Phelps regains golden touch

ROME: Michael Phelps regained his golden touch with a record-setting triumph in the 200m butterfly at the World Swimming Championships on Wednesday .

The 14-time Olympic gold medallist was stunned in the 200m freestyle on Tuesday, when Germany’s Paul Biedermann took both his world title and world record. But Phelps responded convincingly in the butterfly, leading from start to finish and winning in 1min 51.51sec. That improved on the world record of 1:52.03 that he set in winning Olympic gold in Beijing, part of his record eight-gold Olympic haul.

Italy’s Federica Pellegrini, South African Cameron Van Der Burgh and China’s Zhang Lin also claimed world titles in world record times. The women’s 50m backstroke semi-finals saw the world record fall twice in the blink of an eye, Daniela Samulski lowering her own world record with a time of 27.39 in the first semi-final only to be pipped by Anastasia Zueva’s 27.38 in the second semis.

Pellegrini triumphed in the 200m freestyle in a time of 1:52.98, lowering the world record for the second time in two days. She had set the standard of 1:53.67 in the semi-finals on Tuesday. Van Der Burgh also notched his second world record in as many days with his win in the 50m breaststroke in 26.67. He had set the previous record of 26.74 in the semi-finals.

Zhang shattered the world record in winning the men’s 800m freestyle in 7:32.12 — slicing 6.53sec off the previous world record of 7:38.65 set by Australian Grant Hackett in Montreal on July 27 — the first time the race was swum at the World Championships.

Wednesday’s seven world records — including Mary Descenza’s in the women’s 200m butterfly heats — took the total to 22 at the halfway stage of the eight-day competition. That’s well past the 15 set at the 2007 World Championships and closing in on the 25 set at the Beijing Olympics.

Phelps was never threatened as Poland’s Pawel Korzeniowski and Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda dueled for silver behind him. Matsuda was lying second to Phelps until the final lap, when he was overtaken by Korzeniowski.