Britta Steffen Hydrofoiled to a 52.22 world record leading Germany off in the 4x100m freestyle final. It was almost decisive: Marleen Veldhuis saved the day for the Dutch to bring the Olympic champions home to a 3:31.72 world record, 0.11sec ahead of Germany, with bronze going to Australia in 3:33.01.
Libby Trickett (AUS) wore an arena X-Glide and explained that she had done so to help out her teammates. She was happy to take the knock of any disadvantage in her solo events if it came down to her LZR not providing as much of an advantage as the suits of her rivals might provide for them. But, when it came to team, she would wear whatever it took to get Australia on the podium. And therein is the proof that swimmers know that suits work differently for different swimmers on different strokes and over different distances.
The 4x100m free at world titles for men in Rome had long been billed as the race not to miss: the revenge of Gaul meets the proud history of America. Russia stepped up to gatecrash the party somewhat, taking silver to gold for the USA and bronze for France as all three teams clocked 3mins 09s.
The US quartet of Michael Phelps (47.78), Ryan Lochte (47.03), Matt Grevers (47.61) and Nathan Adrian (46.79) retained the title in a championship record of 3:09.21. Russia was just behind, on 3:09.52 with France on 3:09.89.
Alain Bernard will be buoyed by what was the fastest split of the final, a 46.46 in an X-Glide that may well have been modified but has lost none of its rocket fuel. The podium battle came down to the last leg: Adrian V Alex Sukhorukov V Fred Bousquet. The American gained a clear edge with a gutsy head-down effort, while the Russian found a 47.39 and the Frenchman managed a 47.42 that fell shy of his solo best time.
Leading Brazil off, Cesar Cielo clocked 47.09, a championship record just 0.04sec shy of absent Australian Eamon Sullivan's world record pace in the solo 100m.
On the pressure of the moment, Adrian, who brought victory home for the US, said: "I just tried to stay within myself and try to race my own race."
Phelps added: "When we came into this meet, we really wanted to win all three relays. This was a perfect way to end day one. All these guys swam excellent splits. To be able to be on a team with them is an honor for me. I was confident with (Adrian) on the block. I was confident he was going to step up and swim an excellent leg. That’s good news for the future of our relays."
Ryan Lochte added a little spice and fun to the mix when he said: "Right before the race, I looked up at (France’s Alain) Bernard, and he’s like seven feet tall. I thought, ‘How am I racing this guy?’ I just tried to do my part and not mess it up for the other guys."
Relay coach Bob Bowman noted: "Each person really did their job in the end. I really wanted Nathan on the end of this relay, because he’s the future of sprinting here in this country." With Phelps in that 100m, we assume.