SHANGHAI - Ryan Lochte locked up two more gold medals at the swimming world championships Friday, raising his victory total to four with at least one more event to go.
The American led from start to finish in the 200-meter backstroke, then rallied the U.S. past France in the anchor leg to win the 4x200 freestyle relay.
"When Ryan is hot right now you don't want anyone else on the end of the relay," said Ricky Berens, who swam the third leg for the Americans.
Michael Phelps led off the relay, leaving the U.S. third behind Paul Biedermann of Germany and Yannick Agnel of France.
Peter Vanderkaay then put the Americans in front at the halfway mark, but France led at 600 meters before Lochte passed Fabien Gilot with only one lap to go.
"They were talking about me swimming the last leg," Vanderkaay said. "I said, 'Are you sure you don't want Ryan on that?' He doesn't surprise me anymore."
Earlier in the meet, Lochte won the 200 free and 200 individual medley relegating Phelps to silver twice. He also set a world record in the 200 IM the only world mark in swimming since high-tech bodysuits were banned 19 months ago.
"I have a lot of confidence, especially what happened with last year," said Lochte, who won six golds to Phelps' five at the Pan Pacific Championships in 2010. "I'm just taking each swim meet at a time, each race at a time, and each year at a time."
Lochte has five medals in all, also earning a bronze in the 4x100 free relay on the opening night of what has turned out to be a stellar competition for the Floridian. He'll also be favored in the 400 IM and could swim the medley relay on the final night of competition Sunday.
Meanwhile, American Rebecca Soni won the 200 breaststroke to go with her 100 title from Tuesday.
Jeanette Ottesen and Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Belarus finished in a dead heat for gold in the women's 100 freestyle, both in 53.45 seconds. Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands touched third in 53.66.
World record holder Britta Steffen dropped out after finishing 16th in morning heats Thursday. The German swept both the 50 and 100 free at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the last worlds in Rome two years ago.
It was the second time in these championships that there was a dead heat for gold, after Camille Lacourt and Jeremy Stravius of France shared the top spot on the podium in the men's 100 backstroke Tuesday.
Also, Daniel Gyurta of Hungary overtook Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima of Japan on the final lap to defend his title in the men's 200 breast.
Gyurta finished in 2:08.41, while Kitajima, who was on a world-record pace with 50 meters to go, took the silver in 2:08.63. Christian vom Lehn of Germany earned the bronze in 2:09.06.
Kitajima was not competing when Gyurta won his first title two years ago.
"It's probably the biggest day of my life because ever since I started taking part in the world championships in 2003, I've tried to catch (Kitajima) and now I've succeeded," Gyurta said. "Most of the time in my training, I practice the final 50 meters, how to push it hard. I'm really happy I managed to implement it for this race."
In the 200 back, Lochte hardly celebrated after hitting the wall in 1:52.96, more than a second in front of silver medalist Ryosuke Irie of Japan, while another American, Tyler Clary, took bronze.
Aaron Peirsol, the American who dominated this event for much of the last decade, recently retired. His world record of 1:51.92 still stands.
Soni seemed poised for a world record in the 200 breast but struggled the second half of the race, touching in 2:21.47 to hold off a late comeback from Yuliya Efimova of Russia. Efimova took silver in 2:22.22 and Martha McCabe of Canada grabbed bronze in 2:24.81.
"It felt great the first 100 and then I was trying to hold on at the end," Soni said. "I ran out of gas."
Annamay Pierse of Canada, who set the world record of 2:20.12 in Rome, finished eighth.
Soni finished fourth in 2009 when her race strategy failed.
"I try to put that in the past," she said. "I proved I can win the gold medal."
In the men's 50 free semifinals, Brazilians Bruno Fratus and Cesar Cielo went 1-2, with American Nathan Adrian third, while French star Alain Bernard just made the final in eighth.
"It's going to be better to have my Brazilian teammate by my side," Cielo said. "I think he's hands down the favorite for the gold tomorrow."
Cielo swept both the 50 and 100 free at the last worlds and is also the Olympic champion in the 50. He was cleared of doping by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week.
Phelps led the 100 butterfly semifinals in 51.47, then hurried out of the pool to prepare himself for the leadoff leg in the 4x200. Milorad Cavic, the Serb who challenged Phelps in Beijing and Rome, failed to qualify in morning heats as he recovers from back surgery.
American teenager Missy Franklin led the women's 200 back semifinals, while world record holder and defending champion Kirsty Coventry failed to qualify in 12th.