Ryan Lochte wrote another golden chapter in his memorable world championships yesterday as he pushed the US to a record fourth straight 4x200m freestyle win and claimed his third individual title.
The US team were lagging after out-of-sorts Michael Phelps’ lead-off leg, but Lochte demonstrated the form that brought him the individual 200m freestyle title as he overtook France’s Fabien Gilot on the penultimate turn.
Lochte’s efforts helped the US, who timed 7 minutes, 2.67 seconds to finish ahead of France and China, become the first team to win the event four times in a row, outstripping Australia’s treble between 1998 and 2003.
“Everyone did their own part. We went out there and just did our best, that’s all we did — and we came out with the win,” Lochte said.
It capped another bravura night for the 26-year-old, who has emerged from Phelps’ shadow with a world record in the 200m individual medley and doubled his personal tally to four gold medals yesterday.
The Olympic champion, whose medley record on Thursday was the first since high-tech swimsuits were banned last year, also led from start to finish in the 200m backstroke to reclaim the title he won in 2007.
Lochte timed 1 minute, 52.96 seconds ahead of Japan’s Ryosuke Irie and Tyler Clary of the US.
Meanwhile, Olympic champion Rebecca Soni stretched the US’ lead at the top of the medals table when she won the 200m breaststroke, adding to her 100m breaststroke title won earlier in Shanghai.
And Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta won an exciting duel with four-time Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima of Japan to retain his 200m breaststroke crown.
Gyurta, who came off second best to Kitajima in the 2004 Olympic final, overtook the “Frog King” over the last 50m to claim gold in 2:08.41. Germany’s Christian vom Lehn was third.
“I was the fourth in the 100m [breaststroke], but today I won the silver medal, so I feel happy. But in next year’s Olympic Games, my goal is to win the gold medal,” Kitajima said.
Also yesterday, the championships witnessed only their third ever dead-heat final — and the second this week — as Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Belarus and Denmark’s Jeanette Ottesen both finished the women’s 100m freestyle in 53.45.
The rare event happened after Camille Lacourt and Jeremy Stravius became France’s first male world champions with identical times in the 100m backstroke on Tuesday.
Before Shanghai, only one world final had been decided by a dead heat, when Italy’s Filippo Magnini and Canadian Brent Hayden shared the 100m freestyle title in 2007.
“I’m happy. Yes, I’m surprised,” Herasimenia said. “I believed I could do it, but I couldn’t be sure.”
Dutch swimmer Ranomi Kromowidjojo was awarded bronze and uncannily, there was another dead heat for fourth place between Britain’s Francesca Halsall and Femke Heemskerk of the Netherlands, who both clocked 53.72.
However, the evening again belonged to Lochte, a day after his 200m individual medley of 1:54.00 set the first world record in 19 months and beat Olympic champion Phelps in the process.
At the last world championships in 2009, polyurethane-clad swimmers set a whopping 43 world records in farcical scenes at Rome’s Foro Italico. The suits helped break more than 200 global bests before they were outlawed.
Phelps, the 14-time Olympic gold-medalist, has struggled to find his peak after long periods neglecting training, although he now has two gold medals including the 4x200m freestyle and his individual 200m butterfly title.
Also yesterday, Phelps was quickest into the 100m butterfly final with 51.47, outside his own world record, despite lagging in seventh place at the halfway point in his semi-final.
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