Beijing:Michael Phelps came up for air on Thursday, swimming just the 200m individual medley semi-finals and 100m butterfly heats as he prepared for the final stages of his race toward Olympic history.
"I can't complain not having a final," Phelps said. "It was a bit more relaxing."
Phelps won two golds yesterday, in the 200m butterfly and 4x200m freestyle relay, taking his tally in Beijing to five.
With his six golds from Athens he now owns the most golds of any Olympian in any sport.
If he can win the 200m medley and the 100m butterfly, and help the United States to victory in the 4x100m medley relay, Phelps will break US swimmer Mark Spitz's 36-year-old record of seven golds at one Games.
Well into a schedule that includes 17 swims in nine days, Phelps was doing all he could to conserve energy.
"I just wanted to win my heat," he said after the medley semi-finals, and he did in 1min 57.70.
That put him second-quickest heading into the final behind the 1:57.69 of teammate Ryan Lochte.
"I guess it's going to be me and Ryan in the middle tomorrow," said Phelps, who owns the world record in the event of 1:54.80 but has Lochte hot in pursuit.
"Tomorrow is going to be the real battle."
Phelps took a similarly relaxed approach in the 100m fly heats.
"I didn't have much trouble after the first 50m," he said after notching the second-fastest time of the night. "I came home pretty good, I seemed to put myself out in the first 50m.
"It's the prelims, nothing really counts until the finals."
Phelps's coach Bob Bowman said the swimmer was able to get a later start than usual on Thursday, breakfasting at eight instead of seven.
"At 8:30 we were on a bus to here (the Water Cube), then we did some stretching and warm-ups for 30-40 minutes. Then he puts on his suit and does more warm-ups," Bowman said.
"Then he swims, he always has a massage. Then he'll eat, take a nap and then come back on the bus and do it all again, usually twice a day."
"I feel fine," Phelps said. "I think over the next few days the biggest thing is going to be trying to get as much rest as I can. If I can do that, I'll be fine."
Bowman, who has coached Phelps since he was 11, was full of praise for his swimmer.
"I think his performance so far has been spectacular," Bowman said. "He's doing very well. He's handling his work schedule and other things are going exceedingly well."
But Bowman said Russian swimmer Alexander Sukhorukov was off-target when he said Phelps was from another planet.
"I've seen his Earthly side," Bowman said of Phelps. "I guarantee he's human."
The hoopla attending Phelps's history-making run has buoyed the entire US team, backstroker Aaron Peirsol said.
But Peirsol added that the superstar's teammates - including Lochte and Crocker - have their own golden ambitions hat they want to fulfill, even at Phelps's expense.
"It's elevating the entire team," Peirsol said. "However, we've all got our own goals. No one is racing for second."