SHANGHAI, (Reuters) – Ryan Lochte became the first swimmer to break a long course world record since controversial polyurethane swimsuits were banned last year while James Magnussen ended a far longer Australian wait at the world championships yesterday.
Lochte, pushed every stroke of the way, managed to hold off compatriot and Olympic champion Michael Phelps in the men’s 200 metres individual medley and break his own record in one minute 54.00 seconds.
The 26-year-old was 0.10 faster than the time he set at the Rome world championships in 2009. Phelps was a fingertip behind in 1:54.16.
“It was definitely something I wanted to do, something that everyone thought wasn’t possible that the world record (would) be touched again,” Lochte told reporters. “I just wanted to show to everyone that (it) can happen.
“I am just happy all the hard work and dedication paid off.”
While Lochte and Phelps brought the crowd to their feet in the Oriental Sports Centre, millions of Australians were surely on theirs shortly afterwards as 20-year-old Magnussen ended the country’s 43-year wait for the blue riband men’s 100 freestyle title.
Australia had not won the title in a global championships since Mike Wenden took Olympic gold in Mexico City in 1968 and had never won it at a world championships, which began in 1973.
“No Australian has won this race in the world champs (and) it’s such an amazing thing for me,” said Magnussen, now firmly in the spotlight for next year’s London Olympics.
“I’m obviously happy and proud with myself for gaining the honor for Australia (and) it sounds amazing to be called a world champion.”
Lochte’s swim produced the first long course world record since the polyurethane swimsuits, which helped swimmers set 43 in Rome, were banned from the start of last year.
Phelps, who had not competed in the 200 IM in Rome, said he was disappointed to finish second but pleased to beat the time he set (1:54.23) when he won Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008.
“Coming into this race I knew (the) world record was going to be broken. Whoever won had to break the…record,” he said.
“It says a lot that we still can do that time. We are going to see more (of this) and more often.”
Lochte, who had told Phelps he would be “super tired” for the men’s 200 backstroke, dispelled those fears by cruising to victory in the first semi-final and setting the fastest time for today’s final.
The United States picked up their second gold medal of the day when the women’s 4×200 metres freestyle relay team led from start to finish to win the gold, edging out Australia and China.
Jiao Liuyang also provided the host nation with their fourth gold in the pool, and 14th overall in Shanghai, when she won the women’s 200 butterfly from lane one.
The victory was particularly enjoyable for Jiao, who had to settle for silver behind compatriot Liu Zige at the Beijing Games.
Liu, who had been chasing down Jiao was overtaken in the final few strokes yesterday by Britain’s Ellen Gandy, who almost overhauled the tiring Jiao.
Russia’s Anastasia Zueva, who missed out on the gold by 0.01 seconds in the women’s 100 backstroke on Tuesday, was surprised to take gold in the 50 backstroke.
“I did not expect to get the gold medal in the 50, because it is not an Olympic event so I did not concentrate on it,” Zueva said. “But my coach had great belief that I could win.
“I felt really tired in the last (few) metres, but I really wanted to win.”
Rebecca Soni and Kosuke Kitajima were the fastest qualifiers for the women’s and men’s 200 breaststroke finals on Friday, while Britain’s Fran Halsall qualified fastest for the women’s 100 freestyle final.
Germany’s world record holder and Olympic champion Britta Steffen, who had struggled to qualify in the 16th and final place for the 100 freestyle semi-finals, withdrew from the championships.