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Continued: Franklin, Ledecky claim gold at swimming worlds, but Phelps-less men can't hold off French

  • Article by: PAUL NEWBERRY , AP National Writer
  • Last update: July 28, 2013 - 3:40 PM

Even so, Agnel was asked whether he was glad to see Phelps in the stands rather than in the pool.

"I don't understand the question," the Frenchman quipped.

No swimmer has ever won eight golds at the world championships. Phelps came oh-so-close in 2007 when he won his first seven events but never got a chance in the eighth. The Americans were disqualified in the preliminaries of the 400 medley relay while Phelps was resting up to swim in the final.

The following year, of course, he won a record eight golds on a much bigger stage, the Beijing Olympics.

Franklin, now 18 and getting ready to go off to college at Cal-Berkeley, won four golds and a bronze in London. She just missed out on medals in the 100 and 200 free — events she will again swim at the worlds along the 50 back, a non-Olympic event.

"I'm right where I was last summer, which gives me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the meet," Franklin said. "I think I am a little stronger in my backstrokes than my freestyles, but I've done a lot of work on my freestyle the past year so I really hope that it's going to be up there."

She was far behind on the opening leg after a blistering start by Australia's Cate Campbell. Coughlin and Shannon Vreeland chipped away at the Aussie lead before Romano finished the job. She edged Coutts by 0.12 seconds with a winning time of 3:32.43. The Netherlands finished another 3 seconds behind for the bronze.

"I just love to race. And relays are awesome," Romano said. "It's great competing for these girls next to me. I was doing it for them. It's fun and I love it. I can't not go fast."

Ditto for Ledecky, who's also planning a grueling program at these worlds that includes the 800 and 1,500 free. It looks likes she can handle the load, her star still on the rise after a stunning gold medal in the 800 at the London Olympics when she was a complete unknown internationally.

"It is easier," she said. "I am a lot more relaxed on the international stage after having the Olympics as a first international competition. It's just great to get back to a top international competition and to do well."

The only drama in her race was whether the world record would fall. She was on pace much of the race before winning with a time of 3:59.82 — a mere 0.67 seconds off the mark set by Italy's Federica Pelligrini back in 2009 in one of those rubberized suits that are no longer allowed.

Melanie Costa of Spain took silver in 4:02.47, while the bronze went to New Zealand's Lauren Boyle in 4:03.89.

"I'm still in shock over the time," Ledecky said. "The U.S. has such a great tradition of distance swimmers, so I'm just trying to do my best to live up to that."

Sun looked as though he barely exerted himself winning the first final of the night.

The towering swimmer hopped out of the pool and flexed his fists for the crowd after winning the men's 400 free in 3:41.59, far ahead of silver medalist Kosuke Hagino of Japan (3:44.82). Jaeger was next in 3:44.85.

"I had a pretty good time for me because I don't have a major challenger here," said Sun, who won two golds, a silver and a bronze at the London Games. "If I had had one, I would have gone a lot faster."

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