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Katie Ledecky, Ryan Lochte lead U.S. at world swim championships

Katie Ledecky, Ryan Lochte lead U.S. at world swim championships
Ryan Lochte of the United States poses with his gold medal after winning the men's 200m individual medley for the fourth consecutive time at the FINA World Championships. (Christophe Simon / AFP/Getty Images)

Katie Ledecky just keeps winning at the world swimming championships.

Ryan Lochte

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is back on top, too, and together he and Ledecky carried the United States to its first two-gold medal night of the eight-day meet Thursday.

Ledecky anchored a 3.04-second comeback victory in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay for her fourth gold. Lochte won a record fourth consecutive title in the 200 individual medley.

“We had a great night,” Ledecky said. “We're really getting some momentum and showing what we can do.”

Missy Franklin

led off the relay for the Americans, and

Leah Smith

and

Katie McLaughlin

kept them within striking distance of Sweden, which was under world-record pace for much of the 16-lap race.

Ledecky dived in and quickly pulled even with Swedish anchor

Ida Marko-Varga

. The American teenager opened a slight lead at 700 meters and extended it to a body length before powering home in 7 minutes, 45.37 seconds.

“I knew I could bring it home and get this thing done,” said Ledecky, who climbed out of the pool and into an embrace with her teammates. “We had a blast out there. We were so relaxed.”

It was the third straight victory in the 4x200 relay for the U.S. at the worlds.

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Italy earned silver in 7:48.41. China took bronze in 7:49.10. The Swedes faded to fourth.

Ledecky won the 200 free on Wednesday, to go with victories in the 400 and 1,500 freestyles. She set two world records in the longest distance race for women.

“She's phenomenal. She's a beast,” Lochte said of his 18-year-old teammate. “Between my win and her world records, hopefully it got Team USA on a roll.”

Michael Phelps

put in his two cents' from half a world away, texting Lochte and urging him to be more of a leader with the U.S. team. Phelps qualified for the worlds but wasn't in Kazan as part of his punishment by USA Swimming for a second drunk-driving arrest. He's competing at the U.S. nationals in Texas this week.

“He's right,” Lochte said. “I've got to be the team leader, whether it's in the pool or out of the pool, cheering, getting them going.”

After a fourth-place finish in the 200 free, Lochte made history in the 200 IM. He trailed through the first three legs but came home strong on the freestyle lap and won in 1:55.81.

“That's the coolest thing,” Lochte said.

He joined

Grant Hackett

of Australia as four-time champions of their respective events. Hackett once dominated the 1,500 free.

“I'm definitely really humbled,” Lochte said.

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.

The U.S. 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.

Lochte kept it low-key after hitting the wall, exchanging a hand clasp with Pereira, who was in the lane next to him. Lochte had 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.”

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