ROME, Aug. 2 — Michael Phelps set another world record and won his fifth gold medal in the last event of the swimming world championships Sunday, swimming the butterfly leg for the U.S. 4×100 medley relay team that scored a dominant victory in 3 minutes 27.28 seconds.
Germany finished second in 3:28.58; Australia was third in 3:28.61. All three teams surpassed the previous world record of 3:29.34 that the U.S. team set last year in Beijing.
Phelps won five golds and one silver at these championships. He set individual world records in the 100 and 200 butterfly events, but lost his world marks in the 200 freestyle and 200 individual medley.
“A competition like this really brings out the best in me,” Phelps said. “It doesn’t matter how much energy I have, it’s all going to go in every race.”
Aaron Peirsol (backstroke) led off the relay, followed by Eric Shanteau (breaststroke), Phelps and David Walters (freestyle). Shanteau and Walters were competing in their first major international medley relays.
Walters held off Germany’s Paul Biedermann, who had given Phelps his only second place here in the 200 free.
“Those boys looked at me in there and were like, ‘That’s the biggest guy they’ve got?'” Walters said. “They were coming for me … This is me and Eric’s first time on the medley. We had a little competition between ourselves to see who was going to screw up first.”
A record total of 43 world records fell at this meet, eclipsing the the previous record of 29 set at the 1976 Olympics, known for the steroid-abusing East German women’s team. This meet was known for the superfast speed suits that will be banned next year.
Earlier in the day, two-time U.S. Olympian Ryan Lochte coughed up a big lead over the last 50 meters of the 400-meter individual medley, but hung on for the victory, giving him gold medals in both medley events.
With world-record holder Michael Phelps sitting out the medleys this summer, Lochte claimed the grueling double, winning Sunday in 4 minutes 07.01 seconds. The time fell well short of Phelps’s record of 4:03.84, but was just enough to hold off fast-closing U.S. teammate Tyler Clary, who finished second in 4:07.31.
“I didn’t think it was going to hurt that much,” said Lochte, who turns 25 Monday. “When I touched going into the freestyle, I knew I had, like, a body-length lead. I was like, ‘Oh my god, please don’t blow this. This event hurts too bad to lose it.'”
Clary, a University of Michigan swimmer competing in his first world championships, overtook Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, who hit the wall in 4:07.37 for the bronze. Earlier in the week, Cseh finished second in the 200 medley.
“I had my eye on Laszlo,” Clary said. “For the last 100, I was going back and forth in my head about whether I could actually get him.”
Added Clary: “I love this event. It’s a weird idea of fun, I know.”
Lochte broke Phelps’s world record in the 200 individual medley earlier in the championships, but he said he knew he wouldn’t be able to muster that sort of push after Sunday’s morning heats.
“These two races this morning and tonight were just everything I had,” Lochte said. “I’ll be lucky if I can finish a 50 next. I’m glad this meet’s over. My birthday’s tomorrow, and I’m definitely going to celebrate.”
Rebecca Soni claimed the silver medal in the 50 breaststroke final, a race in which all three medal winners went under the previous world record in the event. Soni, who won the gold in the 100 breast earlier in the week, finished in 30.11, just .02 behind Russian Yuliya Efimova. Australian Sarah Katsoulis claimed third in 30.16.
“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into these championships; it had been an up and down year for me,” Soni said. “I was just glad to be here, and glad with the results I got.”
Dara Torres, 42, finished eighth in the 50 free final.