MELBOURNE: Mark Spitz just can't get away from Michael Phelps. They're regularly coupled in cyberspace, and by next year they could be forever linked as the greatest swimmers in history.

Spitz tracks his own media mentions on Google, and every time his name pops up these days, it's in connection with Phelps.

``I made a joke by saying that his middle name is Mark Spitz and if I were him, I would hate me,'' Spitz said on Monday, speaking in a rare interview for the normally reclusive champion.

Phelps is planning on making another run at Spitz's record of seven gold medals in a single Olympics next year in Beijing. The 21-year-old American came up just short at the 2004 Athens Games, winning six golds and eight medals overall.

``If what he's trying to do is based on beating my record, then I'm honoured,'' Spitz said while visiting Casa Roma, a hospitality pavilion set up to promote the 2009 World championships in Rome.

``Each time he tries to attempt to swim in this many events, the pressure becomes less for him because his experience goes up and he knows how to control that pressure,'' Spitz said. AP

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