Rome: Michael Phelps and the U.S. 400-meter medley relay team closed the fastest meet in swimming history with an appropriate finish Sunday night — the 43rd world record.
Phelps earned his fifth gold medal of a world championships that showed he`s still got plenty of motivation, even after winning a record eight times at the Beijing Olympics.
Swimming the butterfly leg, Phelps helped the U.S. pull away from Germany and Australia to win in 3 minutes, 27.28 seconds. That easily broke the mark set by the Americans at last summer`s Olympics, 3:29.34.
Eric Shanteau, who overcame testicular cancer to swim his best times, picked up the first major gold medal of his career by taking the breaststroke leg, to go along with a silver and bronze in Rome. The other members of the winning team were backstroker Aaron Peirsol and David Walters, swimming the freestyle anchor.
Also Sunday, Ryan Lochte won his fourth gold medal of the championships and Germany`s Britta Steffen matched her 50-100 freestyle sweep in Beijing.
No such glory for 42-year-old Dara Torres. The senior citizen of the pool finished last in her only individual final at the Foro Italico.
Taking advantage of Phelps` absence, Lochte added the 400-meter individual medley title to his medal haul at the championships. Lochte also won the 200 IM along with two relay golds, in addition to taking bronze in the 200 backstroke.
Lochte was far off Phelps` world record in the 400 IM, touching first in 4 minutes, 7.01 seconds. Phelps won gold at Beijing in 4:03.84, but decided to scale back his program heading into what will be his final Olympics.
"It definitely felt good to get these wins after coming second to Michael for so long," said Lochte, who broke Phelps` world record in the 200 IM with his rival cheering from the stands. "But I wish he was here swimming just because he`s a great competitor and I love racing him. I`m trying to talk him into doing the IM again."
The Americans still went 1-2 even without Phelps. Tyler Clary came on strong in the freestyle to beat Hungary`s Laszlo Cseh, taking silver in 4:07.31. Cseh settled for bronze at 4:07.37.
Both were closing fast when Lochte touched.
"I didn`t think it was going to hurt that much," the winner said. "When I touched going into the freestyle, I just had a body-length lead and I just thought, `If this hurts too bad, I`ll lose it.` Then, you know, I just gave it everything I had. That`s all I could ask for it."
The win gave Lochte another chance to break out his diamond-studded "grillz," which he popped in his mouth while posing for photographers after the medal ceremony.
Steffen was one of the biggest female stars in Rome. She set the 42nd world record of the meet — and her third — while winning the 50 free in 23.73.
The German repeated her Olympic feat in a blistering race, beating the mark of 23.96 held by Marleen Veldhuis of the Netherlands since April.
Sweden`s Therese Alshammar went under the old record as well, settling for silver (23.88). Australian teenager Cate Campbell got bronze in 23.99.
Torres failed to match her silver-medal showing from the Olympics, when she finished just one-hundredth of a second behind Steffen. Bothered by a sore knee that will require surgery, the American was eighth in 24.48.
But she`s not retiring, saying she plans to return to the pool in December.
On to London? We`ll see.
Tunisia`s Ous Mellouli matched his Olympic gold by winning again in the 1,500 free, the longest event in the pool. After a tight battle over the first 1,000 meters with Canada`s Ryan Cochrane, Mellouli steadily pulled away to win in 14:37.28, though short of Grant Hackett`s 8-year-old world record of 14:34.56.
A few things are still sacred in a sport that blew away all records for, well, records.
Another race where the old mark stood up was the women`s 400 IM, won by Hungary`s Katinka Hosszu in 14:30.31, just off Stephanie Rice`s mark of 4:29.45 at last summer`s Olympics. Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe got the silver and Rice, one of the biggest stars in Beijing but not quite on form here, held on for bronze.
A pair of world records fell in non-Olympic events.
Liam Tancock broke his own world record to win the 50 backstroke. The British swimmer touched in 24.04, eclipsing the mark of 24.08 he set the previous day in the semifinals. Japan`s Junya Koga claimed silver and South Africa`s Gerhard Zandberg earned bronze.
Russia`s Yuliya Efimova set a world record while edging American Rebecca Soni in the 50 breaststroke. Efimova won in 30.09, breaking the record of 30.23 set by Canada`s Amanda Reason less than a month ago. The next two also went under the old mark, with Soni (30.11) taking silver and Australia`s Sarah Katsoulis (30.16) the bronze.