ROME - - Michael Phelps, quick in the pool, was nearly as fast with a race review Thursday night. It came from his vantage point in the stands where he observed the men's 200-meter individual medley from behind his shades, sans shirt, making a concession to the Roman heat.
"He texted me and said, 'That was a great swim and I think it's still beatable,'" said Phelps' coach Bob Bowman. "And he may be right."
They plan to find out after Phelps' longtime rival, Ryan Lochte, offered a new plot twist in the event, winning the 200 IM at the world championships in a world record 1 minute, 54.10 seconds, erasing Phelps' world mark.
It was not the lone world record on Day 5. Far from it.
The world records here have become devalued by the deluge and are now almost greeted with a shrug, unless, of course, an Italian swimmer lowers a world standard.
Seven records tumbled Thursday, bringing the total for the meet to 29. It was a virtual global glut, with records from Canada and Brazil, and two apiece from Australia and China, in addition to Lochte's.
Lochte won by 1.14 seconds, beating Laszlo Cseh, and U.S. teammate Eric Shanteau was third in 1:55.36. Lochte and Cseh have long been eclipsed by Phelps in the individual medley events, but Lochte never became frustrated.
"No, not at all, just because Michael did such a good job making a name for swimming," Lochte said. "He kind of put the sport on the map. I love a challenge and I love racing against him. I kind of wish he swam the 200 IM because I think it would have been a good race."
Lochte couldn't escape Phelps. Not completely.
"When I was walking out when they were calling each lane and I looked up at the scoreboard and they showed like the crowd and they showed Michael," Lochte said. "I kind of smiled to him."
Bowman called Lochte's performance an "awesome swim" and said Phelps would be back in the 200 IM, so the rivalry will resume in 2010, if not sooner. But that depends on Bowman, who threatened to keep Phelps out of international competition until FINA, which oversees the sport, solves its swimsuit controversy.
Bowman has been sharply criticized in some quarters over his stand. "I'm perfectly fine with that because I had to make the point and the point was made," he said. "This isn't a polite issue. We did politeness for the last year and a half."
Not only has Phelps lost two of his world records in three days - the 200 freestyle to Paul Biedermann and the 200 IM to Lochte - but even one of his American records vanished.
David Walters finished fifth in the 100 freestyle in 47.33, under Phelps' mark of 47.51. Cesar Cielo of Brazil became the first man to go under 47 seconds in the event, winning in a world record 46.91.
Walters may have had the quote of the year on the controversial high-tech suits, the polyurethane bodysuits turning the meet into a target of ridicule. He wore an Arena suit after he couldn't get a Jaked replaced after it ripped.
"I feel they sew the suits together with Elmer's Super Glue and a hot iron," he said.
Mary DeScenza knows this only too well. Wearing the Jaked suit, she set a world record Wednesday in the 200 butterfly heats, going 2:04.14. In Thursday's race, she finished fourth, losing her world record. Jessicah Schipper of Australia won in 2:03.41.