Rome 2009, Day 5
Men's 200m medley final
Ryan Lochte (USA) has lived somewhat in the shadow of Michael Phelps (USA) these past few seasons, but even though the Olympic champion was absent from the world-title race tonight, his teammate stood taller: wearing the LZR of a year ago, Lochte got beyond Phelps's world record with a 1:54.10 blast.
The race marked the 23rd world record at the sliding and gliding champs here at the Foro Italico and meant another silver for the silver collection of Laszlo Cseh (HUN), on 1:55.24, to the 1:55.36 of Eric Shanteau (USA).
The splits compared:
Lochte, who trains in Florida with another champion in Rome, Gemma Spofforth, of Britain, got to Phelps on backstroke and breaststroke. Shanteau was 6th after 'fly, 7th after a very dubious backstroke, and 4th after a breaststroke split of 31.51, 1.5sec and more better than anyone else in the race and almost as fast as his backstroke, before getting passed Pereira in the closing strokes.
Last year, Lochte took bronze behind Cseh in Beijing. Today, he looked like a rolling ball of controlled anger as he ploughed down the last length on his way to his "best time". Lochte said: "There were a lot of hard competitors out there and it was my best time and I got a world record, so I can’t complain." Di he mind that so much of what he has achieved is seen in the context of Phelps? "Phelps," Lochte said, "did such a good job for making a name for swimming; putting swimming on the map, so no, I don’t mind. Also it’s fun, I love swimming against him and I love a challenge, so no, I don’t mind." That strikes at the heart of why the US rises to the challenge time and time again.
Shanteau has lived in the shadow of something quite different. And he too is glad to have emerged into the sunlight. "Having the title of cancer survivor, it’s nice and I am happy to be one, but it’s nice that people are focusing on the swimming now too."
Phelps opted out of the medleys this summer after winning both the 200m and 400m Olympic titles last summer. The Melbourne 2007 final was won by him in a world record of 1:54.98. On that occasion, Lochte took silver, in 1:56.19, with Cseh third in 1:56.92, before a big gap to Thiago Pereira (BRA) on 1:58.98. The Brazilian was fourth again, this time in 1:55.55, with Leith Brodie (AUS) on 1:56.69, a Commonwealth record.
Tamas Darnyi (HUN) was the first man below 2mins back in 1991, when he won the world title in a stunning 1:59.36. By January 2008, that time had slipped down steadily over 18 years to 10th best ever. It is now 27th.