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US swimmer Marshall sets unlikely world record

Nov. 11, 2008, 6:48 p.m. (ET)

After missing out on the Beijing Olympics, Peter Marshall planned to swim a few more meets, then call it a career.

He might want to reconsider.

With little training, the 26-year-old American set a short-course world record Tuesday in the 100-meter backstroke at a World Cup meet in Stockholm, Sweden. He touched in 49.94 seconds, breaking Ryan Lochte's record of 49.99 set two years ago.

``I really had no clue this was going to happen,'' Marshall told The Associated Press when reached on his cell phone after finishing up a celebratory dinner. ``I had not been close to that time in four years.''

Marshall, an Atlanta native who starred on the Stanford swim team, set a world record in the same event in 2004 but was denied a spot on the Athens Olympic team by a mere four-hundredths of a second, the biggest disappointment of his career. He returned for this year's trials in Omaha, Neb., but failed to make the 100 back final.

Believing that would be his final meet, Marshall didn't train at all for the next two months. He went camping at Yosemite National Park. He visited family in Georgia. He hung out with old friends and did a little surfing.

``I didn't even touch the water unless I was on a surfboard,'' he said.

After the layoff, Marshall made a slight revision in the rest-of-his-life schedule. He decided to swim a handful of World Cup events in the fall before retiring.

``I thought, shoot, I'll use these World Cup meets to travel around the world and get someone else to pay for my hotels and airplane flights,'' he joked.

Marshall had planned for next week's meet in Berlin, Germany to be his last. Now, he's having second thoughts, though a monthlong, fun-only trip to Southeast Asia with some former college roommates remains on the agenda.

``I don't know what I'm going to do,'' Marshall said. ``If I can go that fast without training, why retire?''

Marshall wasn't the only swimmer to set a world record in Stockholm.

South African Cameron van der Burgh broke his own 50-meter breaststroke mark with a time of 25.94, becoming the first swimmer to go under 26 seconds in the event.

But that mark was no surprise. Van der Burgh had set the previous record Saturday at a World Cup meet in Moscow, becoming the first African man to hold a breaststroke record.

Marshall was in disbelief when he saw his time.

``I was just trying to get far ahead so that when I died, I didn't die too bad,'' he said. ``It's so weird how things work out. You can't plan for it. It's so random. I was talking to a couple of my buddies, and we were saying that it really is somewhat of an art form. You have no clue when these things are going to pop up.''

Marshall, who majored in economics at Stanford, hasn't decided what sort of career he wants to pursue after swimming.

Maybe he can put off his choice a little longer.

``It's one of those things where you can go out with a world record, or you can keep going. How do I want it to end?'' Marshall said. ``I was telling everyone who asked me before this trip, 'Oh yeah, I'm done with swimming. I'm ready to be done.' Then something like this happens.

``Am I ready to be done? I don't know. I need to think about that.''