Flash! World Championships: World Record Lifts Ryan Lochte to Gold in 200 Backstroke

By John Lohn

MELBOURNE, Australia, March 30. THE last time Aaron Peirsol lost the 200 backstroke on the international level was at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Until tonight. And, it took a world record from American teammate Ryan Lochte to turn the trick. Racing side-by-side the entire way, Lochte prevailed in the distance back in a time of 1:54.32, to the 1:54.80 registered by Peirsol.

Peirsol held the former world record at 1:54.44 and split ahead of Lochte at each of the walls, even holding a half-second lead at the 150-meter mark. But, Lochte turned on the heat in the last lap to pull even, and eventually ahead. Lochte is the world-record holder in the short-course versions of the 100 and 200 backstrokes. Earlier this week, he finished second to Peirsol in the 100 back, with Peirsol breaking the world record. Lochte also placed second to Michael Phelps in the 200 individual medley.

For Lochte, the performance was a major breakthrough for a talented individual that has often been overshadowed by Michael Phelps in the I.M. and by Peirsol in the backstroke disciplines. Really, it was just a matter of time before he'd emerge as a gold medalist. The Beijing Olympic final will be a special duel, provided they each qualify, a likely development.

"I kind of looked up at the scoreboard to see where I was," Lochte said. "I probably shouldn't have done that, but when I did I saw I was right there with him (Peirsol) and I just kicked."

Austrian Markus Rogan, the reigning Olympic silver medalist, was the third-place finisher in 1:56.02, comfortably ahead of the 1:57.14 by Russia's Arkady Vyatchanin, the European champion. Meanwhile, Romania's Razvan Florea was fifth in 1:57.31 and the sixth-place spot was occupied by Great Britain's James Goddard (1:58.88).

Click Here to view event results PDF file.