Ryan Lochte of the US smashed his own world record to win the 200m individual medley at the world short-course championships on Friday and then shocked the crowd by giving his medal to a fan.
Lochte finished in 1 minute 49.63 seconds to shatter the mark of 1:50.08 he set in December 2010 at the worlds in Dubai.
It was his fourth title at this year’s championships after he claimed golds in the 200 freestyle and 4x100 freestyle on Wednesday and the 4x200 on Thursday.
“One of the reasons why I’m in this sport is because of the fans,” the five-time Olympic champion told the BBC after handing his gold medal to a young boy who was waiting for an autograph.
“They have done so much with the cheering and the support throughout my years and just the love that they have given me I wanted to give back and putting a medal around their neck and seeing that glow on their face means the world to me,” he said.
“If I took the medal it would end up in a sock drawer, if I give it to a fan they’re going to treasure it. It will make their day or even their life,” he said.
Japan’s Daiya Seto took silver in 1:52.80 with Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh grabbing the bronze medal in 1:52.89.
Lochte won six gold medals and one silver when Dubai hosted the short-course event in 2010. He also won five medals at this year’s London Olympics including two golds.
The American’s win gave him his fourth 200 individual medley title in a row at the short-course worlds having also snatched gold in Shanghai (2006), Manchester (2008) and Dubai (2010).
The 28-year-old Lochte’s world record on Friday was the first at this year’s event, on the third day of competition.
Meanwhile, Lu Ying and Jiao Liuyang led home a gold and silver finish for China in the women’s 50m butterfly, while Paul Biedermann defended his men’s 400m freestyle title and Vladimir Morozov won gold in the 50m freestyle to secure Russia’s first gold of the championships.
Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta came close to breaking his own 200m breaststroke world record, but in the end he had to be content with a new championship record of 2:01.35 as he won gold.