PERTH, AUSTRALIA, JAN. 13 (SUNDAY) -- American Melvin Stewart broke the world record Saturday night in the men's 200-meter butterfly with a time of 1 minute 55.69 seconds at the World Swimming Championships and ended the eight-year reign of German Michael Gross in the event. But David Wharton lost his opportunity to better his own world record in the 200 individual medley when he missed qualifying for the finals by one spot Sunday.

Gross, winner of four world-championship golds and the 200 butterfly title holder since 1982, led by .32 seconds with 100 meters to go. "At 150 {meters}, I was hurting, but I thought, 'This is the world championships,' and I went as hard as I could," said Stewart.

He passed Gross with about 30 meters left, finished 1.09 seconds in front (Hungary's Tamas Darnyi was third) and cut .55 seconds off Gross's 1986 world mark. "When I looked up and saw 1:55 on the scoreboard, I thought, 'Wow, I did that,' " he said.

Mike Barrowman of Potomac, Md., who broke the world mark in the 200 breaststroke Friday, shares a room with Stewart at the U.S. team's hotel. "I had to break the world record or get kicked out of my room," Stewart said.

Stewart, a free spirit from South Carolina, was sent to boarding school for discipline. One day, school officials spotted him, naked, in the girls' dorm. "It was 2 a.m.," he confessed.

When he swims, he routinely leaves tickets at the box office for rock 'n' roll legend Elvis Presley, who died more than a decade ago but is the subject of mysterious spottings. Stewart is sponsored by a Las Vegas casino, which has promised him $100,000 if he breaks the world record in a U.S. national or open meet. That agreement didn't cover the world championships.

Wharton, who has held the world record of 2:00.11 for almost two years, was ninth in the morning heats at 2:03.85, .09 seconds behind Germany's Peter Bermel, the slowest finalist. Wharton, among the world's best in the event for six years, also missed the 1988 Olympic 200 IM finals.

Darnyi, who won the 400 IM in world-record time Tuesday, was fastest in 200 qualifying at 2:01.82. American Eric Namesnik qualified third in 2:02.84.

Saturday, U.S. swimmers won five of six gold medals, with Tom Jager in the men's 50 freestyle (edging teammate Matt Biondi by .10 seconds), Janet Evans in the women's 800 freestyle, Jeff Rouse in the men's 100 backstroke and the women's 400 medley relay team taking the other titles.

Jager, Evans and Rouse all set meet records and the medley relay squad, anchored by Nicole Haislett in a remarkable 54.76, set a U.S. record. The night's sixth gold went to Lin Li of China, who beat Summer Sanders of the United States in the women's 200 IM.

The U.S. synchronized swim team, with perfect marks for artistic impression, also took gold, beating Canada. The Netherlands won the women's water polo gold with a 13-6 victory over Canada. The United States took bronze, beating Hungary 11-9.