Liam Tancock struck a blow for the British men here last night when he claimed the gold medal in the 50 metres backstroke on the final evening of the world championships. The Loughborough swimmer returned to the pool 24 hours after reclaiming his world record from Randall Bal, and managed to lower it again by 0.04 seconds to 24.04sec.
In the process he became the first British man to make a dent in the medal standings this week after the women had already claimed six.
The 24-year-old rose from the water in front and was never seriously threatened as he became world champion for the first time.
For Tancock it was his fourth World Championship medal after he took bronze in the same event on his senior international long-course debut in 2005. He repeated that third-place finish two years later and also took a bronze over 100m.
His medal was the only one of the night for Britain who concluded the competition with seven medals in the pool, including two golds – as well as world titles in the women's 10km open water and 10m platform diving, courtesy of 15-year-old Tom Daley.
Last night's session saw Hannah Miley finish fourth in the 400m individual medley with Thomas Haffield equal seventh in the men's race, while Fran Halsall was fifth in the 50m freestyle, David Davies came sixth in the 1500m and the men's 4x100 medley relay were eighth.
Tancock said: "I'm ecstatic. It's my third world championships. To come away with a gold this time – I've always had bronzes in the past but a gold is fantastic. To be world champion in Rome is pretty fantastic."
While clearly enjoying being on top of the world, the Exeter-born swimmer is also determined to use the title to get on the podium over two lengths. "That is my aim, definitely," he said. "This is my bonus event. I picked up a medal this time and I just missed out on the 100m."
World records have been tumbling in Rome, with 43 recorded by the end of the competition. With next year's return to textile suits, Tancock can expect to keep his mark for some time.
The US and Michael Phelps smashed their own world record to win the men's 4x100m metres medley relay final yesterday. The Americans swam 3min 27.28sec to finish ahead of second-placed Germany and Australia in third.
Ryan Lochte led more Stars and Stripes celebrations with an American one-two in the men's 400 metres individual medley. Lochte, who broke Michael Phelps' 200m medley world record to win that title on Thursday, triumphed in 4min 07.01sec, just ahead of his compatriot Scott Tyler Clary. Hungary's Laszlo Cseh took the bronze.
"It's new for me to be in the spotlight in an individual medley race," Lochte, the Olympic 200m backstroke champion, said. "I'm very happy I broke Phelps record in the 200 individual medley. I hope someday he will be back in this race because I love racing against him."
Jo Jackson provided the British highlight on Saturday, winning a silver medal but hopes of two British women sharing the podium for the second time in a week were dashed when Rebecca Adlington finished a disappointing fourth in the 800m freestyle. Jackson stormed through in the final metres to overhaul Alessia Filippi and claim her second silver medal of the week and third in total in 8min 16.66sec.
Adlington said: "I need to go away and get back to swimming and not doing anything else. And get back to loving it and enjoy it a bit more than all the media stuff. In the day I am always doing something and not going back and resting."
Role of honour Britain's medals
T Daley (Men's 10m platform), K-A Payne (women's 10km), G Spofforth (w 100m backstroke)
J Jackson (w 400m freestyle), J Jackson (w 800m freestyle), F Halsall (w 100m freestyle)
R Adlington (w 400m free-style), women's 4x200m freestyle relay