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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Gal Nevo equaled the best ever finish by an Israeli at the swimming World Championships on Sunday, ending the 400-meter individual medley final in Rome in sixth position.
The 22-year-old, who was born and raised in Kibbutz Hamadia in the North, advanced to the final by smashing his Israeli record by an amazing 2.52 seconds in the morning heats, clocking a time of 4:11.51 minutes.
Nevo failed to improve on his personal best in the final, but his time of 4:12.33m was still good enough to end the event in a superb sixth place.
"I didn't manage to repeat my time from the morning, but even had I done so, I would have finished in sixth place," Nevo said.
"All in all I'm very pleased. This is the best achievement of my career. My goal was to reach the final and improve on my 11th place finish at the Beijing Olympics."
Nevo is only the fourth Israeli to reach a final at the world championships in an Olympic-sanctioned event.
Yoav Bruck was the first to do so in 1994, reaching the final of the 50-meter freestyle. Three years later, Eitan Urbach participated in the 100m backstroke final, with Yoav Gath the last to race in a final of an Olympic-sanctioned event, swimming in the world championships 200m backstroke final in 2001.
Vered Borochovsky (2001, 2003) and Miki Malul (2007) also competed in worlds finals, but did so in the non-Olympic 50m butterfly and 50m breaststroke, respectively, and both finished as high as sixth place.
Nevo finished the 200m IM and 400m IM in 13th and 11th place, respectively, at the Beijing Olympics and was superb all week in Rome, ending the 200m IM in ninth position and setting four Israeli records during the meet.
The past year has been the best of Nevo's career, with the Georgia Tech junior being named the Atlantic Coast Conference Male Swimmer of the Year after finishing second in the 400-yard IM in the NCAA Championships in March with a mark of 3:38.00m.
He also finished fourth at the NCAA meet in the 200-IM with a time of 1:42.79m. Both of those marks were Georgia Tech and ACC records.
On Sunday, Nevo was in sixth place in the final after finishing the opening 100-meter butterfly in 57.39s. He dropped to last in the race following the backstroke section (1:06.56m), but moved up to fifth after the breaststroke (1:09.63m).
He ended the race with 58.75s in the freestyle and held on for sixth position overall.
"The breaststroke section makes up for my poor backstroke," Nevo said.
"I've still got room for improvement in all of the swimming styles."
The final was won by Ryan Lochte, his fourth gold medal of the championships.
Taking advantage of Michael Phelps' absence, Lochte added the 400-meter individual medley title to his medal haul at the Foro Italico. Lochte also won the 200 IM along with two relay golds, in addition to taking bronze in the 200 backstroke.
Lochte was far off Phelps' world record in the 400 IM, touching first in 4 minutes, 7.01 seconds. Phelps won gold at Beijing in 4:03.84, but decided to scale back his program heading into what will be his final Olympics in 2012.
The Americans still went 1-2 even without Phelps. Tyler Clary came on strong in the freestyle to beat Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, taking silver in 4:07.31. Cseh settled for bronze at 4:07.37.
Also Sunday, Israel's 4x100 medley relay men's team broke the Israeli record by more than five seconds. Guy Barnea (54.29s, backstroke), Tom Be'eri (1:01.75m, breaststroke), Alon Mandel (51.60s, butterfly) and Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or (48.59s, freestyle) clocked a time of 3:36.23m to finish 17th overall.
AP contributed to this report