van is the man in rome

ROME - South African swimmer Cameron van der Burgh destroyed the men's 50m breaststroke world record in the world championship semifinals in Rome yesterday.

ROME - South African swimmer Cameron van der Burgh destroyed the men's 50m breaststroke world record in the world championship semifinals in Rome yesterday.

Van der Burgh swam 26,74 seconds to beat Felipe Franca da Silva's May mark of 26,89.

Brazilian Da Silva qualified third for today's final.

Van der Burgh had already broken the championship record in the morning heats.

A deluge of world records have been smashed at the Rome championships because of performance-enhancing polyurethane bodysuits, which governing body Fina will ban from next year. Records set in the hi-tech suits will stand, however.

Meanwhile, Germany's Paul Biedermann handed Michael Phelps his first major international defeat since 2005 yesterday, winning the 200m freestyle world title in a world record of 1min:42,00sec.

Biedermann broke the world record of 1:42,96 Phelps set in winning Olympic gold at the Beijing Games last August. Phelps was second in 1:43,22.

Phelps, who claimed an unprecedented eight Olympic gold medals in Beijing to take his career total to 14, hadn't been beaten in individual world or Olympic competition since losing to Ian Crocker in the 100m fly at the 2005 Worlds in Montreal.

He was 10-for-10 since then, winning five individual events at the 2007 world championships in Melbourne and five in Beijing.

Phelps, who took six months off after the Beijing Games, the longest break of his competitive career, tried to be philosophical, but it was clear the defeat stung.

"Theoretically that was a pretty good swim for me," the 24-year-old said. "Three-tenths off my best time after taking six months off. I mean, I'm not happy, but I know I didn't train much this year. But for right now I'll take it - but I'm not pleased."

Biedermann's performance followed his 400m freestyle triumph, in which he erased the world record set by Australian Ian Thorpe in 2002. - Reuters-AFP

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