London (CNN) — All eyes will be on the pool Thursday on day six of the Games, as U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps seeks to write another page in the history book with a third consecutive Olympic gold in the same individual event.
If he steams to victory in the men’s 200-meter individual medley final, he will be the first man to achieve the feat, although two women have managed it.
Phelps will be in lane 3 for the race, but standing between him and history may be fellow U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte in lane 4, in their second showdown of the Games.
Lochte came out on top in the pair’s first head-to-head contest, taking gold in the 400-meter individual Saturday while Phelps could only manage fourth.
But Lochte also swims in the 200-meter backstroke final Thursday, just a half-hour before the 200-meter individual medley, giving him little time to recover.
Phelps made sporting history this week when he became the Olympian with the most medals, surpassing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s record of 18. The Baltimore native now has 19 medals to his name: 15 golds, two silvers and two bronzes.
If he fails to take gold Thursday, he has only one more chance to make it three in a row at these Games: the 100-meter butterfly final Friday.
He won his heat for the butterfly in a quick time Thursday and is quoted on the official Games website as saying, “I knew today was going to be a fast one. This is my last prelim swim ever, so it was fun to be able to do a fast time.”
Phelps also described the moment he received a phone call from President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
“He just got on and was saying how everyone is supporting me and is behind me at home and how proud everyone is of me. That was pretty cool,” Phelps is quoted as saying. “And he finished by saying, ‘Make sure you tell your mom I said hi.’ It was a good call.”
Another president is making Olympic news: Russia’s Vladimir Putin attended the judo Thursday with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Putin, who is himself a black belt in the martial art, was treated to the sight of a gold for Russian judo contestant Tagir Khaibulaev.
“I look forward to taking the president to the judo at the Olympic park, but I note that we will be spectators and not participants,” Cameron joked after their meeting at Downing Street.
Back in the pool, American Rebecca Soni set a world record in her semifinal in the women’s 200-meter breaststroke and is tipped to win the final Thursday.
Missy Franklin and Jessica Hardy go head-to-head in the women’s 100-meter freestyle final.
Tiny Gabby Douglas, nicknamed the Flying Squirrel, claimed gold for Team USA in the women’s individual all-around gymnastics after a stunning final floor routine, leaving Russia’s Viktoria Komova to pick up the silver.
It was heartbreak for Douglas’ countrywoman Aly Raisman, though, as she tied for third with Aliya Mustafina of Russia but lost out on the bronze medal because of technical deductions.
World champion Jordyn Wieber was excluded from the women’s individual all-around final because she finished fourth but third among Americans, in a qualifying system that allows only two people per nation.
At the equestrian arena, Ann Romney, wife of the soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee, was on hand to see her horse Rafalca compete in dressage, ridden by Jan Ebeling. Mitt Romney wasn’t there, though, as he’s traveling from Boston to Colorado for campaign events.
The oldest competitor taking part in the London Games, 71-year-old Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan, rode in the same event on his horse, Whisper.
Cycling moved Thursday from the streets of London to the velodrome, a building praised for its sweeping curves and a track made of sustainably sourced Siberian pine, with qualifying rounds and finals in the men’s and women’s team sprint events.
It was a day of drama, with Team GB’s Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish — who had major gold medal hopes — relegated from the women’s team sprint for an illegal changeover. More upset followed in the medal final, when the Chinese in turn were relegated from the top spot, giving gold to Germany.
There were also scorchingly fast times, with China’s women setting a world record in the team sprint and the British men doing likewise in the team pursuit and the team sprint.
Many in the crowd will be hoping for Team GB to repeat the success of its road cyclists Wednesday, when Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome took gold and bronze in the time trial. The victory made Wiggins, a former track cyclist, the most decorated British Olympian, with seven medals.
New postage stamps were released in the United Kingdom on Thursday, celebrating Wiggins alongside rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, who brought Team GB its first gold medal of the 2012 Games on Wednesday.
Team USA struck gold in the rowing Thursday as the women’s eight retained their title, showing their dominance once again.
South Africa took gold in the lightweight men’s four after a superb late rally, relegating Team GB to silver, to the disappointment of many in the crowd. Also on the rowing lake, New Zealand won the men’s doubles sculls final, the country’s first gold in London.
In southwest London, tennis fans can enjoy quarterfinals at Wimbledon in both the men’s and women’s singles competition.
The lineup includes Novak Djokovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Roger Federer vs. John Isner, Maria Sharapova vs. Kim Clijsters, as well as Victoria Azarenka vs. Angelique Kerber — quite a day of tennis.
Team GB claimed gold and silver in the men’s canoe slalom, with Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott taking top spot ahead of David Florence and Richard Hounslow, and a gold in the men’s double trap shooting for Peter Wilson.
But American Kayla Harrison beat Great Britain’s Gemma Gibbons to gold in the 78-kilogram judo.
Victory in the women’s individual archery competition went to South Korea’s Ki Bo Bae while China’s Zhang Jike won the men’s table tennis singles title and France’s Emilie Fer won a kayaking gold.
Meanwhile, the fallout from the badminton scandal continues.
One of the Chinese badminton players disqualified from the Games on Wednesday for trying to lose a match has indicated that she is quitting the sport, accusing the badminton governing body of ruining her dreams.
“This is my last match,” Yu Yang wrote on her microblog account late Wednesday. “Farewell Badminton World Federation, farewell my beloved badminton.”
However, her official team apology, issued after her microblog comments, was less unequivocal.
“I apologize to all our fans because we failed to abide by the Olympic spirit and failed to present a game as it should have been. … I am ready to do my best in every game of my professional career in the future, to show all of my fans that I’ve changed,” it reads.
Yu, her women’s doubles partner, Wang Xiaoli, and six other players were kicked out of the competition Wednesday by the Badminton World Federation in one of the most controversial episodes of the London Games.
The athletes were accused of playing to lose in order to face easier opponents in future matches, drawing boos from spectators and warnings from match officials Tuesday night. The other doubles pairs booted out were from South Korea and Indonesia. They lost an appeal for reinstatement.
On day six of the Games, China and the United States topped the medals table. China has had more wins, though, with 18 golds to 14 for the Americans.
After a slow start, two strong days have sent Team GB shooting up to fifth place in the medal table, with South Korea and France in third and fourth place respectively.