1 Aug 2011

Records prove tough to break without super suits

7:38 am on 1 August 2011

The world swimming championships ended last night and after almost 350 races and 40 gold medals, there were just two world records, a far cry from the 43 that were broken in Rome two years ago.

American Ryan Lochte and China's Sun Yang were the only swimmers to break a world record at the Oriental Sports Centre.

Lochte edged out Michael Phelps in the men's 200 metres individual medley to clock one minute, 54.00 seconds, improving his own mark by 0.10 seconds.

Sun produced a stunning finish to break Grant Hackett's 10-year-old men's 1500 metres freestyle record when he clocked 14 minutes 34.14 seconds, just ahead of the 14:34.56 Hackett set in Fukuoka in 2001.

The previous world championships in Rome in 2009 had witnessed the fall of 43 world records as swimmers capitalised on polyurethane suits that assisted buoyancy and improved speed.

Such was the regularity of the record breaking, critics labelled the Rome meeting the "plastic championships" and world governing body FINA banned the use of the suits from 2010.

Few swimmers had even come close to the marks since the ban, with even the world record holders struggling to get close -- Germany's Paul Biedermann, who swum 1:42.00 to win the 200 freestyle in Rome was almost three seconds slower in the final in Shanghai taking bronze in 1:44.88.

Lochte became the first person to break a long course record since the controversial suits were banned and the American hoped his performance proved it could be done.

Australia's Stephanie Rice, who is coming back from a shoulder surgery in 2010 and looking to rediscover the form that propelled her to three gold medals in Beijing, says Lochte's performance would inspire swimmers to push on ahead of next year's London Games.