By Rod Gilmour
KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - American swimming great Ryan Lochte became only the second man to win titles in the same event in four consecutive world championships when he triumphed in the 200 meters individual medley on Thursday.
The five-time Olympic champion emulated the feat of Australian Grant Hackett, who won four 1,500 meters titles in a row between 1998 and 2005.
Victory for Lochte was secured in the final length as a powerful surge off the wall, using a new rotational technique he has introduced only over the last three months, saw him overtake long-time leader Thiago Pereira.
Lochte, who first landed the 200m IM title in Rome in 2009 and has now won at least one gold at the last six editions of the championships stretching back to Montreal 10 years ago, won in one minute 55.81 seconds.
The Brazilian Pereira claimed silver in 1:56.65 while Shun Wang, of China, took bronze.
Following a poor US trials, Lochte has competed in fewer events at these championships than at any time in the last 11 years.
Yet after finishing outside the medals in the 200m freestyle, his medley gold -- the 16th world title of his glittering career -- demonstrated why the 31-year-old is still a major force in the pool.
China's Ning Zetao surged to the men's 100m freestyle title, denting pre-race favorite Cameron McEvoy's bid to succeed compatriot James Magnussen, the two-time Australian champion who was forced to pull out of the championships with a shoulder injury.
Ning led from the outset, touching in 47.84 seconds, with McEvoy taking silver, 0.11sec behind, and Argentina's Federico Grabich securing bronze.
China's golden evening continued in the women's 50m backstroke when Yuanhui Fu took gold in 27.11 seconds. Etiene Medeiros of Brazil touched second in 27.26 while Xiang Liu claimed bronze.
Natsumi Hoshi, of Japan, won her first global title in the 200m butterfly, clocking 2 minutes 05.56 seconds, ahead of American Cammile Adam and China's Zhang Yufei.
The United States won their second gold of the evening when 18-year-old Katie Ledecky, following her three individual wins, added a fourth gold in the 4x200m freestyle.
Ledecky and Sweden's Ida Marko-Varga were neck and neck going into the anchor leg before the American powered to gold in 7 minutes 45.37 seconds.
Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom qualified fastest for Friday's 100m freestyle final, while American star Missy Franklin secured an outside lane in the final by 0.01 seconds.
(Editing by Ian Chadband)