There was no stopping Michael Phelps this time — and Federica Pellegrini still can’t be stopped.
Having failed to win his opening two events at the world championships, Phelps finally got gold in the 200-meter butterfly on Wednesday, and Pellegrini won the 200 freestyle to become the first woman to sweep the 200 and 400 at consecutive worlds.
China’s Sun Yang thrilled the local crowd at the Oriental Sports Center by winning the gruelling 800 meters — a non-Olympic event. Ryan Cochrane of Canada took silver and Gergo Kis of Hungary got bronze.
Phelps let his lead slip on the final turn but then overtook Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda early in the last lap to clock 1 minute, 53.34 seconds, hardly celebrating. Matsuda took the silver in 1-54.01 and Wu Peng of China got the bronze in 1-54.67.
“I wanted to do what I usually do when I’m in better shape,” Phelps said. “I wanted to step on it from the get-go. I saw the other swimmers at the 150 and I put my hips into it. I know there’s a lot more I can do in that race.”
Phelps had a streak of 60 consecutive wins in this event covering nearly nine years until he lost consecutive races to Wu at two minor meets in the United States earlier this year.
Pellegrini has also had a trying two years, following the death of her coach Alberto Castagnetti after the 2009 worlds in Rome.
Still, she dominated the 400 on Sunday with a second-half burst of speed. This time, the Italian methodically reeled in her rivals, moving steadily up from seventh after 50 meters to fifth at the halfway mark and third heading into the final lap to touch in 1-55.58.
Kylie Palmer of Australia won the silver in 1-56.04 and Camille Muffat of France took the bronze in 1-56.10.
Australian great Ian Thorpe, who recorded the 200-400 double in 2001 and 2003, is the only other swimmer to achieve the feat.
Also the Olympic champion in this event, Pellegrini celebrated by propping herself up on a lane rope, then raised her arms and stuck her tongue out before revealing a wide smile.
One more final was scheduled for later, with Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa attempting to defend his title in the men’s 50 breaststroke. Also, Phelps was due back in the water for the 200 individual medley semifinals.