SHANGHAI // Ryan Lochte has not only beaten Michael Phelps in consecutive races - he has taken swimming to a new level.
The laid-back American edged Phelps for gold in the 200-metre individual medley at the world championships yesterday, setting the first world record since hi-tech bodysuits were banned at the start of last year.
With Phelps putting pressure on in the final freestyle lap, Lochte sprinted to the wall and touched in 1min 54.00secs - improving on his old mark of 1:54.10 set at the last worlds in Rome two years ago, when polyurethane suits were still in use.
"I wanted to do something that everyone thought was impossible," Lochte said. "Since they banned those suits, everyone thought a world record would never get touched again. I just wanted to show everyone that [it] can happen. That's why we have records - they're meant to get broken.
"Hopefully, everyone now can start realising that, 'Hey, it's possible', so hopefully a lot more records will fall."
Phelps settled for silver in 1:54.16 and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary took bronze in 1:57.69.
In swimming's signature event, the 100m freestyle, budding Australian standout James Magnussen continued his ascent to the sport's upper echelons with another gold. The 20 year old took the lead from Cesar Cielo, the defending champion, after 50 metres and touched in 47.63secs.
Phelps won the 200m IM at the last two Olympic Games and at three consecutive worlds between 2003 and 2007. He did not enter the medleys in Rome, when Lochte won.
While sportsmanlike - he shook hands with Lochte immediately after the race, Phelps was not happy.
"That one frustrated me more than anything," the 14-time Olympic champion said. "I thought I was going to get that one."
Cseh took silver between Phelps and Lochte in both the 200m and 400m IMs at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, giving him a close perspective on how Lochte has gained the upper hand.
"I think without Michael he can't beat the world record," Cseh said. "He needs Michael to swim together and race against each other, and I think this is a good thing."
Lochte also beat Phelps in the 200m freestyle in both Americans' opening individual event on Tuesday. Lochte has two more events and Phelps one, although they will not go head-to-head again.
Phelps came into this meeting with just six months of training, while Lochte has not stopped since Beijing.
"He's really done all the little small things right," Phelps said. "He has more comfortable speed now than he had before. He's super focused. He's just more prepared. Things are always won by people who are most prepared ... To go faster than he did in 2009 is incredible."
Lochte also set two world records at the short-course worlds in Dubai in December, the only other individual marks set over the last 19 months.
A record 43 marks fell at the 2009 worlds, and with only three more days remaining, it was starting look like this meeting might end without a single record.
Lochte changed all that, and even produced an uncharacteristic celebration, pumping his fist and waving to the crowd when he emerged from the pool inside the Oriental Sports Centre.
"Anytime you break a world record, you've got to be excited," Lochte said. "I trained hard and it paid off."
In the 100m free, Brent Hayden of Canada took silver in 47.95 and William Meynard of France grabbed the bronze in 48.00 as Cielo, the Brazilian who was cleared of doping last week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, finished fourth.
Competing in his first worlds, Magnussen created a buzz with his opening split of 47.49 against Phelps in the 4x100m relay on the meeting's opening night on Sunday, setting up Australia for gold.
"It means the world and I know it means a lot to Australian swimming as well," Magnussen said.
"First person to win that event at a world championships from Australia, which is a pretty big deal. I think it puts men's sprinting in Australia back in the spotlight."
The women's 200m fly was won by Jiao Liuyang of China in 2:05.55, with Ellen Gandy of Britain second and Liu Zige of China, the defending champion and world record holder, third. Jiao took silver behind Liu at the Beijing Olympics.
In a non-Olympic event, Anastasia Zueva of Russia won the women's 50m backstroke in 27.79, with Aya Terakawa of Japan second and 16-year-old Missy Franklin of the United States third.
Franklin later swam a strong lead leg when the Americans claimed gold in the 4x200m relay, clocking 7:46.14.
Britain's Francesca Halsall led the women's 100m free semi-finals in 53.48 and 50 minutes after his record swim, Lochte was back in the water for the 200m back semi-finals, which he led in 1:55.65