|Olympic legend Michael Phelps (L) was beaten by training partner Ryan Lochte (R) in the freestyle final [GALLO/GETTY]
Ryan Lochte's victory in the mens' 200 metres freestyle at the world swimming championships on Tuesday not only allowed him to emerge from compatriot Michael Phelps's shadow but could set up a mouthwatering 'Race
of the Century - Part Two' at next year's London Olympics.
Lochte's impressive turn at the 100 mark, when he exploded off the wall to catch, then overtake, Olympic champion Phelps, propelled him to the victory over a high-class field that included world record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany and South Korea's 400 metres freestyle champion Park Tae-hwan.
While Lochte's victory was impressive enough, it is the likely return of Australian Ian Thorpe to competition that could set up a repeat of the race that captivated the Athens Olympics.
Thorpe prevailed over Pieter van den Hoogenband and Phelps in the mens' 200 freestyle in Athens - the so-called 'Race of the Century', but Lochte's victory makes the 2012 race even more palatable and he is already looking forward to another showdown with Phelps in it next year.
"Michael and I have been training head to head for about eight years, back and forth (and) we will keep on pushing each other for the 2012 Olympics," Lochte told reporters.
"I'm definitely a different swimmer after 2008, smarter, stronger.
"I knew Michael was going to go out fast, but I realised that I've got a shot. I didn't know I was the winner right away.
"I was happy. That kind of feeling is really good, all the hard work had paid off."
While Phelps was forced to settle for silver, he showed that two years of frustration may be about to end when he qualified third fastest for the men's 200 metres butterfly final, which will be decided on July 27.
No longer the unbeatable force in the event, Phelps still proved he had enough in reserve to match it with the best in the world after two tough races within the space of 90 minutes.