SHANGHAI --- Ryan Lochte rescued the United States from impending defeat in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay at the world championships with a gutty swim after he won the 200 backstroke.
There's not much he hasn't done this week, collecting five medals -- four gold -- and the only world record so far. That kind of success used to be the domain of Michael Phelps.
Now it's Lochte's world and Phelps is just swimming in his wake.
"If you go by medals alone, I would say yes. It's a definite change of the guard," said American Tyler Clary, third in the 200 back. "The cool thing about swimming is your times speak for themselves. In pretty much every one of his races, he's won it hands down."
Phelps also has five medals, but just one individual gold with two days remaining.
"Unfortunately, Lochte's not doing the fly, so that's a big opening for him," Australia's Geoff Huegill said, laughing.
Lochte carried his teammates in the relay Friday after Phelps and Ricky Berens lost the lead. Lochte trailed France's Fabien Gilot by half a body length until the final 100 meters, when he moved ahead off his second turn.
From there, Lochte increased his lead to nearly two body lengths and cruised into the wall with a time of 7 minutes, 2.67 seconds. The Americans have won the event in every international competition since the 2004 Athens Olympics.
"We had a pretty good fight to keep it," Phelps said. "I don't think there's anybody else we want to have on the end of the relay than Ryan. We all set it up and he brought it home."
In his only final of the night, Phelps led off the relay and was briefly under world-record pace on his opening lap against old rival Paul Biedermann, of Germany. Phelps led after 100 meters, then dropped to third while swimming slower than Biedermann on his final two laps.
"I would've liked to have swum a little faster on the leadoff," Phelps said. "But I think I've said that almost every day so far -- hopefully with more training I can swim faster."
Peter Vanderkaay restored the Americans' lead before Berens lost it again on the third leg, leaving Lochte to put them back on top.
"Once we hit around the 75 (meter) mark, I knew it was over," Lochte said. "I knew I had a lot of energy left, and I was going to hit that second wall and just go for it."
That's what Lochte did earlier in the 200 back, leading all the way to win by 1.15 seconds over Japan's Ryosuke Irie and regain the title he first won in 2007.
Lochte touched in 1:52.96, giving the United States its seventh consecutive world title in the event.
Irie finished in 1:54.11, and Clary took the bronze at 1:54.69.