Inspired Hackett steals the show

THREE golds, five medals in all, and a world record. Grant Hackett of Australia was the star of the World Swimming Championships, emerging from the shadow of absent countryman Ian Thorpe.

Sure, Michael Phelps's haul sounded impressive, too five golds and a silver. But by the American's standards, he fell short.

Hackett capped the eight-day meet by winning a record fourth consecutive world title in the 1,500-metre freestyle on Sunday night.

Phelps was relegated to cheering on the US squad from the stands. He picked up his fifth gold the easy way, swimming the morning heat in the 400m medley relay, then watching his teammates win in the evening.

"It was very good for him to be in situations where he's just not the top dog," said Bob Bowman, Phelps's coach. "It keeps people hungry."

Phelps's biggest shock came the first day when he failed to make the 400m freestyle final. Then he finished a disappointing seventh in the 100 free.

He skipped two of his world-record events to try new events in Montreal, and learned a big lesson. "I have to get back to putting in the grind," he said.

That means curtailing the post- Olympic whirl of promotional appearances, talk shows, and other dalliances that cut into his training time. He wasn't the same guy who broke five world records at the 2003 Barcelona world championships or won a record-tying eight Olympic medals in Athens last summer, including six golds. Phelps knows Bowman is going to "put the hurt on me and hopefully we can change a few things in the upcoming year and improve on this."

As usual, Hackett dominated the 1,500m free, winning in 14 minutes, 42.58 seconds, and giving him his record 17th world championship medal. He was eight seconds off his world record but comfortably ahead of American Larsen Jensen, who outraced Great Britain's David Davies for the silver.

Even though Phelps defeated Hackett in their only head-to-head meeting, the Aussie set a world record there were nine in all during the meet and received the FINA trophy as top male swimmer.

"It was great to watch him race," US women's coach Jack Bauerle said.

Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry, who won two golds and two silvers, was named the best female.

"I hope I am giving people at home hope to follow their dreams and do things they think, and believe they can, achieve because it is very possible," she said. The US, which led the medal count with 15 golds and 32 overall, received the award as top team. It was the Americans' most medals at the world championships since 1982.

"This meet has been incredible for everyone, world records here and there, and I think the US team has done so well," said 16-year-old Katie Hoff, who won the 400 individual medley her third gold medal. The US quartet, Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, Ian Crocker and Jason Lezak, closed out the meet by winning the 400 medley relay in 3:31.85. Russia were second and Japan third.

"It was our best meet as far as medals are concerned," said Peirsol, who swept the 100m and 200m backstrokes. "That says a lot because we had a lot of great teams in the past."

Hoff, one of the new teenage stars of the American team, won the 400 IM in 4:36.07, breaking a meet record held by a swimmer whose country no longer exists: East German Petra Schneider's 4:36.10 from the 1982 championships.

Laszlo Cseh of Hungary won the men's 400 IM, filling the void when Phelps decided to drop his world-record event at the meet. Cseh touched in 4:09.63, with Italy's Luca Marin getting silver and Tunisia's Oussama Mellouli the bronze. Libby Lenton won the women's 50m free in 24.59 for her third gold medal. Marleen Veldhuis of the Netherlands was second, with the bronze going to China's Zhu Yingwen.

Two non-Olympic events were on the final night. Australia's Jade Edmistone set a world record in the 50m breaststroke with a time of 30.45.

Aristeidis Grigoriadis of Greece won the men's 50m backstroke.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up