Putin and Phelps show golden touch

Michael Phelps became the first male swimmer to win the same event at three times.

American swimming great Michael Phelps. Picture: Sascoc

LONDON - Black belt Vladimir Putin cheered a Russian judoka to a gold medal at the Olympics on Thursday, and American Michael Phelps hit new heights by becoming the first male swimmer to win the same event at three successive Games.

The futuristic velodrome witnessed six world cycling records, a double disqualification and golds for Britain's men and Germany's women in the team sprints.

Elsewhere, a 'play-to-lose' badminton scandal took a new twist when a disqualified Chinese player said she was quitting the sport.

Controversy also struck in boxing. A Turkmen referee was expelled for failing to stop a bout in which a fighter was knocked down six times, and an Angolan coach was deemed a "plonker" by his team chief for failing to present their only fighter for a weigh-in, thus getting him disqualified.

It was Russian President Putin who staged one of the day's most emphatic victory celebrations, leaping to his feet with both fists aloft when his countryman Tagir Khaibulaev defeated a Mongolian opponent to win Russia's third judo gold.

Putin, who cultivates a macho image based partly on his skills on the mat, slapped the victor repeatedly on the back and grabbed his cheeks with both hands.

In buoyant mood, he went on to suggest to Russian news agency Interfax that members of female punk band Pussy Riot, on trial for protesting against him in a Moscow cathedral, should not be judged too harshly.

Prime Minister David Cameron watched the judo with Putin and had reasons of his own to celebrate, as Britain rose to fifth in the medals table with golds in the men's cycling, double trap shooting and canoe slalom double.