Swimming: Adlington is only fourth but Phelps takes his revenge

Jackson grabs 800m silver but gold medal suits Friis
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The Independent Online

Relatively few champions from Beijing have added a world title to their Olympic victory this week, and Rebecca Adlington failed to even win a medal in her top event, the 800m freestyle, at the World Championships here last night.

Denmark's Lotte Friis won the title, in 8min 15.92sec, the second-fastest time in history, holding off a brilliant late charge from Britain's Jo Jackson, with the Italian Alessia Filippi in third, and Adlington just fourth, in a time of 8:17.90, over five seconds slower than her winning time in Beijing.

Adlington will not want to talk too much about the suits, but the three swimmers who beat her (and she had beaten both Filippi and Friis in the Olympic final) were all wearing the totally polyurethane costumes. Many of the swimmers at these championships have switched to the super suits here, having seen how effective they are.

World records, as a consequence, have not exactly been a rarity at these championships. In fact, hardly a day goes by without half-a-dozen or so.

Liam Tancock, though, became only the second British swimmer, after Gemma Spofforth, to break one here, when he blitzed his semi-final of the 50m backstroke.

Tancock, who had broken the record 18 months ago in Sheffield with a time of 24.47, took a sledgehammer to it this time, his mark of 24.08 taking a quarter of a second off the record. It may not sound much, but over just 50m, it is plenty.

Spofforth, after winning the 100m butterfly title on Tuesday, had suggested that the 200m event here would be more about "learning" than winning, and so it proved. The Olympic champion from Zimbabwe, Kirsty Coventry, dominated and only the Russian, Anastasia Zueva, who had won the silver behind Spofforth in the 100m, offered any resistance.

Coventry won in a new world record of 2:04.81, with Zueva also inside the old record. Spofforth came late, too late to catch the 16-year-old American Elizabeth Beisel for the bronze. Spofforth was fourth in a British record of 2:06.66.

Michael Phelps had lost his 100m butterfly world record to Serbia's Milorad Cavic in Friday's semi-final, so the Serbian was favourite for the title, but he should probably not become a motivational speaker, for he seriously underestimated the competitive urge of the finest swimmer in history.

In this event at Beijing 12 months ago, Cavic was touched off by Phelps for the Olympic title. The Serbian maintained then and since, that he really touched the wall first, but the only reason that Phelps was given the race was because he exerted more pressure on the timing pad.

Cavic swam the first length like there was no going back; the Serb under world-record pace and Phelps, in a Speedo suit, three-quarters of a body length back in fourth. But somewhere in Phelps' psyche, is something that elevates him from other swimmers, the ordinary ones who slip on a Jaked super suit and break a world record. Phelps flew the final 50m and took Cavic on the final teeth-gritting stroke.

Phelps pulled himself up on the lane divider, raised his arms up and all but roared. He might as well have been down the road at the Coliseum, slaying another lion, such was the intensity shown.

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