RYAN LOCHTE HAS not only beaten Michael Phelps in consecutive races, he has taken swimming to record-setting levels.
The laid back Floridian edged Phelps for gold in the 200-meter individual medley at the world championships Thursday, setting the first world record since high-tech body suits were banned last year.
With Phelps putting pressure on in the final freestyle lap, Lochte sprinted to the wall and touched in 1 minute, 54.00 seconds to improve on his record mark of 1:54.10 set at the last worlds in Rome two years ago when polyurethane suits were still in use.
“All I can say is summed up in one word — Jeah!” Lochte said, using his signature phrase. “I knew it was going to be a battle between Michael and I. I got the better end this time.”
Phelps settled for silver in 1:54.16, and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary took bronze in 1:57.69.
“I think without Michael he can’t beat the world record,” said Cseh, who finished between Phelps and Lochte in both the 200 and 400 IMs at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “He needs Michael to swim together and race against each other, and I think this is a good thing.”
Lochte also beat Phelps in the 200 freestyle in the opening individual event for both American swimmers on Tuesday. Lochte has two more events, compared to one for Phelps, but they won’t go head-to-head again.
Lochte also set two world records at the short-course worlds in Dubai in December, the only other individual marks set over the last 19 months, although swimming prefers to measure itself in the 50-meter, Olympic-sized pool.
A record 43 marks fell at the 2009 worlds, and with only three days remaining, it looked as though this meet might end without a record set. But Lochte changed that, and even produced an uncharacteristic celebration, pumping his fist and waving to the crowd when he emerged from the pool as colored lights flashed inside the Oriental Sports Center.
“Anytime you break a world record, you got to be excited,” Lochte said. “I trained hard and it paid off.”
– Andrew Dampf, Associated Press