By Sharon Robb
August 6, 2015—After a disappointing few days at the XVI FINA World Aquatic Championships, Ryan Lochte won his first gold medal of the week Thursday at Kazan Arena in Russia.
Lochte, 31, of Daytona Beach, defended his title in the 200-meter individual medley for his fourth straight crown in the event and 24th world championship medal, second only to Michael Phelps’ career total of 33 and 16th goal.
Lochte is the first man to win four straight world titles. Aussie Grant Hackett was the first winning the 1500-meter freestyle (1998-2005).
Lochte won in 1:55.81, the fastest time in the world this year. Brazil’s Thiago Pereira took the silver in 1:56.65 and China’s Wang Shun earned the bronze in 1:56.81.
Lochte was trailing Pereira until the breaststroke to freestyle turn after his underwater kick on his back. His splits were 25.10, 29.29, 33.34 and 28.08.
“Just goes to show all that hard work and dedication I’ve put in the pool, I mean it pays off,” Lochte said.
“This is just kind of a stepping stone to what I want to accomplish in Rio.”
Before the race, Lochte had heard he might get disqualified if he used his new turn off the wall at the 150-meter mark where he switches from breaststroke to the freestyle. Lochte swims on his back off that wall before turning to the freestyle while the rest of the field stays on their belly.
Even NBC color analyst Rowdy Gaines tweeted, “Just an FYI, they are looking to find a way to DQ Ryan tonight on his breast to free exchange…stay tuned.”
“I’ve never heard a rule saying that you can’t do that, but I think they are going to start changing the rules now,” Lochte said. “I took that chance tonight going into it when they said I might get disqualified.”
The championship final featured four Florida Gators or Gator Swim Club swimmers including Lochte.
Great Britain’s Dan Wallace of the Gator Swim Club was fourth in 1:57.59 and for the third time broke his own Scottish national record in 1:57.59, taking more than a second off his time.
Gator alum Conor Dwyer of Team USA was fifth in 1:57.96 and Poland’s Marcin Cieslak was sixth in 1:58.14, bettering his own four-year-old national record. It was the first time he dipped under 1:59 at a world championship meet.
Colombia’s Jorge Murillo Valdes of South Florida Aquatic Club was 32nd in the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:14.92.
In Thursday’s other championship finals:
In a historic moment in the 100-meter freestyle, Ning Zetao, who served a one-year doping ban in 2011, became the first Chinese male swimmer to win an Olympic or World title in an event shorter than 400 meters. He won in 47.84. Aussie Cameron McEvoy was second in 47.95 and Argentina’s Federico Grabich was third in a national record 48.12, winning the first world medal ever for Argentina. U.S. Olympian Nathan Adrian tied for a disappointing seventh. No U.S. swimmer has won a gold medal in the event since 2001.
Friday’s men’s events are: 50-meter freestyle heat and semifinals; 100-meter butterfly heat and semifinals; 4×200-meter freestyle heat and final; 200-meter backstroke final; and 200-meter breaststroke.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org