Michael Phelps paid tribute to Mark Spitz after breaking his fellow US swimming legend's record of seven gold medals at a single Olympics, saying it had provided the inspiration he needed to keep going through day after day of gruelling training.
Spitz's mark, a record across all Olympic sports, had stood for 36 years since his stunning display at the 1972 Games in Munich.
But a statistic many considered would never be surpassed was topped on Sunday by Phelps, after he played his part in the victorious American 4x100 metres medley relay team to win his eighth gold in Beijing, seven of which were achieved in world record times.
Responding to a reporter quoting Spitz's comment that while what he had done in 1972 was the equivalent of being the first man on the Moon then what his successor had achieved made him “the first man on Mars”, Phelps simply said: “Records are always made to be broken, no matter what they are.”
“Anyone can do anything they want if they really want to,” he added. “I've said all along I want to be the 'first' Michael Phelps not the 'second' Mark Spitz.
“Never once will I downplay his accomplishments by any means. What he did is still an amazing feat and will always be an amazing feat in the swimming world and the Olympics.”