Lochte gets first gold with meet record

DUBAI - The FINA World Swimming Championships got off to a blistering start on Wednesday morning when a long-standing tournament record was broken in the very first event.

By Alex Leach

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Published: Thu 16 Dec 2010, 12:37 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:57 AM

Ryan Lochte opened his bid for eight gold medals at the short-course world championships with a record-setting swim in the 200-metre freestyle.

The American didn’t celebrate after touching in a meet-record 1 minute, 41.08 seconds, nearly a full length ahead of his closest competitor. Danila Izotov of Russia finished second, 0.62 seconds behind, and Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia was third, 0.94 back.

Paul Biedermann, who holds the world record of 1:39.37, was 1.11 behind in fifth place.

Ealier, Lochte, 26, clocked 1:42:38s in the last qualifying heat of the men’s 200m freestyle, thereby shaving almost a second off the previous best (1:43:28s) set by Australian great Ian ‘Thorpedo’ Thorpe in Hong Kong 11 years ago.

It appears Lochte has become accustomed to smooth finishes too, with the New York-born athlete doing a spot of pre-tournament waxing according to his Twitter account, where he wrote: “First day of the meet...Wax on, wax off!! Don’t know what that is gonna (sic) mean for swimming, but will found out soon!”

The apparent lack of body hair, with more streamlined contours in the water, clearly worked wonders and the American later said: “My first race is usually my worst, but I was lucky enough to win this one. It was good, but I’m just going to take each race at a time.”

Another highly-fancied contender, the reigning Olympic 1,500m freestyle champion Oussama Mellouli, of Tunisia, finished only three-hundredths of a second adrift of Lochte with 1:42:41s.

Encouragingly though for organisers and spectators keen to see a scintillating spectacle, the six other qualifiers for the evening’s final also dipped below Thorpe’s effort, which implies fast times are a distinct possibility at the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex.

Lochte’s compatriot Rebecca Soni also made it safely through the early phase, registering 30.11s in the women’s 50m breaststroke to end up behind just Russia’s Yulia Efimova (30.10s) by merely a hundredth of a second.

“The 50m is a funny race,” the 23-year-old admitted. “It’s hard to get going, but my time is pretty good. Short course metres are new to me; I’ve only raced it a couple of times.

“It feels quite exciting and the pool feels fast. It felt great out there and I love the atmosphere.”

One challenger that failed to fire in this initial stage however was Japan’s Ryosuke Irie in the men’s 100m backstroke, with exhaustion seemingly the reason for why he trailed in sixth quickest (51.32s) following his heroic displays in the recent Asian Games.

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