BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 03: Missy Franklin of the USA celebrates after the Swimming Women's Backstroke 200m Final on day fifteen of the 15th FINA World Championships at Palau Sant Jordi on August 3, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Barcelona – Going into the 15th Fina World Championships, there was speculation whether swimming would ever be the same after Michael Phelps' retirement.

The US star won an unprecedented 18 gold medals at the Olympics and 26 at the long-course world championships, but retired after the London Olympics last year.

He grabbed his share of the headlines in the first few days of the swimming competition this time around again as he made a sponsor's appearance at the Palau Sant Jordi pool in Barcelona – venue of the swimming competition.

Speculation whether he will attempt a come-back for Rio 2016 dominated the headlines the next day and there was – albeit much more low-keyed than previously – the Phelps-hype.

But that lasted a day – possibly two and then swimming and actual swimmers, rather than retired swimmers, took over.

American Missy Franklin grabbed most of the headlines as she attempted an unprecedented – for women or men – eight world championship gold medals.

The 18-year-old gave up on her quest on Wednesday as she withdrew from the 50m backstroke after finishing a disappointing 13th in the heats.

She also failed to medal in the women's 100m freestyle, coming fourth.

She did though, win gold in her other six starts (100 and 200m backstroke, 200m freestyle and the three relays), becoming the first woman to win more than five golds in a single competition. She also became the swimmer with the most gold medals overall as the six from Barcelona took her tally to nine after she won three in Shanghai.

Franklin, who won four gold medals in London, said she was happy with her performance. “Coming into this meet I wanted to see where I was after London, its an unknown year and so many things that can happen.

“I had great races and some that still need work so I am really excited for the next few years,” she said.

Team-mate Katie Ledecky was another star to shine brightly - breaking two world records and winning a long-distance freestyle gold sweep (400, 800 and 1,500m) and adding gold from the 4x200m freestyle relay.

She received the trophy for the best swimmer of the meet.

Other stand-out performances were 16-year-old Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte, who won gold in the 100m breaststroke and silver in the 50m and broke two world records, and Russian Yuliya Efimova, who won 50 and 200m breaststroke and silver in the 100m.

On the men's side, the medals were more evenly spread, as American Ryan Lochte and China's Sun Yang both won three gold – Sun with a freestyle sweep like Ledecky's.

And like the young American, Sun was recognised as the best swimmer of the meet.

Lochte was denied a fourth gold medal on the final day of competition as drama unfolded around the US medley relay team, that cruised to victory, but were later disqualified over an early start.

There were, of course, also the disappointments.

As a team, Germany, Great Britain and to some extent the Netherlands stayed well behind their expectations.

Germany picked up only a silver through breaststroker Marco Koch, while Britain had to wait until the very last day before Francesca Halsall finally picked up bronze in the women's 50m freestyle.

Fans in the packed Palau Sant Jordi pool also waited in vain for a local winner, though Mireia Belmonte gave them two silver and a bronze and Melanie Costa added another silver.

Individually, the biggest disappointment was Chinese teenager Ye Shiwen, who sensationally won both women's medleys in London, but failed to get anywhere near the times she swam then.

The president of the sports' controlling body, Fina, Julio Maglione said the championships had been a huge success.”Our best athletes performed at the highest level with remarkable results.

“The venues, the spectators, the organisation and the hosts' hospitality were amazing”, he added.

At the end of the closing ceremony the Fina flag was officially given to Ilsur Raisovich Metshin, the mayor of Kazan – the Russian city that will host the next world championships in 2015. – Sapa-dpa