July 31, 2011
WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
Ryan Lochte won his fifth world title on the final night of the eight-day swimming competition at the XIV FINA World Aquatic Championships in Shanghai, China.
On Sunday, U.S. swimmers won four gold medals, one silver and one bronze in the last major international competition before the 2012 London Olympics.
Looking ahead to London, the U.S. team’s performance was “unbelievably encouraging” according to U.S. women’s coach Jack Bauerle. “It was great by Saturday night and just got greater tonight.”
Lochte’s final gold was in the 400-meter individual medley in 4 minutes, 7.13 seconds, 3.29 seconds slower than Michael Phelps’ world record and off Lochte’s personal best of 4:06.08.
“I’m kind of upset just because I wanted to go faster,” Locte said.
U.S. teammate Tyler Clary took silver in 4:11.17. Japan’s Yuya Horihata won the bronze in 4:11.98.
“Getting five gold medals is definitely great,” said Lochte, named Male Swimmer of the Meet. “But the times I’ve gone, I know I can go a lot faster. Worlds was a roller coaster. A lot of places in my races I messed up on. I have a full year to make sure I have those perfect swims.”
Despite Lochte’s success and his dominance over Phelps, he refuses to take over the top spot in men’s swimming. Lochte is only the fourth man to win at least five gold medals in a single world championship.
“I don’t think I’m the top dog,” Lochte said. “As far as I’m concerned right now, I’m at the bottom of swimming.”
Phelps finished with four golds, two silvers and one bronze and echoed Lochte’s sentiments.
“I have a lot of things rolling around in my head and you can take that any way you want to,” Phelps said. “I’m fairly satisfied. This is 2011, not 2012. And it’s not the Olympic Games. We have 12 months to prepare.
“I have been able to gather more motivation here than I already had. I think that’s something that will help me get into better shape for next year. It’s going to be a fun year.”
Phelps got his final gold medal on the 400-meter medley relay with teammates Nick Thoman, Mark Gangloff and Nathan Adrian on anchor leg.
Phelps brought the U.S. from fourth to second on his butterfly leg and Adrian came up with a 47.64 split to take the lead and touch first.
“I think the biggest thing is just being able to finish on a win like that,” Phelps said. “Relays are all about teamwork. To be able to put four guys together to step up and fight, we always find a way to get up and go. It was a great way to end the last event.”
U.S. women Jessica Hardy and Elizabeth Beisel, a sophomore at the University of Florida, came up big to win individual gold medals in the 50-meter breaststroke and 400-meter individual medley.
Rebecca Soni, named Female Swimmer of the Meet, added a bronze in the 50-meter breaststroke in 30.58 to add to her three golds.
World record holder Hardy competed in a tough double, winning the 50-meter breaststroke in 30.19 and then competed in the 50-meter freestyle just fifteen minutes later.
“I was still out of breath when I dove in for the 50 free but it was really fun,” Hardy said. I’m glad I did it, but I am completely dead.”
Beisel won her first world title in 4:31.78, a textile best in the event. She won by more than two seconds ahead of Great Britain’s Hannah Miley in 4:34.22 and Aussie Stephanie Rise in 4:34.23.
“My strategy is really just not to worry too much,” said the 18-year-old Beisel. “It was a very good surprise and I just try to do my best to win medals.”
Teenage phenom Missy Franklin leaves her first worlds with five medals including three golds and two world records. Franklin, who also competes for her high school team, trains in a 25-yard high school pool in suburban Denver.
The U.S. team finished with 16 gold medals (eight men and eight women) and 29 overall. The world championships also returned to normalcy with the textile suits. Two world records were broken in Shanghai as opposed to 43 world records in the shiny high-tech suits at the 2009 Rome World Championships.
While the Americans did dominate final day action, there were other highlights.
China’s Sun Yang, only 19, broke the oldest world record in the 1500-meter freestyle. Sun broke Aussie Grant Hackett’s 10-year-old world record. He finished in 14 minutes, 34.14 seconds to better the 14:34.56 record. He was two seconds off world record pace with four laps to go but turned it on in the final two laps.
Sun has been training in Australia with Hackett’s coach, Denis Cotterell.
Canadian Ryan Cochrane took the silver in 14:44.46 and Hungary’s Gergo Kis won bronze in 14:45.66.
“I was not obsessed with the world record before the final because I wanted to focus on my plan, my aim was to keep the good energy and stable mindset to the end,” said Sun, who also won the 800 freestyle earlier in the meet. “My goal was to win gold.”
Sweden’s Therese Alshammar, who turns 34 this month, won the 50-meter freestyle in 24.14. Dutch swimmers Ranomi Kromowidjojo took silver in 24.27 and Marleen Veldhuis took the bronze in 24.49.
SOFLO sprinter Dara Torres did not compete because she was rehabbing her knee. She is expected to be a factor at the U.S. Olympic trials against swimmers young enough to be her daughter.
Most of the U.S. world swimmers hopped a plane for California where they will compete in ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships that begin on Tuesday at Stanford’s Avery Aquatic Center.
South Florida Aquatic Club has ten swimmers, all women, competing. Several members arrived on Saturday and worked out on Sunday in the meet pool. Others departed on Sunday.
China, one of the favorites to dominate the 2012 Olympics, finished with the most medals with 36 total, 15 goal, 13 silver and 8 bronze. The U.S. had 32 total medals, 17 gold, 6 silver and 9 bronze. Russia was third with 18 including 8 gold medals.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com