Mireia Belmonte Garcia wins third gold

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Spain's Mireia Belmonte Garcia matched American star Ryan Lochte with her third gold medal at the short-course world championships Saturday.

She was timed in a championship-record 2 minutes, 5.73 seconds in the 200-meter individual medley, adding to her back-to-back titles in the 200 butterfly and 400 IM on Wednesday's opening night.

Belmonte finished 0.21 seconds in front of Ye Shiwen of China and 0.36 ahead of Ariana Kukors of the U.S.

Belmonte Garcia also won the silver medal in the 800 freestyle Thursday behind Spanish teammate Erika Garcia Villaecija. She plans to finish the meet with the 200 breaststroke Sunday.

"I can't quite yet believe I'm going home with four medals," Belmonte Garcia said.

Lochte won all three of his opening events -- two in world-record times -- and led the 100 IM semifinals in 50.81 seconds, just 0.05 off Peter Mankoc's world record set last year.

On Sunday, Lochte will swim two individual events plus the 400 medley relay.

"Today was my easy day; I only had the 100 IM," Lochte said. "Tomorrow I have three events, so it's definitely going to be a hard challenge for me. But I'm up for it."

Sprinting standout Cesar Cielo was 0.13 ahead of world-record pace midway through his 100 freestyle semifinal heat but then appeared to let up slightly. Still, the Brazilian led in a championship-record 46.01.

American Rebecca Soni defeated Australian rival Leisel Jones again in the 100 breaststroke.

Soni was just 0.01 seconds ahead of Jones midway through the race but accelerated in the second half, touching in a championship-record 1:03.98. Jones finished 0.28 seconds behind. Ji Liping of China was third.

"I definitely saw her next to me," Soni said of Jones. "I know turns are my weakness, so I just tried to outswim her and get to the wall first."

Soni and Jones split the 100 and 200 titles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But Soni beat Jones over both distances at the Pan Pacific Championships in August.

Soni will be favored in the 200 on Sunday. Jones will not be entered, although Belmonte Garcia is in the field.