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Phelps suffers in Rome

By David Kelly

Published 29/07/2009

It seems not so long ago Michael Phelps was becoming the greatest Olympian in history, but yesterday he lost one of his many World records to Germany’s Paul Biedermann.

It was the 14-time Olympic champion's first defeat over 200 metres in serious competition since the Athens Olympics in 2004, when he was beaten by Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband.

The German set a new world record of 1:42.00 seconds and in the process broke his second iconic record in two days after taking Thorpe's 400m free mark on Sunday.

Dubliner Barry Murphy was left wondering what might have been, but also just what the future may hold after finishing 13th overall in the 50m breaststroke.

Murphy said: “I've always been a confident swimmer and I had a goal for the heats and went even quicker than I thought. Obviously in the semi I wanted to go faster and it didn't happen.

“I paid for a mistake coming into the wall.

“I knew I couldn't finish on a full stroke and I re-adjusted just before it and it cost me a couple of tenths, but you live and learn and I've learned a lot over the past 12 months and I know the best is still to come. I believe I can now aim for finals.”

Also yesterday, Andrew Bree swam a personal best of 28.66 for the 50m breast, Clare Dawson went 2:02.46 for the 200m freestyle and in the same event Niamh O’Sullivan clocked 2.02.72.

Gemma Spofforth became Great Britain's first long-course world champion since 2003 when she took the gold medal on the final touch in the 100m back.

The 21-year-old turned in second at the halfway mark at the Foro Italico behind Anastasia Zueva, who had set a new world record yesterday in the semi-finals.

However, she came back on the final 25m to out-touch the Russian in a new world record time of 58.12seconds — 0.06secs ahead of Zueva.

She thus became the first Briton since Katy Sexton — also a Portsmouth Northsea backstroker — and James Gibson to claim gold at the World Championships.

She said: “I am really excited with that result. I took it out a little bit faster than I went yesterday.

“That is when the speed came in, and I came home a little bit faster.

“I am really happy with the result.”

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