MELBOURNE: Michael Phelps equalled the most hallowed mark in swimming, winning his seventh gold medal at the World championships with his fifth world record on Sunday.

Phelps smashed his own world record in the 400m individual medley by 2.04 seconds, becoming the most successful swimmer ever at the worlds.

The 21-year-old American joined countryman Mark Spitz as the only swimmers ever to win that many golds at a major international meet. Of course, Spitz' achievement came on the sport's grandest stage the Olympics. Phelps hopes to equal the feat or go one better at next year's Beijing Games.

Katie Hoff, who swims at the same North Baltimore club that launched Phelps, later broke the world record in the women's 400m IM. Hoff defended her title in 4 minutes, 32.89 seconds, lowering the mark of 4:33.59 by Yana Klochkova of Ukraine at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Third gold medal

It was Hoff's third gold medal of the meet and second world record. She swam on the victorious 800 freestyle relay that set a world mark.

A Polish swimmer staged the last night's biggest upset in the gruelling 1,500 freestyle, where Aussie Grant Hackett's run of four consecutive titles ended.

Mateusz Sawrymowicz won the gold medal in 14 minutes, 45.94 seconds against the fastest field in history. Yury Prilukov of Russia took the silver. David Davies earned the bronze. Hackett struggled home seventh, ending a disappointing meet for the world record holder. He earned a bronze in the 400m free and was seventh in the 800m free.

Phelps never got a chance at an eighth gold in Melbourne after his U.S. teammates were shockingly disqualified in the 400 medley relay preliminaries on Sunday morning.

Ian Crocker, who had been in position to derail Phelps in the 100m fly before losing to his rival, dove in too early on an exchange, causing the disqualification.

Still, Phelps closed out his eight-day run in style, winning the 400 IM in 4 minutes, 06.22 seconds.

Phelps' five world records equalled the number he broke at the 2003 worlds in Barcelona. Back then, he won six medals, including four gold.

As Phelps soaked in the applause during his victory stroll, Crocker looked on pensively from the stands, chewing gum.

Libby Lenton of Australia won her fifth gold medal, taking the women's 50 freestyle in 24.53 seconds.

American Natalie Coughlin was last, closing out a five-medal showing, including two golds.

The results: Men 50m Backstroke: 1, Gerhard Zandberg (RSA), 24.98s, 2. Thomas Rupprath (Ger), 3. Liam Tancock (GBR).

400m Individual medley: 1. Michael Phelps (U.S.), 4:06.22 (WR, OR-Phelps, 4:08.26), 2, Ryan Lochte (U.S.), 3. Luca Marin (Ita).

Women: 50 Freestyle: 1. Libby Lenton (Aus), 24.53; 2, Therese Alshammar (Swe), 3. Marleen Veldhuis (Ned). 50m Breaststroke: 1. Jessica Hardy (U.S.), 30.63, 2. Leisel Jones (Aus), 3. Tara Kirk (U.S.), 31.05. AP

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