German Hands Phelps Rare Loss; Breaks Record, Too

Stunning reversal raises questions about role of high-performance bodysuits
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 28, 2009 2:16 PM CDT
Germany's Paul Biedermann celebrates after clinching the gold medal of the men's 200m freestyle at the FINA Swimming World Championships in Rome today.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Germany's Paul Biedermann handed Michael Phelps his first major individual loss in 4 years—and snatched away his world record, too—with a stunning win in the 200-meter freestyle at the world swimming championships today in Rome. Virtually unknown outside his country before this meet, Biedermann has now erased Ian Thorpe from the record book with a win in the 400 free and knocked off the most successful Olympian in history.

"I'm not pleased," Phelps said, acknowledging he wasn't in the best shape after taking six months off to revel in his great haul at last summer's Beijing Olympics. But Biedermann's performance stirred up even more debate about the high-tech bodysuits that are being banned by the sport's governing body beginning in 2010. Biedermann wore an Arena X-Glide, one of those polyurethane suits that is generally considered faster than the Speedo LZR Racer, the once-revolutionary suit Phelps wore.