Day 5 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai
Men's 200m medley
If anyone was going to confine shiny suits to the rubbish bin it had to be the two towering swimmers of the age, with Ryan Lochte taking first bite at the world record books in 1:54.00, 0.1sec inside his best in a non-textile suit. US teammate Michael Phelps was just 0.16sec away for silver, with Laszlo Cseh taking the battle for bronze in 1:57.69, 0.1sec ahead of Britain's James Goddard.
The battle up front was spectacular, Lochte requiring a world record if he was to keep at bay the Olympic champion whose world mark he took while Phelps was otherwise entertained. The splits confirm the closeness of the bout and where Lochte drew blood and put a smile on the face of a sport still coming to terms with the shredding of its history in 2008-09:
There were no world records for the first time in swimming history in a calendar year in 2010, on premier record count (l/c) after 255 world marks fell to swimmers wearing non-textile booster bodysuits in 2008 and 2009.
Lochte had long maintained that he could get there regardless of what he was wearing. Same for Phelps. The boiling battle that swept them past and to the door of the target, Phelps clocking the fastest time of his career in the short medley, was a stroke-for-stroke eye-to-eye rattler of an affair, Phelps first to the turn on butterfly but on just, by 0.06sec. Lochte blasted off the wall and had the lead within three strokes on backstroke, Phelps getting back on terms only in the closing 5m of the length, Lochte now ahead by 0.19sec. On breaststroke, that edge was extended to 0.29sec as both men dug deep in their efforts to outdo one another. The hunt for home on freestyle was desperate, though neither men faltered technically until the final 10 or so critical strokes when Lochte looked like he might crack if the wall had been half an arm further away. It was not - and time ran out for Phelps, the gold count two to Lochte, the silver count two to Phelps.
Lochte, who joins Phelps in the club of those who have set world records for two title-winning efforts over 200m medley, will head into Olympic year as just as big a favourite as Phelps in at least two races, something that the winner of 14 Olympic gold medals will doubtless feed on for his future, his legacy and the Olympic swansong in the mix. Meantime, Lochte raced off to race again, in the 200m backstroke semis an Olympic champion in pursuit of a third and fourth crown (4x200m freestyle) on the sixth day of the eight-day championships.
History in the making:
From the archive
Between 1982 and 1993, spanning the entire international career, Tamas Darnyi (HUN) never lost a medley race: he won four Olympic, four world, eight European and three European junior crowns. His father, a steel-factory worker, spotted an advertisement in a local newspaper: swim lessons, a good place for an active six-year-old. It led him to coach Tamas Szechy and into a lane next to Andras Hargitay, winner of three of the first four world medley crowns. In 1986, Darnyi won both events and in Perth, 1991, went one better than Hargitay to become the first to retain the 200m title and first to retain both medley crowns. Darnyi runs a swim school in Budapest, is married and has two daughters.