BEIJING — The Michael Phelps gold medal count commenced early Sunday morning here with the 400-meter individual medley final, and his pursuit of a record eight golds began with a victory and a world record.

At 10:03 a.m., Phelps and his competitors dived into the pool at the Water Cube, and 4 minutes and 3.84 seconds later it was over. The morning after Phelps set an Olympic record in this event with a heat time of 4:07.82, a record that he said surprised even himself, he started his own countdown.

One gold down, seven more to go, for an unprecedented total of eight. At 23, Phelps has been a household name in his sport for years, breaking through on the Olympic stage four years ago in Athens. He arrived in Beijing with a shot at breaking Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in one Games.

Whenever he was asked last week about his bid to win eight gold medals, Phelps shrugged it off by saying that was a news media invention and not his stated intention.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/sp...nt&oref=slogin