Ryan Lochte claims 3 more golds


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Ryan Lochte won three more events at the short-course world championships Sunday and headed home with an impressive haul of six golds and one silver.

On the final night of competition, Lochte started off with personal victories in the 200 backstroke and 100 individual medley, and then pushed the United States ahead of Russia in the third leg of the 400 medley relay and celebrated as teammate Garrett Weber-Gale held on for the win.

It was a fitting end for Lochte and the normally dominant U.S. team, which failed to win any of the other relays -- in both the men's and women's competitions.

Lochte won all five of his individual events, and six of his eight events overall. He failed to win a medal in just one event -- the 400 freestyle relay on the opening night when the Americans finished fourth.

In two of his events -- the 200 and 400 IM's -- Lochte set world records, the only individual world records set all year in swimming after high-tech bodysuits were banned at the start of 2010.

"I guess I ended the year pretty good. All that hard work that I've done, it pays off," Lochte said. "I was just happy to get a world record without those suits."

Lochte led off his busy final night by posting a championship-record time of 1 minute, 46.68 seconds in the 200 back, a massive 2.41 ahead of American teammate Tyler Clary. Fighting off fatigue, the Floridian then won the 100 IM in 50.86, 0.05 off his semifinal time but still 0.83 ahead of runner-up Markus Deibler of Germany.

"I messed up a couple turns," Lochte said of the 100 IM. "I felt it a lot in my legs after the 200 back, but it's around the time I went in semis so I'll take it."

The Americans won the relay in 3:20.99, 0.62 ahead of Russia.

"I told myself this afternoon we had to pound the American flag into the ground here and finish it off with a gold medal in that relay," said Weber-Gale. "I just knew that no matter what we had to do we were going to get it done. We had to."

Also Sunday, Cesar Cielo completed a sweep of the sprint events, duplicating his feat at last year's long-course worlds in Rome.

Cielo won the 100-meter freestyle in a championship-record 45.74 seconds, adding to his 50 free title from Friday.

The Brazilian was ahead of world-record pace at the race's midpoint, but couldn't maintain his blistering speed.

"It was harder than I expected. I thought I was going to be faster but a gold is always a gold," Cielo said.

The Brazilian, who also won the 50 free at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is already looking to the 2012 London Olympics and beyond.

"I'm hoping to stay at the top of my game until Brazil 2016," he said. "I'm going to have to keep training harder and harder."

Fabien Gilot of France finished second, 0.23 behind, and Nikita Lobintsev of Russia touched third, 0.61 back, while Olympic champion Alain Bernard of France settled for fourth, 0.63 out.

Dutch sprinter Ranomi Kromowidjojo also completed a sprint sweep, winning the women's 50 free in 23.37 for her third gold. She also anchored the Netherlands to victory in the 400 free relay.

Cielo got two bronzes with Brazil in the relays.

American breaststroker Rebecca Soni also completed a sweep, adding the 200 title to her 50 and 100 victories to end the meet with three golds, plus a relay silver.

With Australian rival Leisel Jones sitting out, Soni won the 200 in a championship-record 2:16.39, 1.70 in front of China's Sun Ye and 2.43 ahead of Denmark's Rikke Moller Pedersen.

Felicity Galvez gave Australia its long-awaited first gold of the competition in the 100 buttterfly, posting a championship-record 55.43 to edge Swedish veteran Therese Alshammar by 0.30.

Australia hasn't gone without gold at a short- or long-course worlds since 1986 but was missing several top swimmers here after a busy season that included the Pan Pacific championships and the Commonwealth Games.

"I had some down time today to think and I thought we haven't got a gold for Australia all through this meet and I just thought to go out there and get it," Galvez said.

Also, Olympic champion Oussama Mellouli won the grueling 1,500 to the beat of a large throng of festive Tunisian fans; and Camille Muffat of France edged American Katie Hoff in the 200 free, while Olympic and world champion Federica Pellegrini finished seventh for her first loss in the 200 in nearly four years.