No sooner had Ian Thorpe won his second gold medal of the week than the young pretender to the title of world's greatest swimmer announced his presence at these World Championships in the most emphatic fashion - the American 18-year-old Michael Phelps smashing the world record for 200 metres butterfly. On a night of spectacular performances, Katy Sexton delivered silver for Britain in the 100m backstroke to add to James Gibson's bronze medal from day two.
Sexton and Sarah Price were competing in a wide-open field and Sexton had the courage to hold back in the first 50m before powering through the field to tie for second place with Louise Ornstedt of Denmar. Antje Buschulte, of Germany, took gold.
"I'm delighted and very confident now for the 200,'' said Sexton. "Although I realise my best time would have won I realise it isn't about times it's about results. I have had to work on my turns and today it paid dividends.'' Both Sexton and Price are hoping to win medals in the 200m later in the week. No British woman has ever won an individual title at a World Championships and the last Briton to win gold was David Wilkie 28 years ago.
Ian Thorpe versus Pieter van den Hoogenband was billed as one of the races of the championships. The Dutchman beat Thorpe to the Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000, but Thorpe won the re-match at the World Championships in Japan a year later. So to round three and many sensed that Thorpe, not at his best here in Barcelona, might be there for the taking. But the Australian world record holder never gave his rival a chance as he cruised through 100m before turning on the speed in the final 50, winning his second gold medal in a time of 1min 45.14sec, over a second outside his world record.
Van Den Hoogenband appeared outclassed. He finished in 1:46.43, one and a half seconds shy of his European record and second by some distance. The Australian Grant Hackett took bronze for his second medal of the championships.
After the medal ceremony Van den Hoogenband upstaged Thorpe by revealing a Barcelona football shirt to the delight of the packed crowd in the Palau Sant Jordi. The former Barcelona coach, Luis van Gaal, was among them and the jeers for him were nearly as loud as the cheers for his fellow Dutchman.
But the performance of the night came from Phelps, who demolished his own world record in the 200m butterfly. Phelps is a truly remarkable swimmer and we should believe the hype coming from the States. His time of 1:53.93 was an astonishing display of power. Britain's Stephen Parry will join Phelps in today's final after setting a Commonwealth and British record of 1:55.90 for joint second overall. "I've wanted to break 1:56 for a few years and I've finally done it,'' Parry said. "I think Phelps has already won the gold and it's between three of us for the other two medals.''
Another favourite for gold today will be James Gibson who reset his own British record in the 50m breaststroke semi-final. His time of 27.46 makes him the fastest seed into the final.
Two European records were set. Hannah Stockbauer won her second gold medal in the 800m freestyle finishing just 0.19sec shy of becoming only the second woman in history to break 16 minutes. Second was Hayley Peirsol on a historic day for the family as her older brother, Aaron, won gold in the 100m backstroke half an hour later. Behind him, Arkady Vyatchanin set a European record on his way to joint silver with the Australian Matthew Welsh, the defending champion.Reuse content