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M200Back: Lochte's Third Title A Textile Best

Jul 29, 2011  - Craig Lord

Day 6 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai

Men's 200m backstroke

Ryan Lochte (USA) claimed his third gold medal with a 1:52.96 victory over Ryosuke Irie (JPN), on 1:54.11 and Tyler Clary (USA), on 1:54.69.

Lochte had already won the 200m freestyle and 200m medley crowns ahead of teammate Michael Phelps, the medley producing a 1:54.00 world record, the first since the ban on non-textile suits last year. Another second to go before he gets to the world mark of former teammate Aaron Peirsol from Rome 2009.

Lochte was shadowed by Irie and Tyler from go but the decisive edge was his a few stokes before the surge from start. On 26.66 at the first turn, the Olympic champion had a .2sec lead on Irie, with Clary 0.14sec away. Lochte doubled his lead over Irie to 0.4sec at midway, his 55.50 now 0.35sec ahead of Tyler in second by a toenail.

On the third 50m, the American leader piled on the pressure in traditional style, his 28.53 split comparing with 29.02 for Clary and 29.03 for Irie. Lochte's split of 1:24.03 left him 0.73sec shy of the world record pace set by former teammate and Olympic champion Aaron Peirsol at Rome 2009.

On the way home, Lochte was the only man to crack 29sec, a 28.93 finish for a 1:52.96 victory - the time the swiftest ever by a man in a textile suit - that returned the crown to the Florida Gator trained by Gregg Troy four years after he beat Peirsol at Melbourne 2007. The best in textile had stood to Irie at 1:54.08 since April this year.

The Japanese challenger was closest to Lochte on the clock, a 29.19 too hot for Clary, the rivals split 1:54.11 to 1:54.69 at the close, the rest of the distant field led by China's Zhang Fenglin on 1:56.39.

Asked about his performance, Lochte said: "It hurt. Its probably one of the hardest of events for me. That was definitely my best time but I know I can go faster. There are a lot of things I can work on." 

Had he been aware that he takes precisely 11 underwater dolphin kicks out of each turn and was that planned, Lochte was asked. "I have no idea how many kicks I take off the wall. I just go with the feel off the wall. The more I think the worse its going to be. I don't think!"  

The result:

  • 1. Ryan Lochte (USA) 1min 52.96sec
  • 2. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 1:54.11
  • 3. Tyler Clary (USA) 1:54.69
  • 4. Zhang Fenglin (CHN) 1:56.39
  • 5. Radoslaw Kawecki (POL) 1:57.33
  • 6. Stanislav Donets (RUS) 1:57.36
  • 7. Sebastiano Ranfagni (ITA) 1:57.49
  • 8. Kazuki Watanabe (JPN) 1:57.82

Splits compared:

  • 2007: 26.85; 55.67; 1:25.05; 1:54.32 Ryan Lochte (USA) Melbourne gold
  • 2009: 26.52; 54.90; 1:23.30; 1:51.92 Aaron Peirsol (USA) Rome gold
  • 2010: 27.26; 55.76; 1:24.69; 1:54.12 Ryan Lochte (USA) Pan Pacs gold
  • 2011: 26.80; 55.62; 1:25.29; 1:54.08 Ryosuke Irie, Tokyo April 10, 2011
  • 2011: 26.66; 55.50; 1:24.03; 1:52.96 Ryan Lochte (USA) July 29, 2011 Shanghai gold 

History in the making:


  • WR (all suits): 1:51.92 Aaron Peirsol (USA) Rome July 31, 2009
  • WR (textile):   1:52.96 Ryan Lochte, Shanghai July 29, 2011
  • First man inside 2:00: John Naber (USA) 1:59.19 Montreal July 24, 1976 Olympic gold
  • First man inside 1:57: Martin Lopez Zubero (ESP) 1:56.57 Tuscaloosa November 23, 1991
  • First man inside 1:56: Lenny Krayzelburg (USA) 1:55.87 Sydney August 27, 1999 Pan Pacs gold
  • First man inside 1:55: Aaron Peirsol (USA) 1:54.74 Long Beach July 12, 2004

World-class stats:

  • World Record wins: Roland Matthes (GDR) 1973; Aaron Peirsol (USA) 2005; Ryan Lochte (USA) 2007; Peirsol 2009
  • Title retained: Peirsol, twice
  • Biggest margin: Matthes beat Zoltan Verraszto (HUN) by 4.02sec when breaking the world record in 1973
  • Closest shave: Martin Lopez-Zubero (ESP) beat Stefano Battistelli (ITA) by 0.46sec in 1991

From the archive:

1991 world 200m backstroke champion, Martín López-Zubero, US-born and Spanish in the race pool, was inspired by his older brother David, who raced at the 1976, 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games, winning bronze in the 100m butterfly in Moscow. Martin’s 1991 world record of 1:56.57 stood until 1999. His finest hour unfolded “at home” in Barcelona, 1992, when he won the Olympic 200m title. He also won the 1994 world 100m title. David and Martin remain close: Martin is a coach and David a science teacher at the Bolles School, Florida.

It took 1:59.52 to make the 200m back final at Melbourne 2007. In 2008, 51 men got past that time as the short-lived era of non-textile suits dawned. At the Rome world titles in 2009, the crown was lifted for a fourth time by Aaron Peirsol (USA) in an otherworldly 1:51.92, while it took 1:55.78 just to make the final, faster that the 2007 bronze medal was won in. In 2010, Olympic champion Ryan Lochte (USA), the only man to beat Peirsol in a big final in the past decade, led the world in 1:54.12, with teammate Tyler Clary the only other sub-1:55sec swimmer, on 1:54.90.