Day 6 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai
Mens 4x200m freestyle
On the way to his second gold of the meet and victory for the US over France and an historic third for China, Michael Phelps led off for the Americans with Yannick Agnel (FRA) and Paul Beidermann (GER) in the hunt with him. The Europeans got the better of the American, Biedermann on 1:45.20, Agnel on 1:45.25 and Phelps on 1:45.53.
Next in, Peter Vanderkaay put some clear blue water between the US and the rest over the first three laps before Gregory Mallet, for France, hit back on the last lap, the clock 3:31.60 in favour of the US, France on 3:32.06, Germany on 3:32.90, courtesy of Tim Wallburger.
Jeremy Stravius, joint 100m backstroke champion, took France into the lead on 5:17.46 to the 5:18.11 at which Ricky Berens had left it, China now ahead of Germany, the crowd at fever pitch.
Ryan Lochte, winner of the 200m free, the 200m medley and earlier in this session the 200m backstroke, collected his fourth gold and delivered crown for the US in 7:02.67, the fastest ever by men in textile suits, of the following splits: Phelps, 1:45.53; Vanderkaay, 1:46.07; Berens, 1:46.51; Lochte, 1:44.56.
France took silver in 7:04.81, China taking bronze, a first relay medal for the host's men in swimming history, their 7:05.67 leaving in their wake Germany, on 7:08.32, followed by Australia, Britain, Japan and Italy.
“It’s always a special feeling when the four of us are able to come together," said Phelps after the US victory. "We’ve had a lot of great history for our relay. Ever since 2004, when we regained this title, this is something that we always want to keep. Having these three guys behind me, this is something I am comfortable and confident with. Having Ryan’s underwaters and his walls were a big key part of that race."
Wang Shun's opening split for China is fascinating. On 1:47.09, he rocketed up to 12th on the 200m solo world rankings for 2011, improved on his previous best time of 1:48.04, from heats, and that after a 1:48.44 at trials in April to qualify. The power of a home crowed knows no bounds. Before all of that, Wang, 17 this year, had never featured on the world rankings. The only other of his age in the top 50 in the world is Funiya Hidaka, of Japan, on 1:48.74.
While Sun and Zhang have trained and do train overseas, Wang and Li are made in China, so far, and have never been seen outside of China in international competition. Wang's time compares to efforts of 1:46.00 for Ian Thorpe and 1:49.53 for Grant Hackett at the same age.
Moving on to Li, 18 this year, he has a best time of 1:47.69 from April trials. Before that, his best was 1:49.50 from last year and before that he had no ranking. Like Wang, Li is the fastest of his age in the world this year. A completely different quartet represented China at the world s/c championships in Dubai last year, Jiang Haiqi, Zhang Zhongchao, Jiang Yuhui and Dai Jun finishing 6th in the 4x200m final.
Those who have been working on quartets from Australia, Italy, Britain, Germany and elsewhere for many years now must surely look at China's massive improvement in the 4x200m relay for men and wonder where they are going wrong.
History in the making:
From the archive:
The USA has six wins to its credit since 1973 and leads the historic medals table but recent success followed a lengthy period in the cold: between 1986 and 2003, it took two silvers and found itself off the podium twice. The most painful moment for the Superpower, however, was back in 1975, when it had four of the fastest 200m men the world had ever seen - Backhaus, Montgomery, Shaw and Furniss. That quartet contained two 200m world champions and a future 200m Olympic champion. None of which counted for much courtesy of a false start that gave West Germany the crown.