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Natalie Coughlin became the first woman to repeat as champion of the 100 backstroke, winning with an American record of 58.96. She held off Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, who set a world record of 58.77 in the semifinals but couldn't repeat that performance.
"I'm so glad to have this race behind me because there's so much pressure," said Coughlin, who claimed her seventh Olympic medal overall. "I tried to keep myself as mentally strong as possible."
Another American, Margaret Hoelzer, took bronze in 58.34.
"The ball's starting to roll," Phelps said. "Last year in Melbourne (at the world championships) one swim started it, and then swims just started happening one after another after another. We had a great morning this morning and hopefully we can set up some more good swims tonight and keep the ball rolling."
The U.S. dominance was broken only by Australia's Leisel Jones, who made up for a disappointing bronze four years ago by winning the 100 breaststroke in 1:05.17, just eight-hundredths off her own world record. Rebecca Soni, who got in the event after fellow American Jessica Hardy tested positive for drugs last month, took advantage of her opportunity by winning the silver in 1:06.73.
"It almost felt like less pressure because it wasn't initially my event," Soni said. "I don't think it's necessarily fair what happened, but rules are rules and I'm just doing what I'm told."
Mirna Jukic of Austria got the bronze (1:07.34).
The day before, Phelps led a raucous celebration on deck after Jason Lezak improbably caught France's Alain Bernard on the final stroke to give the Americans a thrilling relay win. He thrust both fists in the air and let out a long scream before burying himself with Lezak, Cullen Jones and Garrett Weber-Gale in a group hug.
There was no such drama this time. He has no equal in China.
Phelps touched the wall two full body lengths ahead of everyone else, put his right index finger in the air and matter-of-factly climbed from the pool.
After the medal ceremony, Phelps changed into a different suit -- ditching the one that covers his stomach and chest for one that merely goes from waist to ankles -- to swim in the semifinals of the 200 fly. He won the heat and tied his own Olympic record from the win at Athens four years ago, 1:53.70.
"I just wanted to win my heat and set everything up for tomorrow," Phelps said. "Just get through that and prepare myself for tomorrow, that's the most important thing. An afternoon off and it's time to just sort of get as rested as I can, recover, and I probably have to re-shave. Get all of that stuff down."
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 fill that void.
Slovenia's Sara Isakovic was the top qualifier at 1:56.50.
Hoff returned to post the third-fastest time in the semifinals of the 200 individual medley, trailing Coventry (2:09.53) and Australia's Stephanie Rice (2:10.58) in 2:10.90.
It also was a busy morning for Coughlin, who won the other heat in the 200 IM with the fourth-best time overall, 2:11.84.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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