Dubai, world s/c championships, day 2 finals:
Men's 4x200m freestyle
There was nothing cold about this aquatic war: in a thrilling close to the second day of action Russia claimed the third world record of the new textile era with a 6:49.04 victory over the USA, on 6:49.58. France took bronze over Germany 6:53.05 to 6:54.12.
The world mark, with respect to all who achieved among the softest of all set in the shiny suits era, had stood at 6:51.05 to Canada since August 2009, the holders visitors at British nationals in the wake of the Rome world championships.
The champions: Nikita Lobintsev (1:42.10); Danila Izotov (1:42.15); Evgeny Lagunov (1:42.32); Alexander Sukhorukov (1:42.47) - 6:49.04.
In the mix of a fabulous race, this from the man who had earlier whacked the world with a 3:55.50 world mark over 400m medley: Ryan Lochte - 1:40.48.
But it was the final tally that counted and the Russian squad, led by head coach Andrei Vorontsov, boomed out their national anthem poolside as their boys bowed for gold medals to be hung around the necks. When the singing stopped - eventually - the job of champion of noise was left to 1500m legend and president of the Russian swim federation Vladimir Salnikov, who was to be found celebrating in the stands with someone at the other end of a call on his mobile.
The Russian did the damage up front, Nikita Lobintsev cracking out a 1:42.10 in pursuit of Yannick Agnel (1:41.95), with Paul Biedermann (GER) on 1:42.33, those leaders leaving Peter Vanderkaay contending with their wash into every turn on his way to a 1:43.83 handover.
Next up, Danila Izotov, silver medallist behind Lochte in the individual 200m, but in the face of the man who goes down in history as the first world record breaker alone in the new textile era, it was all the Russian could do to contain the storm. If Agnel's was the only other sub-1:42 split (and off a standing start too) in the race, Lochte's 1:40.48 was carved out of pride, raw guts, sweat, skills, toil and the terrifying hatred of losing tangible at times in Lochte when he's locked in the bubble beyond the world in which we can admire his smile, look him in the eyes and see only the mild nature that belies the beast within.
At half-way, the Russian edge was down to 0.06sec, the race back on as France stayed in contention just 0.19sec away from the US, Germany beginning to struggle. The tussle between Evgeny Lagunov and Garrett Weber Gale left Russia a further 0.57sec ahead and gave Alexander Sukhorukov and Ricky Berens the challenge of their days in the race pool. It was stroke for stroke for much of the way, Berens breaking down a tenth on Sukhorukov over the first 100m and taking a 0.21sec lead with 50m to go. At the last turn, there was no dragging of the fastest four heels left in the race but the Russian flipped best, first and fastest by a touch. It was a crucial touch, Berens repeating good underwater skills once more and breaking into stroke in a way that suggested he was ready to deliver a knockout. The Russian responded in kind as the two men delivered blowful after blowful of desperate strokes, reaching, digging, clawing their way to the wall.
Sukhorukov was not to be denied and as his teammate went wild on the deck, he punched the air over and over before signalling to the rest of the flag-waving Russian squad that would surely have lept across the lanes and walked on water had the rules permitted. A fine spectacle this sport of swimming at times, props and gimmicks uncalled for when man vs man meet in water with a score to settle.
"We are really happy with this victory, and we would like this tradition to continue: Russia beating USA!" said Lagunov. "The victories of Donets (100m back) and Korotyshkin (100m 'fly) also gave us an additional motivation, so it was easy to enter into the race. The venue is also excellent and reminds us of the Water Cube in Beijing,"
Nikita Lobintsev (1:42.10); Danila Izotov (1:42.15); Evgeny Lagunov (1:42.32); Alexander Sukhorukov (1:42.47) - 6:49.04 WR
Peter Vanderkaay (1:43.83); Ryan Lochte (1:40.48) Garrett Weber-Gale (1:42.89) Ricky Berens (1:42.38) - 6:49.58 AR
Yannick Agnel (1:41.95); Fabien Gilot (1:42.55); Clement Lefert (1:45.01); Jeremy Stravius (1:43.54) - 6:53.05
Paul Biedermann (1:42.33); Markus Deibler (1:44.08); Stefen Herbst (1:43.70); Benjamin Starke (1:44.01) - 6:54.12
The race marked the first time that Australia, discounting absenteeism and disqualification, had not made the podium.
History in the making:
World s/c Podiums
Most world titles in this event: 4 - Australia
Most world records in this event (since specific 25m records began in 1991): 4 - Australia
All-time textile rankings top 5:
From the archive:
Between 1950 and a 1957 ruling that world marks could only be set in 50m pools, five of the standards set over 4x200m freestyle, by Americans, Japanese, French and Russians, were established in short-course pools. Then on december 3, 1956, one of the finest quartets ever to grace the race pool came together in a 50m pool in Melbourne and wiped the past out with an 8:23.6 effort: Kevin O'Halloran, John Devitt, Murray Rose and Jon Hendricks were their names, and their time was recognised as the first world mark of the new 50m pool era on world records.