MELBOURNE, Australia - The red line lapped at Michael Phelps' feet, as if pushing him to another world record.
A superimposed TV gizmo that demonstrates just how close swimmers are to record pace, the red line was actually moving along BEHIND Phelps as he approached the wall.
He wasn't chasing the mark. It was chasing him.
"That was amazing," said Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman.
At this point, Phelps is just racing himself and the records he already holds. On Wednesday at the world swimming championships, he set his second world mark in as many days and showed no signs of slowing down with five more races to go Down Under.
"That's basically what he always does," Bowman said. "That's how you improve the best."
Can this be right? Phelps swam the 200-meter butterfly in 1 minute, 52.09 seconds. In a sport where records are documented in hundredths of a second, Phelps broke his own record by a staggering 1.62 seconds - the biggest drop in the record since 1959.
For those who thought the lanky American was at his peak during the 2003 worlds in Barcelona or the following year for the Athens Olympics, think again: He's better than ever, at the ripe ol' age of 21.
Phelps shattered the record he set just six weeks ago in Missouri. With the crowd at Rod Laver Arena rooting him on, he surged to the wall nearly two body lengths ahead of anyone else.
Whirling around and flipping up his goggles to get a better look at the scoreboard, Phelps squinted his eyes when the time flashed.
"I shocked myself," Phelps said. "I heard the crowd the last 50 (meters). I didn't know how close I was or how far I was under it."
In the stands, Bowman had a similar reaction. Phelps' coach was keeping up with the split times, fully aware he was well below the pace of his previous record-breaking swim.