Phelps put to shade by Biedermann in 200m freestyle

ROME: Michael Phelps post-Olympic path took another twist on Tuesday as the Beijing Games superstar suffered his first global defeat in four years at the swimming World Championships.

Germany's Paul Biedermann continued his stunning championships form, seizing Phelps's 200m freestyle crown and world record, pulling away from Phelps for a victory that would have been unthinkable less than a year ago.

Indeed Biedermann was fifth in a Beijing final in which Phelps posted a dominant victory.

Phelps, however, insisted that his first defeat in world or Olympic individual competition since 2005 was not as disturbing as it looked.

"Not bad, if you really look at it," he said of his race. "To be honest it's my second fastest 200m free ever.

"The only time I was faster was in the final of the Olympics," added Phelps, who was .26sec outside the record he set then. "I've been back in the water six months, in all it's a decent swim.

"I can't be disappointed with that."

But the fiercely competitive Phelps was in unfamiliar territory as he watched Biedermann pumping his fist in delight in the lane next to him, slipping out of his lane to climb out of the pool.

As Biedermann celebrated on the medallists' march around the pool, Phelps walked sedately around, seeming glad to have it over with as he climbed to a rail along the stands to get a hug from his mother and his sister.

Phelps and coach Bob Bowman had already pegged 2009 as a transitional year for Phelps, who won't try to emulate his eight-gold feat at the 2012 Games.

After his six-month post-Olympic break Phelps returned to training with an eye toward becoming a force in the 100m freestyle by 2012, working on a new freestyle stroke for use in the sprint that he has now abandoned.

His training was disrupted, however, when he became tabloid fodder, a British newspaper publishing a picture of him holding a marijuana pipe at a party.

The ensuing furore saw him handed a three-month ban by USA Swimming, and even had him questioning whether he would continue swimming through the London Games.

Phelps seemed on track at the US trials earlier this month, winning all three of his individual events and capturing the 100m butterfly world record he had long craved.

He was a winner first out in the 4x100m free relay here, and he'll be on the hunt for gold once again on Wednesday in the 200m butterfly with the 100m fly, and the two remaining relays to follow.