Ryan Lochte produced a perfect race strategy as he beat the fast-finishing Michael Phelps to head an American one-two in the 200-metres freestyle at the World Championships in Shanghai yesterday.
Lochte, 26, eclipsed his friend and rival last year at the Pan-Pacific Games, winning six titles to follow up the success of the previous year's World Championships in Rome, where he claimed four gold medals and one bronze.
Phelps went out aggressively at the Oriental Sports Centre and was first at the halfway mark, ahead of the French teenager Yannick Agnel and Lochte.
Lochte, though, is renowned for the distance he covers underwater after pushing off from the wall, something he demonstrated on his second turn which helped propel him to first place after a third length that he covered almost a second faster than Phelps, who dropped to third.
The 14-time Olympic champion came back on the final length, but Lochte had too much of a lead and won in 1 minute, 44.44 secs, the fifth-fastest time in history and 0.35secs ahead of Phelps, with the defending champion Paul Biedermann in third.
Lochte said: "I knew Michael wanted to go out just to get clean water, so I knew I had to be in striking distance and just work what I'm good at, those under-waters on each turn.
"That's what I did, and it paid off.
"It's a big confidence boost. Hopefully, this win will help me carry on to my other races this week. I've still got a big heavy load ahead."
Lochte, disappointed not to secure a spot in the 4x100m freestyle final after swimming in the heats, also believes his healthier approach to nutrition has been a factor in his growing success over recent years.
Phelps hates losing but he was always going to face a challenge given it is only in the last eight months that he has again fully committed to training.
"I think that is something that is going to help me a lot in the next year," he said.
"I let Ryan go away in the third 50, something I shouldn't have done.
"I knew whoever was going to flip at 150 first was going to win the race.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again, the reason I haven't been able to swim as fast as I've wanted to do the last couple of years is all my fault. I know that."
Phelps's coach, Bob Bowman, said: "I am happy about everything. He showed a real improvement on everything he has done in the last couple of years."
The day got off to an inauspicious start for Phelps when he apparently forgot to take his training trunks to the pool and had to ask the Australian Eamon Sullivan if he could borrow his.
Sullivan said on Twitter: "Had to loan forgetful @MichaelPhelps my training togs for his warm up tonight.
"Hope they bring good luck buddy … PS - you can keep them!"
Later, Sullivan tweeted a link to a photograph picturing Phelps in the trunks with "Australia" emblazoned on the back.
"About as close as you will ever see @MichaelPhelps swimming for Australia!" he wrote.
The Phelps-Lochte showdown was not the only top race last night.
Rebecca Soni won the 100m breaststroke in 1:05.05, ahead of Liesel Jones; Lotte Friis was dominant in the 1,500m freestyle (15:49.59) with world-record holder Kate Ziegler second; and Zhao Jing won the 100m backstroke, edging Anastasia Zueva by a hundredth of a second in 59.05.
Camille Lacourt and Jeremy Stravius shared the men's 100m backstroke title with a 52.76 dead heat.
Phelps returned to finish third fastest into the 200m butterfly final, with Takeshi Matsuda quickest.
The Dutchwoman Femke Heemskerk swam the quickest 200m freestyle in the world this year to reach today's final ahead of the defending champion Federica Pellegrini.