He's in his own world
Phelps is winning raves everywhere
BEIJING - Quick quiz: What has 13 letters and means global phenomenon?
Answer: Michael Phelps.
The Beijing Olympics have belonged to one man, a 23-year-old American swimmer from Baltimore who has become a household name from the Philippines to Peru and Cairo to Caracas.
With his sensational gold medal and world record haul so far, Phelps has transcended Olympic sports and exploded into the planet's consciousness as a once-in-a-lifetime supernova.
"He doesn't swim - he flies," said the sports daily Ole in Argentina.
With his victory this morning in the 100-meter butterfly, Phelps picked up his seventh gold medal of the Games, six in world-record times. With one race left, he is on course to break Mark Spitz's record of seven golds at a single Summer Olympics.
His current count of 13 career golds - he also won six in Athens four years ago - has already made Phelps the athlete with the most gold medals in Olympic history.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge calls him simply "the icon of the Games."
Phelps's feats have drawn banner headlines across the world, including in regions and countries where swimming normally gets scant attention, with newspapers and commentators tripping over each other for superlatives and nicknames:
"The barracuda from Baltimore," said Chile's largest newspaper, El Mercurio.
"The New Olympic Legend," blared Egypt's El Badeel.
"The God of Olympia," intoned France's Nouvel Nouvel Observateur.
"The water man from another planet," hailed Denmark's Berligske Tidende
"At a time when world records seemed to have hit the ceiling of what's physically possible to wrestle out of the human organism, Phelps has been the man who managed to push the limits with his magnificent performance," the Danish paper said.
British bookmakers are already listing Phelps as the 5-6 favorite to win five or more golds at the next Olympics in London in 2012.
"We couldn't care less whether he's the greatest Olympian ever," Ladbrokes spokesman David Williams said. "The truth is he's costing us a fortune and punters [bettors] just love him. If Phelps comes to London in 2012, there's a strong chance he could clean up again. Frankly, we're already dreading it."
Nowhere is swimming bigger than in Australia, and Phelps has eclipsed the country's own Ian Thorpe, the "Thorpedo," who won five Olympic gold medals, 11 world titles, and set 13 world records before retiring in 2006.
The Australian, a national broadsheet, described Phelps as "the champion who swims in his own galaxy."
"If Michael Phelps were a country, he would be sitting fourth on the Games medal tally," the paper said.