Rome 2009, Day 3:
Men's 200m freestyle final:
Paul Biedermann, of Germany, hammered the nail in the coffin of a technology driven sport here at the Foro Italico when he and his arena X-Glide suit crushed Michael Phelps and his Speedo LZR with a 1:42.00 world record in the 200m freestyle.
Phelps (USA) dug deep but could not cope with the plastic that was even more fantastic than his own. He clocked 1:43.22 for silver ahead of a 1:43.90 Danila Isotov, of Russia. Ian Thorpe's textile full body best was 1:44.06 but there is no comparison possible, neither with the past nor the present within the same race.
Biedermann was always ahead. The splits compared:
The race planted the ultimate nail in the Speedo LZR coffin and the whole sad suits saga now inscribed with the words "RIP: Feb 2008 - Dec 2009: Pandora's Box - here rests a suit that enhanced performance and paved the way for the short life of an equipment-based sport."
On the day that the FINA Congress confirmed that the sport will return to textile suits next year and that the bodysuit is in its last season in the water, the first and last world-title race swum with suits that aid speed, buoyancy and endurance confirmed just why the international federation should hang its head in shame. So should those suit makers that delivered this circus to Rome and overshadowed endless hours, days, weeks, months and years of dedication and hard work. Unfair competition was never part of the FINA Constitution and yet it came to pass. And how. The suits help different swimmers in different ways on different strokes and distances.
Phelps won the 2007 crown by getting inside the 1:44.06 world record of Ian Thorpe (AUS). The 2000 Olympic champion, Pieter van den Hoogenband took silver in 1:46.28 ahead of Park Tae-Hwan (Kor), on 1:46.73. Paul Biedermann, 21, was seventh back then, on 1:48.09.
The 1989 world record of Giorgio Lamberti (ITA), at 1:46.69, was still at 10th fastest ever emerging from the Melbourne 2007 world championships. Now, the Italian finds himself at 35th best. In terms of performances, Lamberti's time has took 18 years to slide steadily to 81st. Since April 2007, it has plummeted to 183rd.
The all-time top 10 coming into the Rome final:
And how things looked emerging from Melbourne 2007: