay to secure gold and beat the record of 18 medals amassed by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina between 1956 and 1964.
The American had earlier had his bid for a 200m butterfly Olympic treble thwarted by Chad le Clos of South Africa, but the silver allowed him to match the record medal haul before the relay sealed his unprecedented achievement.
Phelps, 27, won six golds and two bronze medals at the 2004 Athens Games, then brought home a spectacular eight golds from Beijing.
He has suffered a testing Games in London, slumping out of the medals in the 400m individual medley and then having to settle for silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay.
But Phelps' record 19th medal was never in doubt in Tuesday's relay as he took over the final leg with a healthy lead and powered home to leave France trailing in silver and China with bronze.
Ye, just 16, is likely to fuel more speculation about her remarkable performances after she added the 200m individual medley title to the 400m individual medley crown.
The Chinese girl was lagging behind the leaders at the turn in the Aquatics Centre, but produced a powerful final 50m to overhaul Australia's Alicia Coutts in an Olympic record time of 2min 7.57sec.
Her swim came just days after her lightning freestyle leg in the longer medley propelled her to a new world record.
Ye's emergence has raised unproven suspicions of doping, with John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches' Association, describing her display in the 400m medley as "impossible."
But Chinese authorities went on the offensive, saying it was unfair to point the finger at their swimmers.
"The Chinese athletes, including the swimmers, have undergone nearly 100 drug tests since they arrived here," Jiang Zhixue, the head of anti-doping at China's General Administration of Sport, told Xinhua news agency.
"Many were also tested by the international federations and the British anti-doping agency. I can tell you that so far there was not a single positive case.
"I think it is not proper to single Chinese swimmers out once they produce good results. Some people are just biased."
Former British swimmer Adrian Moorhouse, a gold medallist in the 100m breaststroke in the 1988 Seoul Games, issued a strong defence of Ye, saying it was possible China had unearthed their own Phelps.
"I think it's sour grapes," Moorhouse said. "I think it's quite insulting actually."
In the gymnastics arena, the United States won the women's team final to claim their first gold medal in the event since 1996. Russia had to settle for silver while Romania pipped 2008 Olympic champions China to bronze.
The first of 15 golds up for grabs Tuesday was won by defending champions Germany in the equestrian three-day eventing, with Michael Jung then becoming the first rider to hold the European, world and Olympic individual titles.
Great Britain finished second in the team event to earn a silver medal for Queen Elizabeth II's granddaughter Zara Phillips.
China won their third diving gold in three events when world champions Chen Ruolin and Wang Hao clinched the women's 10m synchro platform.
Chen, the individual 10m platform champion from the Beijing Games and the synchronised 10m platform champion, teamed with Wang to tally 368.40 points from their five dives off the tower. (AFP)