Swimming: Lochte dominates medley heats after freestyle flop, Chinese star in other events

Ryan Lochte in the preliminary heats of the men's 200m individual medley at the 2015 FINA World Championships Aug 5, 2015.
Ryan Lochte in the preliminary heats of the men's 200m individual medley at the 2015 FINA World Championships Aug 5, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

KAZAN, Russia (REUTERS) - Ryan Lochte of the United States was back to his best when he started the defence of his men's 200 metres individual medley title in commanding fashion on day four of the world championships on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old atoned for the disappointment of missing out on a medal in the men's 200m freestyle the previous evening by comfortably securing a semi-final berth in first place, gliding smoothly to the wall in 1min 57.90sec.

"It wasn't my day last night," the three-time world champion in the shorter medley told reporters. "I did everything I could and it just didn't work out. But what I do best, no matter what, is forget about what happened and move on.

"It was one of the most comfortable one fifty sevens I have done, so I am excited to see what I can do. It should be a good race."

Behind Lochte, Briton Dan Wallace qualified second, 0.38sec adrift, while Conor Dwyer of the US posted 1:58.63 to finish third fastest.

In the men's 100m freestyle, Olympic champion Nathan Adrian of the United States laboured to sixth place in qualification ahead of the semi-finals later on Wednesday.

With Australia's reigning world champion James Magnussen absent through a shoulder injury, it was left to Ning Zetao of China to set the fastest time, his 48.11sec edging out Cameron McEvoy by 0.22.

"Overall it was a little bit slower than what we all expected it to be," said Adrian, who posted 48.61sec. "I think the race will progress a lot faster than what a lot of people think. I'll be impressed to see if anyone can reach the (world record) time this year."

Meanwhile, China's Fu Yuanhui topped qualification in the women's 50m backstroke by clocking 27.66sec.

After her exertions in taking gold in the 100m backstroke on Tuesday, Australia's Emily Seebohm advanced through to the semi-finals in third place, 0.09sec off the pace.

China's Zhang Yufei produced an eye-catching swim in the women's 200m butterfly as she broke the world junior record.

Zhang clocked an impressive 2:06.92 as the 17-year-old overtook Katie McLaughlin's 2014 mark. American McLaughlin qualified second fastest, 0.40sec behind, with Katinka Hosszu, the 2013 world bronze medallist, qualifying sixth.

"I feel good and I had a good rest last night but my focus is on the 200m freestyle final tonight," said Hungary's Hosszu, who claimed the gold medal in the women's 200m individual medley with a new world record on Monday.

The Wednesday evening session will also include finals in the men's 50m breaststroke, 200m butterfly and 800m freestyle.