After a disappointing start to the world swimming championships, Ryan Lochte reminded everyone that at 31 he’s still got gold in him. The American made history on Thursday, becoming the first man to win the 200-meter individual medley four consecutive times. Lochte trailed through the first three legs but came home strong on the freestyle lap and touched first in 1 minute, 55.81 seconds.
Thiago Pereira of Brazil finished second in 1:56.65, and Wang Shun of China was third in 1:56.81. It was Lochte’s 24th world championships medal — second only to Phelps’ career total of 33 — and his 16th gold.
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The US has won the event seven consecutive times, starting with Phelps’ three titles in 2003, 2005, and 2007. Lochte picked up the mantle with previous victories in 2009, 2011, and 2013. Grant Hackett of Australia won the 1,500 freestyle four times at the worlds.
It was the seventh medal won by the US team in Kazan, and the first gold by a man. Katie Ledecky has won three golds and set two world records for the Americans. Like much of the U.S. team, Lochte got off to a slow start, finishing fourth in the 200 freestyle.
He kept it low key after hitting the wall, exchanging a hand clasp with Pereira, who was in the lane next to him. Lochte has swam just two individual events, although he could be selected for the remaining relays.
Pereira led the backstroke and breaststroke legs before Lochte overtook the Brazilian midway through the final lap.
“I thought I could break 1:56 but I couldn’t,” Pereira said. “I’m happy with a medal, and right now this is just good training. I’m looking forward because we have a year to go to the Olympics in Rio, in my country.”
Ning Zetao of China led all the way to win the 100 freestyle in a race missing two key competitors. Ning touched first in 47.84 seconds. He swept the 50 and 100 freestyles at last year’s Asian Games, becoming the first Asian swimmer to break the 48-second barrier.