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SHANGHAI, China, July 26. IN an epic men's 200 free finale, Ryan Lochte picked up another head-to-head triumph over teammate Michael Phelps to open the third night of the FINA World Long Course Championships. The victory might be signaling a definitive changing of the guard as Lochte takes over the top spot from Phelps in the U.S. stable of men's swimmers.
Lochte clocked a 1:44.44 for his first men's 200 free world title. Lochte's time stands 13th all time, and jumped Lochte into fifth on the all-time performers list. He used a 26.29 split to separate himself from the field and held on down the stretch, fighting off a late charge by Phelps.
"While everyone tried to go out, I just worked at what I am used to," Lochte said. "I've done all the training that I can. I guess it is my time tonight. It's the most challenging competition (I've ever raced)."
Phelps, meanwhile, settled for silver in the 200 free for the second consecutive championships with a 1:44.79. In 2009, he lost to Paul Biedermann in what likely was the swim that led to he and Bob Bowman threatening to hold out of international competition until the then-approved techsuit ban was put into place. There had been some quibbling about how soon the techsuit ban would be enacted.
"That's what we had in the 200 free. I didn't expect to go 1:56.77 to be 11th this morning in the 200 fly," Phelps said. "Kind of surprising, but I just want to get myself relaxed tonight. I said to Bob [Bowman] that, I think, if I was on the other side of the pool, the race could be played maybe a little bit different. I'm headed in the right direction. I think the big difference is that I have super easy comfortable speed going out. That's the one thing that I went 1:42.90. Super easy. With more training, at the same time, I think, making right direction, that's where I want to be."
For Lochte, the gold medal could be the first of many at these World Champs. Lochte will be the favorite for gold in the 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 backstroke as the meet progresses. He'll also handle a leg on the United States' 800 free relay, which is favored for gold.
Biedermann earned bronze with a 1:44.88 this evening after winning in 2009. South Korea's Tae Hwan Park (1:44.92), France's Yannick Agnel (1:44.99), Russia's Nikita Lobintsev (1:46.57), Switzerland's Dominik Meichtry (1:47.02) and Russia's Danila Izotov (1:47.46) completed the championship heat.
Agnel downed his French record of 1:45.47 set in March of this year with his outing tonight.