Ryan Lochte became the second swimmer to win four straight World Championships in one event, taking the 200m individual medley in Kazan, Russia, on Thursday, despite saying going in that he heard he might get disqualified.
Katie Ledecky anchored the U.S. women’s 4x200m freestyle relay to win her fourth gold medal of the meet, giving her eight gold medals in eight career Worlds events over 2013 and 2015. Missy Franklin led off that relay to pick up her 10th career Worlds gold, breaking her tie with retired Australian Libby Trickett for most by a woman.
In the men’s 200m IM, Lochte clocked 1:55.81, the fastest time in the world this year, to win by .84 over Brazil’s Thiago Pereira. China’s Wang Shun earned bronze.
“Just goes to show all that hard work and dedication I’ve put in the pool, I mean it pays off,” Lochte, who had a poor 2014 following tearing an MCL after a fan ran into him, he fell and hit a curb in fall 2013, told Michele Tafoya on Universal Sports. “This is just kind of a stepping stone to what I want to accomplish in Rio.”
Lochte said he risked disqualification with a new strategy he uses on the turn off the wall at 150 meters, switching from breaststroke to the final 50 meters of freestyle. Lochte swims on his back off that wall before turning to the freestyle, while everyone else stays more or less on their belly.
Rowdy Gaines and Dan Hicks said on Universal Sports that an Australian judge who stood over Lochte’s lane at the 150-meter turn might have tried to disqualify Lochte.
“I’ve never heard a rule saying that you can’t do that, but I think they’re going to start changing the rules now,” Lochte told Tafoya. “I took that chance tonight going into it. They said you might get disqualified.”
Lochte’s win came against a field that did not include Olympic champion Michael Phelps or the two other fastest 200m IM swimmers each of the last two years — Japan’s Kosuke Hagino (injured) and Daiya Seto (failed to advance out of semis).
“There was a couple of people that weren’t in that race, but there’s no doubt in my mind that there was other people there to push me,” Lochte said on Eurosport.
Lochte, 31, became the second swimmer to win the same Worlds event four straight times. Australia’s Grant Hackett did so in the 1500m freestyle from 1998 through 2005. Hackett, 35, is competing in the 4x200m free relay in Kazan, his first Worlds in eight years.
Lochte also became the second swimmer to earn a medal in the same Worlds event six straight times. Italy’s Federica Pellegrini accomplished the feat in the women’s 200m freestyle Wednesday.
Lochte’s individual events are finished at Worlds, his lightest individual workload at a major international meet in 11 years. In his other event, he finished fourth in the 200m freestyle. Lochte is likely to be part of the U.S. 4x200m free relay on Friday.
He said that Michael Phelps emailed him earlier this week after the U.S. started the meet poorly. The U.S. is now up to 11 medals and five golds, both leading the medal standings after five of eight days. Its fewest medals won at a Worlds or Olympics in the last 50 years was 21 at the 1994 Worlds.
Phelps is not swimming at Worlds as part of his punishment for a September DUI arrest.
“He emailed me saying good luck, you’re like one of the older men on the team, so you’ve got to push through from Team USA and get them going because you’re a leader now,” Lochte said on Eurosport. “I’m not there to help you. I’m like, yeah, we miss him. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s definitely missed. But like I said, the biggest picture is Rio, and I know he’ll be there, and he’ll be fired up for that.”
In other finals Thursday, Franklin and Ledecky led the U.S. women’s 4x200m free relay to a 3.04-second win over Italy and China. They switched spots in the relay order from 2013, when Ledecky led off and Franklin anchored.
Sarah Sjostrom led off the relay with the fastest split of the field in 1:54.31, a time that would have beaten Ledecky for gold in the individual 200m freestyle on Wednesday. Ledecky won that race in 1:55.16. Sjostrom opted not to swim the individual 200m free in Kazan.
The U.S. closed the gap on Sweden to within .34 for Ledecky’s anchor leg. Ledecky easily moved into gold-medal position and clocked 1:55.64 on her split.
Ledecky will swim the 800m freestyle Saturday, looking to become the first swimmer to win the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees at one Worlds. She can also become the second swimmer to win four individual events at a Worlds, joining Lochte and Phelps.
Franklin will swim the 100m freestyle final Friday and the 200m backstroke final Saturday. She’s still looking for her first individual gold medal of the meet after winning three individual events in 2013.
In the men’s 100m freestyle Thursday, U.S. Olympic champion Nathan Adrian tied for seventh. Ning Zetao, who was handed a one-year doping ban in 2011, became the first Chinese man to win an Olympic or World title in an event shorter than 400 meters. Australia’s Cameron McEvoy took silver followed by Argentina’s Federico Grabich for bronze.
“He underperformed a little bit,” Russian two-time Olympic 100m freestyle champion Alexander Popov said of McEvoy on Eurosport.
Cammile Adams took silver in the 200m butterfly for her first Worlds medal, coming from seventh place after 100 meters and fifth after 150. Adams finished fifth at the 2012 Olympics and seventh at the 2013 World Championships.
The U.S. has won a medal in every women’s swimming event at one of the last two Olympics, except the 200m butterfly. The last U.S. woman to win an Olympic 200m butterfly medal was Misty Hyman‘s surprise gold at Sydney 2000.
Japan’s Natsumi Hoshi took the gold in 2:05.56, followed by Adams in 2:06.40 and China’s Zhang Yufei in 2:06.51. Hoshi won the first World Championships gold by a Japanese woman, after 24 combined silver and bronze medals.
China’s Fu Yuanhui took the women’s 50m backstroke title. No Americans were in the final, and the event is not part of the Olympic program. Fu was fourth in the 100m back Tuesday.
In semifinals Thursday, Franklin advanced to Friday’s 100m freestyle final by .01 as the eighth and final qualifier. Franklin was fourth in the event at the 2013 Worlds and fifth at the 2012 Olympics. Countrywoman Simone Manuel qualified sixth into the final.
The favorites are fastest qualifier Swede Sarah Sjostrom and Australian sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell.
Ryan Murphy and Olympic champion Tyler Clary qualified second and seventh into Friday’s 200m backstroke final. An American has won this event at each of the last 20 major international meets.
American Micah Lawrence was the No. 2 qualifier into Friday’s 200m breaststroke final behind Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen. Lawrence won bronze two years ago, with Pedersen earning bronze. The 2013 World champion Yulia Efimova of Russia failed to advance out of the morning heats.
American Kevin Cordes was the fourth qualifier into Friday’s men’s 200m breast final. Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta will try to match Lochte and Hackett with a fourth straight World title Friday.
Men’s 200m Individual Medley
Gold: Ryan Lochte (USA) — 1:55.81
Silver: Thiago Pereira (BRA) — 1:56.65
Bronze: Wang Shun (CHN) — 1:56.81
4. Daniel John Wallace (GBR) — 1:57.59
5. Conor Dwyer (USA) — 1:57.96
6. Marcin Cieslak (POL) — 1:58.14
7. Henrique Rodriguez (BRA) — 1:58.52
8. Simon Sjodin (SWE) — 1:59.06
Men’s 100m Freestyle
Gold: Ning Zetao (CHN) — 47.84
Silver: Cameron McEvoy (AUS) — 47.95
Bronze: Federico Grabich (ARG) — 48.12
4. Santo Condorelli (CAN) — 48.19
5. Marcelo Chierighini (BRA) — 48.27
6. Alexander Sukhorukov (RUS) — 48.28
7. Nathan Adrian (USA) — 48.31
7. Pieter Timmers (BEL) — 48.31
Women’s 200m Butterfly
Gold: Natsumi Hoshi (JPN) — 2:05.56
Silver: Cammile Adams (USA) — 2:06.40
Bronze: Zhang Yufei (CHN) — 2:06.51
4. Brianna Throssell (AUS) — 2:06.78
4. Franziska Hentke (GER) — 2:06.78
6. Katie McLaughlin (USA) — 2:06.95
7. Liliana Szilagyi (HUN) — 2:07.76
8. Zhou Yilin (CHN) — 2:10.20
Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay
Gold: U.S. — 7:45.37
Silver: Italy — 7:48.41
Bronze: China — 7:49.10
4. Sweden — 7:50.24
5. Great Britain — 7:50.60
6. Australia — 7:51.02
7. Japan — 7:54.62
8. France — 7:55.98