Dubai, world s/c championships, day 3 finals
Men's 200m medley
Full steam ahead, records to left and right, Ryan Lochte punched ahead in his role as pioneer of the new textile suit era with a furious 1:50.08 world-record victory in the short medley that delivered the title to the American 26-year-old for a third time in a row. Four world marks have now fallen, both solo efforts courtesy of the swimmer of the meet.
From go to glory, Lochte tore down the veil on a World Cup world record ripe for replacing. Forging a lead on butterfly he turned in 24.01, 0.11sec outside the record-pace of absent Darian Townsend (RSA). From that point, it became a question of how deep Lochte could bury the past. By the close of backstroke, with Olympic backstroke medallist Markus Rogan (AUT) the only man left within a whiff of the eventual winner, Lochte's 51.42 split was 0.54sec inside target. Any remaining doubt had a stake driven through it by two laps of breaststroke that left the score at 1:23.49, 1.91sec inside Townsend's pace.
Lochte held stroke on freestyle all the way home on his way to showing where short-course swimming can go should it ever have the same draw as the biggest of long-course meets when no-one stays away. Michael Phelps is not here but he will be doubtless be watching with interest as his teammate and friend soars in a way that only he can imagine in terms of what it feels like to travel through water like Lochte seared through it tonight.
The clock stopped at 1:50.08, giving Lochte enough time to turn round, digest, smile, and watch Rogan take silver in 1:52.90, the bronze going to the triple champion's teammate Tyler Clary, in 1:53.56. Rogan and Clary thus join the all-time top 5 textile-suited ranks. The Austrian wrote the headlines back home when he said: "I'm the leader of the losers."
Lochte's triple (2006, 2008, 2010) matched that of Matthew Dunn (AUS) winner of the 200m and 400m crown in 1993, 95 and 97. The American's performance was breathtaking, a generation ahead of all who followed in his wake, though the slaughtering of the shiny world record was less surprising than some seemed to think given that Lochte had not fired in a short-course pool since 2008. Even in poly, the answer is right there before us: Lochte's long-course best 1:54.10, Townsend's 1:57.03. Done deal.
The 19th world s/c medal of his career and his third gold medal of these championships under his belt, Lochte now has the 200m backstroke as his next target. On poolside he said: "That's pretty fast". A suprise? He didn't answer directly, a seriousness washing over his face for a fleeting moment as he replied: "...just all the training I've done."
History in the making:
World s/c Podiums
Most world titles in this event: 3
Most world records in this event (since specific 25m records began in 1991): 5
All-time textile rankings top 5:
From the archive:
After world short-course records were recognised by FINA from March 3, 1991, the first five marks were all set by Jani Sievinen (FIN) between 1992 and 1994. The Finn had to wait until 2000, however, before he won the world s/c title, and then could not crack the best winning time of Matthew Dunn (AUS), winner of the 1995, 1997 and 1999 200m and 400m titles and thew most titled medley man in world s/c championship history. Sievinen finally placed a tick in each box when he retained the crown in 2002 in championship record time.