SHANGHAI // Michael Phelps kept telling everyone he was not in shape at the world championships. Winning seven medals, including four golds, did not change his mind.
What Phelps did not do — and Ryan Lochte did — was most telling.
Lochte beat Phelps in both of their match-ups and he set the first world record since high-tech bodysuits were banned 19 months ago while winning five golds and a bronze over eight days at the Oriental Sports Center.
Their ongoing rivalry promises to make things interesting on the road to next year's London Olympics.
"I don't really think I'm the top dog," Lochte said.
"No matter what the outcome of the end of the year championship meet, right afterwards I knock myself down to the bottom of the totem pole. I have a whole year to work hard, train hard to get back up there to the top."
No doubt Phelps will be there waiting for him.
"This is 2011, it's not 2012 and it's not the Olympic Games," Phelps said. "I've been able to gather more motivation here than I already had."
The American team claimed 29 swimming medals — 16 gold, five silver and eight bronze — to greatly improve upon its performance from two years ago in Rome.
There, the United States won 22 medals — 10 gold, six silver and six bronze — at the fastest meet in history, with 43 world records set during the peak of the suit frenzy.
"2012 is something they can't wait to get to," US national team director Frank Busch said.