Michael Phelps was out for revenge against Paul Biedermann. This time, though, it was American teammate Ryan Lochte who beat the 14-time Olympic champion to win the 200m freestyle gold.
Lochte overtook Phelps on the final turn of the 200-meter freestyle on Tuesday to win one of the most highly awaited races of the world championships and remind everyone that he’s a threat to replace Phelps as the world’s top swimmer.
Lochte touched in 1 minute, 44.44 seconds, with Phelps taking the silver in a time of 1-44.79 while Biedermann of Germany settled for bronze in 1-44.88.
Park Tae-hwan of South Korea, who won the 400 free on the opening night of the eight-day meet on Sunday, was fourth.
Already energized by Lochte’s win, the near capacity crowd at the Oriental Sports Centre upped the noise by a few decibels when local favorite Zhao Jing of China won the next race, the women’s 100 backstroke.
Lochte also beat Phelps in the 200 individual medley and 200 backstroke at last year’s U.S. championships, then won six golds to Phelps’ five at the Pan Pacific Championships in 2010 — prompting Phelps’s coach Bob Bowman to acknowledge that Lochte was the best swimmer last year.
However, at the last worlds in Rome two years ago, it was Biedermann who handed Phelps a stinging defeat in this event, beating the American by more than a second and taking down Phelps’s world record in the process.
Biedermann himself acknowledged after that race that his high-tech bodysuit was partly responsible for his win and Phelps’s coach Bob Bowman threatened to keep his star swimmer out of the water until the polyurethane suits were banned.
This is the first major international meet since the return to textile suits in January, 2010, and Lochte’s winning time was far off Biedermann’s world record of 1-42.00.
Zhao won her race in 59.05 to the tune of banging drums from the red-clad Chinese team sitting in the stands.
Anastasia Zueva of Russia took the silver in 59.06 and Natalie Coughlin of the United States, who led after 50 meters, earned the bronze in 59.05 to raise her record total to 18 medals over five worlds.
Gemma Spofforth of Britain, the defending champion and world record holder from Britain, did not make the final after suffering a bout of food poisoning.
Another big race was scheduled for later, with American standout Rebecca Soni being tapped for a world record in the 100 breaststroke. Also, Japanese specialist Ryosuke Irie was favoured in the men’s 100 back and Lotte Friis of Denmark faced American world record holder Kate Ziegler in the 1,500 freestyle.