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World records in Shanghai bring focus back to performance

08-01-2011 14:14 BJT

SHANGHAI - The world swimming championships ended on Sunday and after almost 350 races and 40 gold medals, there were just two world records, a far cry from the 43 that were broken in Rome two years ago.

China's Sun Yang is seen underwater as he competes in the men's 1500m freestyle heats at
the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai, July 30, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

China's Sun Yang and American Ryan Lochte were the only swimmers to break a world record at the Oriental Sports Centre.

Ryan Lochte of the US competes in the men's 400m individual medley final at the 14th FINA
World Championships in Shanghai, July 31, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

Lochte edged out Michael Phelps in the men's 200 metres individual medley to clock one minute, 54.00 seconds, improving his own mark by 0.10 seconds.

Sun produced a stunning finish to break Grant Hackett's 10-year-old men's 1500 metres freestyle record when he clocked 14 minutes 34.14 seconds, just ahead of the 14:34.56 Hackett set in Fukuoka in 2001.

The previous world championships in Rome in 2009 had witnessed the fall of 43 world records as swimmers capitalised on polyurethane suits that assisted buoyancy and improved speed.

Such was the regularity of the record breaking, critics labelled the Rome meeting the "plastic championships" and world governing body FINA banned the use of the suits from Jan. 1, 2010.

Few swimmers had even come close to the marks since the ban, with even the world record holders struggling to get close - Germany's Paul Biedermann, who swum 1:42.00 to win the 200 freestyle in Rome was almost three seconds slower in the final in Shanghai taking bronze in 1:44.88.

Lochte became the first person to break a long course record since the controversial suits were banned and the American hoped his performance proved it could be done.

"Everyone thought that it wasn't going to happen, (that) no world record was going to be broken after the suit," Lochte said. "I kind of just wanted to prove everyone wrong.

"That it can happen, all the hard work I put in this year and last year had paid off, hopefully a lot more people now might think that it's possible."

Australia's Stephanie Rice, who is coming back from a shoulder surgery in 2010 and looking to rediscover the form that propelled her to three gold medals in Beijing, said she felt Lochte's performance would inspire swimmers to push on ahead of next year's London Games.

"It has been exciting, you know the first world record that has really being broken since the suit ban," she said. "I was watching his (Locket's) swim, it's definitely motivating, great to see him doing so well, sort of give the outlook that it's not unrealistic to post those record times (and that) people are improving."

Australia head coach Leigh Nugent, a vocal critic of the swimsuits before they were banned, also felt vindicated as the suits had taken away from the swimmer's performances.

"I think the racing here has been fantastic and that is what it's about," Nugent said. "I'm sure (for) the spectators, the world record obsession was somewhat unhealthy, they enjoy the racing now, not the result.


Editor:Yang Jie |Source: China Daily

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