Chinese teenager Sun Yang toppled swimming’s oldest world record yesterday when he shattered Grant Hackett’s 10-year mark in the men’s 1,500m, ensuring a rousing finish to the Shanghai FINA World Championships.
Sun, roared on by a capacity crowd, put on a devastating burst during the final 100m as he made up a deficit of more than two seconds to touch in 14 minutes, 34.14 seconds — 0.42 secong inside Hackett’s mark set at the 2001 meeting in Fukuoka.
American Ryan Lochte claimed a superb fifth gold medal, while stuttering Olympic great Michael Phelps enjoyed a successful final night when he helped the US defend their 4x100m medley title.
Sun’s performance was only the second new record in Shanghai, two years after polyurethane-clad swimmers set 43 new bests at the 2009 championships in Rome.
It broke the only men’s mark to survive the infamous “super-suits” era, when muscle-compressing swimwear helped set more than 200 global bests in just two years.
“I was not obsessed with the world record before the final because I wanted to focus on my plan — my goal was to win the gold,” Sun said. “I’m so grateful to the whole Chinese team, including my coach and my parents as well, and I think the world record belongs to all of them.”
Meanwhile, US star Lochte, this week’s other record-setter, underlined his supremacy in Shanghai with his fifth gold medal, matching Phelps’ haul from 2009.
Lochte led from start to finish at the Sea Crown stadium to defend his 2009 title in 4 minutes, 7.13 seconds, more than four seconds ahead of teammate Tyler Clary with Japan’s Yuya Horihata third.
However, Lochte insisted he was “not really happy,” saying he could still make big improvements before next year’s London Olympics.
“For the most part I’m not really happy. I mean getting five gold medals is definitely great, but the times I went I know I can go a lot faster,” he said. “There’s a lot of places in my races that I messed up on, where I could have changed and would have gone faster, but I guess I have a whole another year to make sure I have those perfect swims.”
Also on the final night, US world record-holder Jessica Hardy made a successful return to the world stage from a doping ban when she won the 50m breaststroke ahead of defending champion Yuliya Efimova of Russia.
Hardy, who missed the 2008 Olympics after a positive test and was serving a one-year ban during the 2009 world championships, timed 30.19 seconds — outside her record of 29.80 seconds — with teammate Rebecca Soni third.
“I am really excited, I’ve trained so hard for that,” Hardy said. “I am really, really glad that I did it. I performed very well. All of us did a good job.”
British world record-holder Liam Tancock defended his 50m backstroke title from France’s Camille Lacourt and Gerhard Zandberg of South Africa.
Sweden’s Therese Alshammar won the women’s 50m freestyle, while American Elizabeth Beisel won the 400m individual medley.
Phelps was instrumental in the US’ 4x100m medley win, as he took them from fourth to second in the butterfly leg, before Nathan Adrian finished off the win.
Lochte has long played second fiddle to Phelps, but he has called the tune in Shanghai, beating his contemporary in the 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley, which he won in world record time.
The 26-year-old also won the 200m backstroke and gave the US a record fourth straight 4x200m medley world title with a super-fast final leg, after a slow lead-off from Phelps.