By John Lohn
Photos by Peter H. Bick
MONTREAL, Canada, July 28. THE fastest 200-meter individual medley race ever contested – at least at the top – went to the man who has redefined the event. Although pushed for the majority of the race by Hungarian youngster Laszlo Cseh, Michael Phelps won his second consecutive world title in the event with a swim of 1:56.68.
Phelps trailed Cseh at the 50 and 100-meter marks and held a scant .02 edge heading into the freestyle leg, but the eight-time Olympic medalist powered down the final lap and produced a victory of nearly one second. Cseh, the overwhelming favorite to win gold later in the week in the 400 individual medley, picked up the silver medal in 1:57.61, holding off a charge from American Ryan Lochte (1:57.79).
Phelps’ time marked the fifth occasion in his career in which he has gone faster than 1:57. No other man has ever broken that barrier and Cseh and Lochte, thanks to their times, became only the second and third men in history to break 1:58. Phelps has the eight-fastest times ever produced and his gold medal complemented his triumph in the 200 freestyle from Tuesday.
Lochte found himself in a difficult position on Thursday night, as he contested the 200 I.M. final not long after qualifying for the final of the 200 backstroke, scheduled to be held on Friday night. Cseh took the race out in lightning-quick fashion and, while he was caught by Phelps, the strategy held Lochte off. Lochte was the Olympic silver medalist and Cseh was fourth in Athens.
Italy’s Alessio Boggiatto claimed fourth place in 2:00.28 and Japan’s Hidemasa Sano touched the wall for fifth behind a time of 2:00.70. The sixth through eighth spots went to Lithuania’s Vytautas Janusaitis (2:00.78), Russia’s Igor Berezutsky (2:01.43) and New Zealand’s Dean Kent (2:01.81). Janusaitis clocked 1:59.72 during the semifinals.