US swim legend Mark Spitz thinks Michael Phelps could beat his record tally of seven gold medals at a single Olympics, but says if things were different in his time, he could have had eight.
Phelps has his eye on eight golds in Beijing, which would surpass the record Spitz set at Munich in 1972 that many consider one of the greatest achievements in sport.
But Spitz believes that if he'd had an extra event at the time, he would have been the first to eight.
"I won seven events. If they had the 50m freestyle back then, which they do now, I probably would have won that too," he told AFP in Hong Kong. He said Phelps called to mind his own days as a world-beater decades ago.
"He's almost identical to me. He's a world-record holder in all these events, so he is dominating the events just like I did," Spitz said. "He reminds me of myself."
The 23-year-old Phelps shaved 1.41 seconds of his own world record to set a new benchmark in the 400m individual medley on Sunday, taking the first of what he hopes will be eight golds in Beijing.
"There is nothing I am going to be able to say or do that is going to prevent this from happening. It is what it is," said Spitz, who won worldwide fame with his historic performance, in then-West Germany, 36 years ago.
"I think what I have done has obviously inspired him. He's been inspired to go after me."