Lochte’s golden bid was derailed when the United States relay squad failed to even finish on the podium on the opening night of the short-course world championships in Dubai on Wednesday.
Lochte enjoyed a dominant win in the 200-metre freestyle, but in the 400 free relay the US fell behind after Nathan Adrian’s dismal opening leg and Lochte had too much time to make up when he dived in for the anchor leg.
Never one to take things too seriously, Lochte wasn’t dwelling on the loss.
“You win some and you lose some,” he said. “As long as we’re having fun out there, I guess that’s all that matters.”
Adrian, however, was assuming responsibility after placing only seventh in the opening leg.
“I had a bad swim,” Adrian said. “There’s really no reason I shouldn’t have been faster. The other guys put together good splits and I didn’t.”
Meanwhile, China set the first swimming world record of 2010, winning the women’s 800 freestyle relay.
While world records fell by the dozens in 2008 and 2009, no marks had been set this year after rubberised bodysuits were outlawed –– and there still has been no individual mark set this year in either the long- or short-course pool.
The quartet of Chen Qian, Tang Yi, Liu Jjing and Zhu Qianwei timed 7 minutes, 35,94 seconds, improving on the previous mark from the Netherlands two years ago by nearly three seconds.
Still, the biggest surprise was in the men’s relay.
The French team of Alain Bernard, Frederick Bousquet, Fabien Gilot and Yannick Agnel won in 3:04.78, with Russia a slim 0,04 behind and Cesar Cielo’s Brazil third, 0,96 back.
“A long time we are waiting for this victory, but you know when you believe in something you work hard for that and today it will pay,” Bernard said. “It’s maybe the first time for us on top of the international podium, but it’s not the last –– that’s for sure.”
Normally the dominant force in relays, the US team of Adrian, Garrett Weber-Gale, Richard Berens and Lochte placed fourth, a distant 1,32 behind.
The US men hadn’t finished off the podium since they were disqualified at the 2007 long-course worlds due to a false start in morning heats.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps led off and Jason Lezak swam a memorable anchor leg against Bernard to secure a memorable win for the US.
No matter how this meet turns out, Lochte has clearly eclipsed Phelps as the world’s top all-around swimmer. He beat Phelps in the 200 IM and 200 back at the US championships this summer, then won six golds to Phelps’ five at the Pan Pacific Championships in August.
Lochte even looks like he’s taking things more seriously than when he memorably ate only McDonald’s in Beijing. For instance, he trimmed his long locks for this meet.
“I say, ‘new year, new look,”’ Lochte said, also showing off the bright green sparkling high-top sneakers he wore out onto the pool deck and the medal stand.
“I designed them myself and teamed up with Speedo and I love them,” Lochte said. “They are out of this world and I call them my Martians. I’ll definitely wear the green ones for finals but I’ll wear other colours for the heats. You’ll just have to wait and see what other colors they are.”
South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh qualified for the 100m breaststroke final with ease, touching just one-hundredth of a second behind fastest qualifier Mihail Alexandrov.
The Russian clocked a new championship record of 57,18 seconds –– still 1,57 seconds outside of Van der Burgh’s world record, set in Berlin in November 2009.
In the women’s 100m backstroke, Chanelle van Wyk (58,84) could only manage the 13th-fastest time of the semifinals.
Gao Chang of China (56,58) clocked the fastest time, shattering Kirsty Coventry’s championship record by just over half a second.
Of the nine South Africans competing in the morning heats, only Van der Burgh and Van Wyk progressed from their heats.
In the women’s 400m individual medley heats, Katherym Meaklim (4:36.93) finished 10th fastest, missing qualification for the final by just 1.34 seconds. Jessica Pengelly (4:39.08) came in two spots further back.
Others who failed to make it through their heats were Leone Vorster, Grant Diering, Chad le Clos, Garth Tune and Amanda Loots. –– Sapa /AFP.