Hungarian teenager Kristof Milak shattered Michael Phelps' 10-year-old world record in the 200 metres butterfly on Wednesday while Adam Peaty sewed up a third straight breaststroke double with victory in the 50 metres at the world championships.
Budapest-born Milak won gold in a time of 1:50.73, lopping 0.78 seconds off Phelps’ 1:51.51 set in Rome in 2009.
“It’s a tremendous honour to set such a great record,” he said. “Until 14 I was a backstroker and later I focused on the butterfly. But earlier I only did 100 metres because I wasn’t strong enough.”
There can be no question about his strength now.
At 19, Milak is the youngest winner of the 200 butterfly since Phelps triumphed as an 18-year-old in 2003, the second of the American great’s five world titles in the event.
Peaty shattered a record of his own on Sunday, becoming the first swimmer to go under 57 seconds in the 100 breaststroke semi-finals and while he could not repeat the feat in the 50 he was still streets ahead of his rivals.
The Briton posted 26.06, the third fastest 50 of all time and 0.6 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger, Brazilian Felipe Lima.
“Got the triple double which is a massive thing for me,” said Peaty. “It’s what I came here to do. The 56 happened so it’s just everything complete really.”
Chinese swimmer Sun Yang has been a lightning rod for controversy at the championships but his bid for glory in the 800 freestyle fizzled out as he trailed home in sixth.
Sun is swimming under a cloud in Gwangju with a doping case against him set to be heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in September.
His presence has upset fans and fellow athletes alike, with two swimmers, Australian Mack Horton and Briton Duncan Scott, showing their displeasure in the most public way possible.
Horton refused to share the podium after picking up silver behind Sun in the 400 while 200 bronze medallist Scott refused to shake his hand at the medals ceremony, a move that triggered a furious response from the Chinese swimmer.
All three athletes were sent warning letters by governing body FINA over their conduct.
There was double freestyle delight for Italy with Federica Pellegrini winning the women’s 200 world title for a fourth time and Gregorio Paltrinieri taking gold in the men’s 800.
Paltrinieri said he took no additional pleasure in beating Sun, who also served a doping suspension in 2014.
“I don’t want to think about anything while I’m racing like doping or something, I just don’t care. I just want to beat them all,” said the Italian.
World record holder Pellegrini, who won her first 200 title a decade ago, hunted down Australian teen Ariarne Titmus over the closing 50 to claim gold in 1:54.22.
“I’m too old for this,” joked a breathless Pellegrini, who celebrates her 31st birthday next month.
Titmus, who stunned Katie Ledecky to win gold in the 400 on Sunday, is the new kid on the block at the worlds but the ‘Terminator’ has a big future.
“Based on training times I probably thought I had a better time in me, but what can you do? It’s what you do on the day and Pellegrini was really good tonight,” she said.
Australia ended the night on a high note though with their mixed 4x100 medley relay team pipping the United States to gold by 0.02 seconds, Cate Campbell powering home in a scintillating anchor leg to overhaul Simone Manuel.
Since anchoring the women’s 4x100 freestyle relay team to gold on Sunday, Campbell has been stuck in the athletes village watching television while her team mates raced.
“I feel like a bear who has been in hibernation,” she said.
“I was starting to get a little bit restless in the apartment, I was like ‘come on let me out, let’s start racing again. There are only so many episodes of Friends I can watch.’”