MONTREAL -- Former University of Texas stars Aaron Peirsol and Brendan Hansen established themselves as the dominant forces in their respective stroke disciplines Friday at the XI FINA World Championships, and the American men's relays aren't doing too badly, either.
Peirsol was the first to strike gold, setting the world record in the 200m backstroke with a time of 1:54.66. Hansen followed suit, winning the 200m breaststroke in 2:09.85, about 1.3 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Peter Vanderkaay and Klete Keller capped it all off with a gold medal and an American record in the 800m free relay, turning in a time of 7:06.56.
Those efforts led Team USA's performance on Day 6, which saw the Americans win five medals in the finals - three gold, a silver and a bronze. That brings the United States' overall medal count to 22 - 11 gold, six silver and five bronze.
In the 200 back, Peirsol was marginally ahead of world record pace at each turn and wound up knocking off his former world record by eight-hundredths. Teammate Ryan Lochte was third in 1:57.00, while Austria's Markus Rogan was second in 1:56.63.
"I'm starting to feel a bit possessive of this event," said Peirsol, who also won the 100m back earlier this week. "I have a good grip on it, in the sense that I know how to swim it regardless of if I feel good or bad. I didn't think I was going to break the record, though.
"Everybody else is catching up. Markus Rogan almost got a European record, and Ryan Lochte is coming up really fast, too."
Hansen, who also took gold in the 100m breast earlier in the meet, had predicted he would be close to his world record in last night's semifinals. Canadian Mike Brown was second in 2:11.22, while Japan's Genki Imamura was third in 2:09.85.
"The race hurt, and it is supposed to," Hansen said. "I just wanted to get out there and give my all, and that is all I can ask of myself. It hurts a lot more when you are not really (challenged) in a race, but I will take the win. I definitely learned from this race.
"Tonight we had a team meeting, and we concluded this was going to be a red-line meet. What we mean is that we are all chasing the red line, the world record line. Peirsol was successful tonight. I was not. But he trains with me everyday. I am happy for him, and we cheer for each other."
The American men's relays are undefeated heading into Sunday's 400m medley relay. Friday night's race might not have been as close as the women's race on Day 5 - nor as close as last year's face-off against the Australians in Athens - but the victory was just as sweet for Team USA.
"We still have an American record," Phelps said. "That is one thing we are really pleased with. We wanted to see how close we could get to a world record. With the four of us in a post-Olympic year, we are happy with that. We will take that in for right now.
"It was pretty much the same exact race, in the same order (as last year). It definitely feels good to have these four guys together to beat our time in Athens and repeat an American record. This is the race I really wanted to focus on. We really wanted to see what the four of us could do.
"I will say for our relay, the other guys who were in this morning played a huge role in it. Matt McGinnis and Jayme Cramer laid it on the line this morning and swam their hearts out. This is for them, this is for Team USA."
Natalie Coughlin won the remaining medal of the night for the Americans, tying for silver in the women's 100m free with a time of 54.74. It was Coughlin's fourth medal of the week.
"I don't think I ever tied anybody," Coughlin said. "Ties are pretty rare. The goal is always to win, but I am happy with silver. A medal is a medal.
"I tried to hold back a little bit on the first 50 meters, so I would be stronger on the second half of the race. I think that strategy worked out for me. I had a very good finish. "
Amanda Weir swam the third-fastest time in the finals of the 100 free in 54.77, but finished fourth in the final standings due to the second-place tie.
"It was definitely exciting," Weir said. "I tried to go as fast as I could, but I am not on the podium. I am really happy for Natalie. To knock a few seconds off, I would have had to do faster turns, faster finishes and all sorts of little things."
In other events, Australian Leisel Jones set the second world record of the evening in the women's 200m breast, turning in a time of 2:21.72. Americans Kristen Caverly and Tara Kirk missed on a medal in that event, tying for sixth in 2:28.60.
Friday's Semifinal Report
As expected, Ian Crocker and Phelps took the top two spots in the semifinals of the 100m breast, turning in times of 51.08 and 52.02, respectively.
"I was hoping to go a lot faster tonight, but I know I will have a lot of energy left for tomorrow," Crocker said. "I am looking forward to that race. When it comes down to a race like this you have to ignore friendships and get down to business. It really does not make a difference. I was going for it tonight, but tomorrow there will be even more excitement."
Margaret Hoelzer qualified third for tomorrow night's finals in the 200m back with a time of 2:11.32, while Jeri Moss was 13th in the same event in 2:13.64.
In the two sprint events, Nick Brunelli advanced in the fourth spot in the 50m free with a time of 22.19, while Coughlin was fifth in the semifinals of the 50m fly in 26.91.
"This whole meet has been kind of on a survival mode for me because it's a long meet and I am definitely not at my peak condition," Coughlin said.