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Phelps reasserts his authority

Zhang Lin delights as all finals produce world marks

— Photo: AFP

SENSATIONAL: Zhang Lin, who smashed the world record in the 800m freestyle, became China’s first male world champion in long-course swimming on Wednesday.

ROME: Michael Phelps retained his 200 metres butterfly world title and smashed his own world record on Wednesday to reassert his authority after a tough 24 hours.

The American, who lost his world record in the 200m freestyle on Tuesday, burst back to form with an awesome display of power.

“I guess you’d call it my bread and butter event,” Phelps told reporters after swimming one minute 51.51, bettering the world record he has held since 2001 for the eighth time.

China’s Zhang Lin prompted utter astonishment when he knocked more than six seconds off the previous world record to win the men’s 800 freestyle final. Zhang, China’s first male world champion in long-course swimming, beamed: “I felt a lot of pressure, I didn’t know how to swim at this level but my coach told me you just have to do your best.

“I didn’t have any strategy. I just tried to swim as fast as I could. I didn’t think I’d swim 16 seconds faster (than in qualifying).”

Pellegrini excels

The fans at the Foro Italico were less surprised when home favourite Federica Pellegrini stormed to victory in the 200 freestyle final, shattering the world record she had already broken in Tuesday’s semifinals.

She clocked 1:52:98 to chalk up a freestyle double having triumphed in the 400 on Sunday.

Mesmerising action

Despite 15 world records falling in the first three days of competition, Wednesday’s action in the open-air pool was even more mesmerising.

American Mary Descenza was stunned to break the world record in the women’s 200 butterfly heats.

German Daniela Samulski then set a world best time in the 50 backstroke semifinals only for Russia’s Anastasia Zueva to better it immediately in the second semifinals.

Records were flying left, right and centre with swimmers who failed to tax the timekeepers beginning to look ordinary.

South African Cameron van der Burgh made sure he did not miss out on the party by battering his own world record to take gold in the men’s 50 breaststroke, having set the previous best mark in Tuesday’s semifinals.

The results: Men: 200m: 1. Michael Phelps (USA) 1:51.51s (WR), 2. Pavel Korzeniowski (Pol) 1:53.23, 3. Takeshi Matsuda (Jpn) 1:53.32.

50m breaststroke: 1. Cameron Van Der Burgh (RSA) 26.67s (WR), 2. Felipe Franca Silva (Bra) 26.76, 3. Mark Gangloff (USA) 26.86.

800m: freestyle: 1. Zhang Lin (Chn) 7:32.12s (WR), 2. Oussama Mellouli (Tun) 7:35.27, 3. Ryan Cochrane (Can) 7:41.92.

Women: 200m freestyle: 1. Federica Pellegrini (Ita) 1:52.98s (WR), 2. Allison Schmitt (USA) 1:54.96, 3. Dana Vollmer (USA) 1:55.64. — Agencies

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