One night after he was soundly beaten by Germanys Paul Biedermann, Phelps set a world record in the 200-meter butterfly with a time of 1 minute, 51.51 seconds more than a half-second ahead of his previous mark, 1:52.03.
Phelps whipped around quickly to see his time and held up his right index finger when the WR was posted. And just like Beijing, he has taken down another Mark Spitzs standards, this time with the 34th world record of his career one more than Spitz had during his brilliant run in the pool.
There couldnt have been a more appropriate place for Phelps to add another record to his resume. Shortly after he climbed from the pool, Italys Federica Pellegrini sent the home crowd into a frenzy when she set the 20th world mark of the four-day-old meet in the 200 freestyle.
It didnt take long to set No. 21. South Africas Cameron van der Burgh broke the mark he set in the semifinals to win the 50 breaststroke, a non-Olympic event.
Phelps couldnt wait to get on the podium to collect his first individual title at the Foro Italico. While his name was being announced in English and Italian, he stood impatiently with his right foot already on the stand.
Finally, he hopped up to the highest rung, thrust both arms in the air with a defiant look that melted into a smile. He was back on top.
The scene was much different than a night earlier, when Biedermann blew away Phelps in the 200 free, winning by more than a full body length and snatching away one of the Americans five individual world records.
The loss Phelps first in an individual race at the Olympics or world championships since 2005 was followed by coach Bob Bowmans angry tirade against the sports governing body, which allowed polyurethane suits to be used at these championships.
FINA plans to ban all high-tech bodysuit sometime early in 2010, but Bowman said Phelps might sit out all international meets until the rule goes into effect, believing Biedermanns Arena suit gave him a huge edge over Phelps once-revolutionary Speedo LZR Racer.
It didnt matter what suit Phelps was wearing in the butterfly. No one was even close.