Dubai, world s/c championships, day 5 finals:
Men's 4x100m medley
Buoyed by the extraordinary shape-shifting efforts of Ryan Lochte, the US took the crown in a championship record of 3:20.99 - and with that won the meet hands down - ahead of Russia on 3:21.61, Brazil taking bronze in 3:23.12, locking out European champions France in 3:23.60.
After Stanislav Donets (RUS) cranked out a blistering 48.95, 0.01sec shy of world record, on backstroke to give Russia a huge lead over the US, it looked as if it might all be over. But the moment that America might have missed Michael Phelps - on 'fly, as world champion and record holder Evgeny Korotyshkin stepped up to the plate - was the moment the man of the meet confirmed a super-hero status of his own.
Going in with almost a body length deficit, Ryan Lochte, five gold medals already in his kit bag, faced a mission impossible. He proved the impossible possible by the close with a 49.17sec split that put the US ahead for the first time in the race, albeit by 0.04sec. Having watched the bomb go off, Garrett Weber-Gale shifted as though chased by a Great White coming out of fast and famine, his homecoming 45.42 denying the Nikita Lobintsev, the Russian who had won solo bronze in the 100m ahead of Olympic champion Alain Bernard (FRA).
The world mark from 2009 was never on, of course, despite the excellence before our eyes, Russia's 3:19.16 a product of a time that came to a close on January 1, 2010.
Soon after the medals were handed out, the US team left the venue straight to check-in and departure for home. Job done: 12 gold medals at the helm of 25 podium prizes.
The closing ceremony and handing over of flags was not a little embarrasing. Not a single team stayed to watch the closing ceremony, which meant that the crown watching a line-up of dignatories go through the motions of pomp and ceremony was reduced to less than 100 in a venue with a capacity of 15,000. The fact is: if the swimmers and coaches are the only spectators, then ceremonies are really not needed - for the only show worth watching is the one they put on themselves, and very fine that one was too.
The result and splits:
Nick Thoman, 49.88; Mike Alexandrov, 56.52 (1:46.40); Ryan Lochte 49.17 (2:35.57); Garrett Weber-Gale 45.42 (3:20.99)
Stanislav Donets 48.95CR; Stanislav Lakhtyukhov 57.27 (1:46.22); Evgeny Korotyshkin 49.39 (2:35.61); Niukita Lobintsev 46.00 (3:21.61)
Guilherme Guido 50.69 (50.69); Felipe Silva 57.21 (1:47.90); Kaio Almeida 50.09 (2:37.99); Cesar Cielo 45.13 (3:23.12)
Stanislav Donets's effort set championship and European records.
History in the making:
World s/c Podiums
Most world titles in this event: 4 - USA 1993, 2000, 2002, 2004
Records (TB = best ever in a textile suit)
Most world records in this event (since specific 25m records began in 1991): 5 - USA
All-time textile rankings top 5:
From the archive:
The first world record in this event was set by SK Poseidon of Sweden, with Gustaf Hellsing, Lennart Brock, Roy Dahl and Hakan Westesson clocking 4:39.2 on February 22, 1953 in Helsingborg. Between then and April 17 the same year, the mark fell to France and then a different French quartet from the Racing Club de France in Paris. On April 17 in Lund, Hellsing and Brock were joined by national teammates Goran Larsson and Per-Ola Ostrand to reduce the standard to 4:30.8. Seven days later, the same foursome cracked on a pace at a meet in Boras, where they left the mark at 4:27.8. Sweden has never held the mark since, while the last visit to the world s/c titles podium was in 1999, for silver.