Lochte “imperial” sets WR in the 200IM

Shanghai 2011 - Swimming

In another thrilling duel Ryan Lochte/Michael Phelps, the 14-time gold medallist lost again, this time in the men’s 200m individual medley. Lochte, the world record holder in this event (he had clocked 1:54.10 when he won the world title in Rome 2009), improved his own best work mark and touched home in 1:54.00, setting the first World Record of these championships. It was also the first 50m World Record since the change of the FINA rules concerning the swimwear in the beginning of 2010. Lochte, winner of the 200m free, also in a close fight with Phelps, confirmed his status of main challenger of the greatest swimmer in history. Before Shanghai, the 26-year-old swimmer from Florida, had already an impressive roll of honour of 13 medals at FINA World Championships. With his two gold already in the Chinese metropolis, he is the third best in history in this competition, after Phelps and legendary Australian Grant Hackett.

“I always want to do something that no one else has done in the sport. A lot of people said that no World records would be broken after the suits were banned and I definitely wanted to prove everyone wrong. Michael was ahead of me going into the first 50. I just knew I had to do what I am really good at; work my underwaters and that got me back in the race. Before the race, I knew it was going to come down in the finish. I just put my head down in the last 10 meters and just hoped for the best,” said Lochte after his effort.

Phelps, visibly happy with his 200m butterfly win on Day 4, has now a serious challenger in the water, something he had not often experienced in his career, since his supremacy in the pool from 2003. The “kid” of Baltimore got the silver in 1:54.16 and had the consolation of establishing a new personal best. Phelps is the 2003, 2005 and 2007 champion in this event, which he skipped in the previous edition of the championships.

“I can’t be upset with that, it’s faster than I went at the Olympics. I was more upset because I thought I had it on the last stroke. I fell short. This race is going to be a lot of motivation for next year. There is a lot of frustration going on into my head; this is going to help me through the tough months of training for the next year. Coming into this race, I knew a WR was going to be made; whoever won had to break a WR. We are still able to do those times and that is still possible. We’re going to start seeing more. I didn’t win because I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been and that’s the bottom line. I need to be in better shape,” admitted Phelps.

Things are now more interesting than ever for the 2012 Olympic Games, with many protagonists ready to shine in London. In this context, the bronze medal of Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh (1:57.69) came almost unnoticed (he had been silver medallist in this event two years ago in the Eternal City).

Not less interesting, but much more unpredictable was the men’s 100m free race, with the triumph (47.63) of 20-year-old James Magnussen from Australia. A new star is born after this win, as this is the first success at this level for the Sydney-based athlete, whose best record until these championships was the 2011 Australian National title in the same distance. On Day 1 in Shanghai, he had also helped his country’s victory in the 4x100m free relay.

“I definitely think to put my name in the spotlight for London. I have been flying under the radar until that relay split the other night so there will be a little more attention on me I am sure but I quite enjoy the pressure and the moment of big crowd and big event so I am looking forward to next year. After that relay split the other night [in which he clocked 47.49], I think it has made that WR (held by Cielo) look a little more human; I was the youngest in the field tonight so I definitely have some improvement to make. In terms of being so young, if you are big enough, strong enough and you’ve got the determination to go ahead and do it, I don’t think age can affect you,” considered Magnussen after his successful final.

James Magnussen (AUS) - Credit: Giorgio Scala

2007 world champion Brent Hayden (CAN) got this time the silver in 47.95, while France’s William Meynard conquered his first individual medal at World Championships, clocking 48.00 for the bronze (he was silver medallist of the 4x100m free relay and already third in the 100m at the 2010 European Championships). The biggest surprise of the race was reserved for the 2009 champion (and 50m butterfly winner in Shanghai), Cesar Cielo Filho (BRA). First at the 50m mark, the South American star, lost some of his speed in the second half of the race, finishing in a disappointing fourth place (48.01).

China continued its bonanza in the pool, with two more medals in the women’s 200m butterfly. Even if the predictions could indicate a win for Olympic champion Liu Zige, the 22-year-old finished “only” in third, in a time of 2:05.90. The title went to her teammate Liuyang Jiao, who, swimming in lane 1, touched home in 2:05.55. Jiao had been one of the swimmers in evidence during the 2010 Asian Games, when she won the 100m and 200m butterfly, and the 4x100m medley relay. At World Championships’ level, this is her first success.

“In today’s final, I had a quite good performance. I’m not in a very good shape these days so I am happy with the bronze. I need to spend some time to make a good plan to change my skills. We haven’t yet found a suitable way with my coach to improve on my skills,” admitted Zige.

Also a newcomer in this major stage is Ellen Gandy (GBR), 19 years old, and already one of the most promising athletes to shine next year at the London Olympics. Two-time bronze medallist in this event at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and European Championships, Gandy clinched the silver in 2:05.59 (her personal best of 2:04.83 was established in March this year, and would be theoretically enough for the gold).

The 2007 and 2009 world champion, Australia’s Jessicah Schipper, will certainly not take the best memories from Shanghai: after being only seventh in the 100m butterfly (silver in Rome 2009), she didn’t improve in the 200m, sharing the seventh position with Jemma Lowe.

The fourth final (women’s 50m backstroke) of the day was won by Russia’s Anastasia Zueva, in a time of 27.79. Already silver medallist in the 100m backstroke in Shanghai, Zueva got her first title at FINA World Championships, after dominating the European scene (she was the winner of the 2010 continental titles in the 50m and 100m backstroke). At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, she finished at the podium’s door in the 200m backstroke (fourth).
The silver in Shanghai went to Aya Terakawa (JPN), in a time of 27.93 – first medal at this level for this “veteran” – 26 years old. Ten years younger, Melissa Franklin (USA) got the bronze in 28.01, after a silver medal in the 4x100m free relay. Franklin has also medalled at the 10th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), last December in Dubai (UAE), getting the silver in the 200m backstroke. Over the last years, the 50m backstroke event was bringing success to China, but curiously that was not the case in Shanghai: Jing Zhao, world record holder and winner of the 100m backstroke, did not enter in the event, while Chang Gao, third in Rome 2009, finished in fourth (28.06).

China’s revenge was reserved for the closing event of the session, the women’s 4x200m free final. Winners of this race in Rome 2009, the Chinese could not, however, repeat this success and got this time the bronze in front of its fans. The team of USA “recovered” its 2003, 2005 and 2007 title, touching home in 7:46.14 (with a quartet formed by Melissa Franklin, Dagny Knutson, Katie Hoff and Allison Schmitt). Australia was also faster than the hosts, getting the silver in a close 7:47.42 (faster than China’s 7:47.66).

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