By John Lohn
MELBOURNE, Australia, March 30. FOLLOWING up on the world-record performance of their female counterparts from the night before, the United States crushed the world record in the men's 800 free relay, raising the number of world records this week to 12. The American quartet of Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Klete Keller and Peter Vanderkaay checked in at 7:03.24, under the 2001 standard of 7:04.66, set by Australia.
Winning his fifth gold medal and setting the 21st world record of his career, Phelps led off in 1:45.36 and was followed by Lochte's effort of 1:45.86. Keller then hopped in and delivered his best swim of the meet, a mark of 1:46.31. Vanderkaay handled the anchor leg in 1:45.71 and the U.S. had another global standard. Keller's leg was key, as he's struggled this week and it was uncertain how fast he'd go. For Lochte, it was his second world record of the night, joining his standard in the 200 backstroke.
"You could say I had a good night," Lochte said. "These other three guys and the crowd made it happen."
The United States has owned the 800 free relay since breaking the Australian stranglehold on the event at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The foursome that prevailed tonight has been together since Greece and repeated its world championship from Montreal. Now, they can set their sights on defending in Beijing in 2008.
Although it lost its world record to the continued assault of the Americans, Australia grabbed the silver medal when the foursome of Patrick Murphy (1:48.55), Andrew Mewing (1:47.52), Grant Brits (1:48.21) and Kenrick Monk (1:45.77) combined for a time of 7:10.05. The bronze medal went to Canada and its squad of Brian Johns (1:48.46), Brent Hayden (1:46.59), Rick Say (1:47.59) and Andrew Hurd (1:48.06).