Franklin captures fifth gold

US teen swimming sensation wins record-equalling fifth gold medal at world championships in 200m backstroke final.

    Franklin captures fifth gold
    Franklin has already secured gold in the 100 backstroke, 200 freestyle and the 4x100 and 4x200 freestyle relays [AFP]

    Missy Franklin got back to winning at the world swimming championships, and now she's joined a very select club. With one more victory, she'll really be in some elite company.

    Franklin won her fifth gold medal of the championships with an easy victory in the 200-metre backstroke Saturday, tying the record for most victories by a female at the biennial world meet.

    The 18-year-old American matched Tracy Caulkins of the US, who won five times at the 1978 worlds in Berlin, and Libby Trickett of Australia, who did it at her home championships in Melbourne six years ago.

    Franklin has one event remaining - the 400 medley relay - and a chance to join Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Kristin Otto as the only swimmers to win as many as six golds at the worlds or the Olympics.

    Chasing history

    The winning time was 2 minutes, 4.76 seconds. Belinda Hocking of Australia took the silver, more than a body length behind Franklin, while Canada's Hilary Caldwell claimed the bronze.

    "That was awesome,'' said Franklin, who has already bettered her performance at the London Olympics, where she won four golds and a bronze.

    "The 200 back is my favourite race, but it's probably my most painful.''

    If she was hurting, it sure didn't show. Midway through the race, Franklin has already pulled out to a comfortable lead. Everyone else was chasing the other two spots on the podium. She was chasing history.

    "It's incredible,'' she said.

    "I couldn't have ever imagined this coming into the meet. It's nice knowing after London that I was still able to motivate myself and all that work that I put in this past year has still really been worth it and I've been able to do what I've been done here.''

    Meanwhile, after an epic night of swimming, Ryan Lochte finally ran out of gas on his 29th birthday.

    He had the top time coming into the final of the 100 butterfly, but only managed a sixth-place finish. Chad le Clos won the gold, leaving no doubt he is the new kind of the fly as long as Michael Phelps stays in retirement.

    The personable South African touched in 51.06, completing a sweep of the 100 and the 200 in Barcelona. Laszlo Cseh of Hungary claimed the silver, while Poland's Konrad Czerniak picked up the bronze.

    The previous night, Lochte pulled off a stunning triple, winning two gold medals and setting a personal best in the 100 fly semi-finals. But he couldn't match it in the final, trailing all the way and finishing in 51.58 - a tenth of a second slower than the previous day, even though he was better rested.

    Cielo victory

    The Americans also faltered in the 50 freestyle as Brazil's Cesar Cielo won his third straight world title.

    Despite undergoing surgery on both knees after the Olympics, and not even bothering to enter the 100 free, Cielo showed he's still the man to beat in the furious, foamy dash from one end of the pool to the other. His time was 21.32, edging Russia's Vladimir Morozov by 0.15. The bronze went to George Bovell of Trinidad.

    In a star-studded final, Nathan Adrian of the US only managed fourth, reigning Olympic champion Florent Manaudou was fifth, and American Anthony Ervin sixth.

    Cielo celebrated wildly, screaming and pumping his fists while straddling a lane rope. Then, as always, the tears flowed freely while the rousing Brazilian anthem played and his country's flag was raised toward the roof of the Palau Sant Jordi.

    Jeanette Ottesen Gray of Denmark won gold in the 50 butterfly, a non-Olympic event. She touched in 25.24. China's Lu Ying claimed the silver, while the bronze went to Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands. American Dana Vollmer finished last in the eight-woman field.

    Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania broke a world record that was set only hours earlier in the women's 50 breaststroke. In the second semi-final heat, Meilutyte ripped off a time of 29.48, beating the mark set in the morning preliminaries by Russia's Yuliya Efimova.

    Efimova was swimming the same heat as the 16-year-old and touched second in 29.88, just off the mark of 29.78 she held for not even a day. She had broken the previous record set by American Jessica Hardy in 2009 at the height of the rubberised suit era, 29.80.

    The 50 breaststroke is another event not on the Olympic program. Still, it goes down as the second world record for Meilutyte at these championships. She also set one in the semi-finals of the 100 breast before winning gold in the final.

    As for Franklin, she's got a whole bunch of golds to lug home to Colorado. And maybe one more to go.

    "I'll probably just throw 'em in my swim bag and carry 'em on,'' she joked.



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