By Karen Rosen | July 23, 2017, 1:06 p.m. (ET)
(L-R) Nathan Adrian, Townley Haas, Blake Pieroni and Caeleb Dressel celebrate after the men's 4x100-meter freestyle final at the 2017 FINA World Championships on July 23, 2017 in Budapest, Hungary.

 

BUDAPEST, Hungary --  Team USA is back on top of the world in the men’s 4x100-meter freestyle.

Caeleb Dressel set the pace with a blistering lead-off leg that broke the American record. Townley Haas and Blake Pieroni held up the middle and Nathan Adrian brought it home for the gold Sunday at the 2017 FINA World Championships.

Their winning time was 3 minutes, 10.06 seconds, with Brazil second in 3:10.34 and Hungary third – to the delight of the home crowd – in 3:11.99.

Dressel’s split was 47.26, a full second ahead of Hungary in second and breaking Dave Walters' 2009 record of 47.33. Haas held off Brazil by .43, then Pieroni went head to head with Cesar Cielo, the great Brazilian sprinter. Team USA held a .35 lead when Adrian dove into the pool. He dueled Bruno Fratus of Brazil, turning at the 50 with a lead of only two hundredths of a second.

But Adrian powered down the stretch to touch first, winning his sixth gold medal at worlds and 10th medal overall.

“It’s all about being tough and racing and trying to get your hand on the wall first,” Adrian said.

“We’re still riding high after winning in 2016, so to be able to try to continue that and bring that forward for the years to come is important.”

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Sure, the United States won the gold medal in this event at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, but its recent record at the world championships was a sore point.

Two years ago in Kazan, Russia, Team USA didn’t even make the final. Jimmy Feigen, Anthony Ervin, Matt Grevers and Conor Dwyer tied Germany to win the final heat, but their time of 3:16.01 landed them in 11th place.

In 2013, Team USA won silver, and in 2011, bronze.

Team USA got back on track in Rio. Feigen and Ervin, joined by Ryan Held and Pieroni, qualified second with a time of 3:12.38, surpassed only by Russia in 3:12.04. In the final, Dressel, a fellow named Michael Phelps, Held and Adrian easily won the gold with a time of 3:09.92 ahead of France (3:10.53) and Australia (3:11.37). 

Team USA has won now 12 of the 17 gold medals in this event, starting with a streak of eight golds from the inaugural world champs in 1973 to 1998. The U.S. then won three straight from 2005 to 2009.