By Rod Gilmour
KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - Tyler Clary of the United States was forced to defend his team's performance at the world championships on Thursday as the Olympic champion advanced in the men's 200 meters backstroke.
Clary, 26, qualified sixth fastest for the 200m semi-finals later on Thursday, with Australia's Mitchell Larkin, world champion over 100m backstroke, putting in another assured performance to qualify fastest.
The 22-year-old recorded one minute 55.88 seconds in preliminary qualifying, as Ryosuke Rie of Japan secured second spot, 0.80 seconds behind the in-form Australian.
On Monday, the United States missed the medal podium for the first time in a single day at a world championships. At the half-way stage in Kazan, only Katie Ledecky has struck title-winning form, with the United States currently on three gold, one silver and four bronze.
"I'm tired of hearing how the team is doing," said Clary. "We are all sticking together and in 13 months time no one will care about what's happening here."
Meanwhile, Australia’s campaign continued to go from strength to strength after Cate Campbell, Australia's defending champion, led her sister, Bronte, into the women's 100m freestyle semi-finals.
Sarah Sjostrum of Sweden qualified equal fastest with Cate Campbell in 53.22 seconds, with Bronte in third, 0.28 seconds off the pace.
Inspired by the men's and women's 100m backstroke golds from Emily Seebohm and Larkin, Cate was hoping to continue Australia's "fabulous week of swimming."
Missy Franklin of the United States, searching for her first gold medal here, qualified in 10th.
In the women's 200m breaststroke, defending champion Yuliya Efimova of Russia failed to advance into the semi-finals.
World champion over 100m breaststroke, Efimova couldn’t replicate her form as she finished 0.22 seconds outside the qualifying berths, in 17th place.
Kanako Watanabe of Japan topped qualifying in 2:23.29 seconds.
Marco Koch of Germany's bid to add the men's 200 breaststroke title to his European crown remained on track when he progressed to the semi-finals with the morning’s best time, 2:09.12.
Britain's Andrew Willis advanced 0.23 seconds back, but Adam Peaty, world champion over 50m and 100m, produced a sluggish display and failed to qualify in 26th place.
"Most people in there haven’t done all three and winning medals takes a lot out of you," Peaty told reporters.
Italy held off the United States to secure a middle lane for the women’s 4x200m freestyle final. It meant that the United States failed to win a heat in Thursday's morning session.
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)