x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Michael Phelps finally hits gold rush in Shanghai

Phelps holds of Yu Peng to take gold in the 200m butterfly, while the Italian Federica Pellegrini becomes the first woman to sweep the 200 and 400m freestyle at consecutive championships.

Michael Phelps, right, holds of the challenge from China's Wu Peng to take 200m butterfly gold at the world championships in Shanghai.
Michael Phelps, right, holds of the challenge from China's Wu Peng to take 200m butterfly gold at the world championships in Shanghai.

SHANGHAI // There was no stopping Michael Phelps this time - and Federica Pellegrini still cannot be stopped.

After failing to win his opening two events at the world championships, Phelps finally got gold in the 200-metre butterfly yesterday.

In the next event, Italy's Pellegrini won the 200m freestyle to become the first woman to sweep the 200 and 400m at consecutive worlds.

Ian Thorpe, the Australian great who recorded the 200-400 double in 2001 and 2003, is the only other swimmer to achieve the feat.

"You've just got to always believe in yourself. It's great to be a part of history," said Pellegrini, who is also the Olympic champion in the 200. "This was my race, and nobody was going to enter my house."

China's Sun Yang thrilled the local crowd at the Oriental Sports Center by winning the gruelling 800m - a non-Olympic event.

Ryan Cochrane of Canada took silver and Gergo Kis of Hungary got bronze.

Phelps let his lead slip on the final turn but then overtook Japan's Takeshi Matsuda early in the last lap to clock 1min 53.34secs.

Matsuda took the silver in 1:54.01 and Wu Peng of China got the bronze in 1:54.67.

Phelps led off the 4x100 relay when the United States took bronze on the opening night of the competition on Sunday, then settled for silver behind his teammate Ryan Lochte in the 200 freestyle yesterday.

A 14-time Olympic champion, Phelps now has a record 23 golds at the world championships.

"I wanted to do what I usually do when I'm in better shape," Phelps said. "I wanted to step on it from the get-go. I saw the other swimmers at the 150 and I put my hips into it. I know there's a lot more I can do in that race."

Phelps had a streak of 60 consecutive wins in this event covering nearly nine years until he lost consecutive races to China's Wu Peng at two minor meets in the United States earlier this year.

Pellegrini has also had a trying two years, following the death of her coach, Alberto Castagnetti, after the 2009 worlds in Rome.

Still, she dominated the 400 on Sunday with a second-half burst of speed.

Pellegrini methodically reeled in her rivals, moving steadily up from seventh after 50m to fifth at the halfway mark and third heading into the final lap to touch in 1:55.58.

Kylie Palmer of Australia won the silver in 1:56.04 and Camille Muffat of France took the bronze in 1:56.10.

Pellegrini celebrated by propping herself up on a lane rope, then raised her arms and stuck her tongue out before revealing a wide smile.

Midway through the eight-day meet, no world records have been set — a sharp contrast from the 43 marks that fell at the last worlds in Rome two years ago, before high-tech bodysuits were banned.

James Magnussen, who led off Australia's victorious 400 free relay, led the 100 free semi-finals in 47.90. Nathan Adrian, the American sprinter, qualified second and William Meynard of France was third.

Cesar Cielo, the defending champion from Brazil, freshly cleared of doping by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, qualified fifth in 48.34.

Competing in his first world meeting, the 20-year-old Magnussen created a buzz with his sizzling opening split of 47.49 against Phelps in the relay.

"I haven't gotten a lot of sleep over the last two days - my mind's just been ticking over - so to get that one out of the way and get another sub-48 is a big confidence booster," Magnussen said.