Michael Phelps endured the novel experience of being second best for significant parts of the world championships. It left the multi-decorated American frustrated but adamant that he will be swimming notably quicker come next year's Games in London where he will be looking to add seven Olympic gold medals to the 14 he already owns.
Phelps was overshadowed in Shanghai by the performance of his team-mate Ryan Lochte, who beat him twice en route to claiming five golds and the first world record in 18 months. Phelps still finished with four golds of his own – he now has 26 world titles – and as this meet was regarded as a first stepping stone towards London, it should not be taken as a sign of decline. "I always set high goals," said Phelps yesterday. "It's frustrating. I'm fairly satisfied but at the end of the day it's hard for me to be totally satisfied. I know I can go a lot faster."
Phelps is still aiming to compete in the 200m freestyle, the 200 medley, the 100 and 200 butterfly and three relays in London. He said: "I'm fairly comfortable with the event schedule. Having what happened here is going to make this year even better. Training-wise, preparation-wise I think the biggest thing here is building on the confidence I have. I think I was able to see how my body can handle it now but I just have to make the next step to deal with it and swim as fast as I want to swim."
Michael Scott, British swimming's national performance director, was satisfied with his team's six-medal return that included golds for Rebecca Adlington and Keri-Anne Payne. Scott said: "It's been a challenging meet, a week of highs and lows. It's been a rollercoaster but the strength of our team is its positivity and resilience. We didn't crumble, we got stronger as the meet went on."
Scott held up Adlington as setting a telling example for her team-mates. He said: "Leadership starts in the water and the key one has to be Becky Adlington, I thought her racing this week was just awesome. She came into the meet by her own admission a little bit flat. She gutsed out a great 400, was very sore and sorry after that, went back into recovery mode and the 800 was sheer guts and determination.
"Getting Ellen Gandy and Hannah Miley on the podium at a world or Olympic level is another major step so we are starting to share the load more."