SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s Sun Yang provided a record-breaking finale to the world swimming championships on Sunday, while Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps set up the potential of a mouth-watering showdown at next year’s London Olympics.
The long-stroking Sun, roared on by his home crowd, produced a storming final 100 metres to break Grant Hackett’s long-standing 1500 metres freestyle world record by clocking 14 minutes 34.14 seconds -- just the second mark to be bettered in Shanghai.
”All the pain that I endured during my training in the past had paid off,“ Sun told reporters. ”I didn’t think too much about it (the record) before the race.
“I just wanted to swim with my own rhythm and in a 1500 metre race, you need to feel good about the swim. I think this has to do with all the hard work that I put in.”
Lochte picked up his fifth gold of the championships when he won the men’s 400 metres individual medley, to add to the 200 IM, 200 freestyle, 200 backstroke and the 4x200 freestyle relay titles.
The 26-year-old American was named the male swimmer of the meeting for his performances, which included the only other world record in the 200 IM.
Compatriot Michael Phelps, however, had an understated championships yet still won four gold medals.
The most successful Olympian of all time won both the 100 and 200 butterfly titles as well as gold medals in the 4x200 freestyle relay and the 4x100 medley relay.
He also took two silvers, behind Lochte in the 200 freestyle and 200 IM, and a bronze in the 4x100 freestyle relay.
The 26-year-old Phelps had admitted to not really committing fully to his training regime after the highs of Beijing, when he won an unprecedented eight gold medals, and was using Shanghai as a test for where he stood 12 months out from his final Olympics in London.
The fact he was able to push Lochte so close in a number of events and produce highly credible times suggested he and coach Bob Bowman had a more than adequate base to build from and the London program looks even more enticing with the true emergence of Lochte as a mature and intelligent opponent.
“The biggest thing (at this meet) was really trying to swim faster than I did last year,” Phelps said.
”With the preparations that I had, I am fairly satisfied.
“Everything that went on here is going to be motivation for next year. We have 12 months to prepare for London and that’s what I will find myself doing.”
American Rebecca Soni was named the female swimmer of the meeting after she added the 50 metres breaststroke bronze to her three gold medals in the 100-200 breaststroke and the 4x100 medley relay.
“I‘m very happy with the race, and excited for the result,” Soni said. “I had a lot of fun. It is great fun for me this week.”
Soni’s compatriot Jessica Hardy won the 50 breaststroke and coupled with Elizabeth Beisel’s and Lochte’s win in the 400 metres individual medley races and the men’s 4x100 medley relay team winning gold, the U.S. were able to sneak past the host nation to head the medal table.
The U.S. won 16 gold medals in the pool, and 17 overall, just nudging past China, who ended with 15 golds after they swept all 10 titles in the diving.
Therese Alshammar of Sweden won the women‘s’ 50 freestyle and set down a marker for London, though the powerful Dutch team again proved their sprint freestyle credentials when Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Marleen Veldhuis took silver and bronze respectively.
Britain’s Liam Tancock retained his men’s 50 metres backstroke title though the event is not on the London program.
(additional reporting by Soo Ai Peng)
Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Pritha Sarkar