Swimming: Phelps loses to law student who brings successful suit

Rock star of the show but victory aided by soon-to-be-banned costume

Michael Rock is a 22-year-old Liverpudlian who studies law at the University of Manchester and yesterday he beat the greatest swimmer of all time, Michael Phelps, in a discipline in which they both love, the 200m butterfly.

Therein lies part of the beauty of the inaugural Duel in the Pool between Europe's E-Stars and the USA, in which the latter romped to victory. And therein lies the folly of swimming's "suit era", which has now effectively ended.

Rock was wearing a polyurethane bodysuit, banned as of 1 January. The era of "doping on a hanger" – when more than 250 world records fell in 20 months thanks to space-age kit – is over.

Farewell then to stitch-free, ultrasonically welded seams, water-resistant fabric and strategically placed panels designed by NASA. You thrilled as many people as you infuriated; but you were cheating. Swimming will return to being a sport based on talent and hard work, not equipment.

Phelps was dressed yesterday in a textile jammer that will be legal under the new rules. That, and pretty much that alone, is why Rock beat Phelps. Not that it will matter to the Brit, who will one day tell his grandkids he beat the GOAT. He won't mention who was wearing what.

His personal achievement, however dressed up, was still one of several bright spots of the Duel for British swimming, if not the E-Stars, who were trounced over two days of competition. The USA won 185-78 in a contest that is fresh to these shores and was staged primarily to boost swimming's appeal in Britain.

Judging by the 150 autograph hunters still milling outside the venue long after competition ended, a decent step forward has been taken. There were 30 events, and the USA won 21 of them, with the E-Stars taking nine. Of those, Britons won eight, and British women six, with Fran Halsall adding the 50m freestyle yesterday to two wins on Friday. Lizzie Simmonds won the 100m backstroke (for a second success of the meet) and Rebecca Adlington cruised to victory in the 800m free.

Rock shocked the human dolphin in the 200m fly, and James Goddard won the 200m individual medley. The only non-British E-Stars win of the meet was by Federico Colbertaldo of Italy in the men's 800m free.

The sextet of wins by British women is why British swimming has so very much to look forward to in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics. The host nation will have a golden generation of female swimmers reaching their peak and in contention for a cascade of gold.

There were up to six swimmers per race here, a maximum of three from each side, with five points for each win, three for second place and one for third.

The USA took 11 of the 14 races on Friday night and led 89-33 going in to yesterday's second and final session. They won 96-45 yesterday, and also bagged all three world records on the day, through Rebecca Soni in the 100m breaststroke, Julia Smit in the 200m IM, and the men's 4 x 100m freestyle relay, with Phelps, fittingly, bringing the victors home on the final leg.

Adlington kick-started a good day for Britain by winning the 800m in commanding fashion, ahead of compatriot Keri-Anne Payne, with the USA's Amber McDermott just holding off Britain's Jazmin Carlin for third.

Colbertaldo then took the men's 800m, and the USA won both 200m freestyle races, with Phelps third in the men's. Of the end of the suit era, the 14-times Olympic champion said: "What I'm looking forward to is being the best I can for 2012. I want to see who can keep themselves in shape and who can work hardest. It'll be more of a sport and not just putting on a suit."

Casual observers will look at the final score and think the result was embarrassing for Europe but the numbers do not tell the full tale. First, the US have long been the dominant force in swimming, winning 31 swimming medals (12 gold, nine silver) at the Beijing Olympics. They were top by a mile in the swimming medals table.

Second, the US had a strong squad here, full of Olympic and world champions. The E-Stars came from just Britain, Italy and Germany. There was no France, because their sponsor, EDF, is a fierce rival of British Gas, which sponsors British Swimming and this event. There was no Russia, Netherlands, Hungary or Serbia, all of who would have added points.

Even the Brits, Italians and Germans were missing key swimmers, all multiple Olympic or world medallists in Jo Jackson, Federica Pellegrini, Alessia Filippi, Paul Biedermann and Britta Steffen.

Yet in Adlington, Halsall and Co, the future is rosy. And on a good day, even the men can Rock.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power