Budapest - Chase Kalisz says the pressure to continue the legacy of American greats Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte pushed him to gold in the 200m individual medley at the world championships on Thursday.
Kalisz touched the wall at one minute, 55.56 seconds, with Japan's Kosuke Hagino taking silver at 0.45 seconds and China's Wang Shun earning bronze at 0.72.
Having won 400m IM silver at both the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2013 world championships in Barcelona, the 23-year-old Kalisz finally has his hands on gold over the shorter distance.
Kalisz is following in the footsteps of Phelps, who won the 200m IM gold medal at four straight Olympic games from 2004 until 2016, and Lochte, who won four consecutive world titles in the event from 2009 until 2015.
"Those two are the best in our sport, they will never be replaced and it means a lot to continue the IM tradition - they were my idols," he said.
"I grew up wanting to swim just like them, so to have such a satisfying moment when everything I dreamed of came true was a cool thing."
Kalisz says the fear of not matching Phelps' and Lochte's success on the world stage drove him on in training.
"To not carry on the US tradition in the IM, well, no one wants to be the one that that happens to," he said.
"It was a motivating factor, it drove me on during rough days.
"Going into my world trials, I wasn't confident of even making the team.
"I dropped over three seconds since then, I thought I was a long shot to even win a medal."
Kalisz said qualifying for the final as the fastest out of Wednesday's semis gave him food for thought.
"That shifted my mindset to reassess my goals, so it is a bit of a shock for me," he said.
"I think I'm better in the 400 IM, that's my primary focus, but of course I take the win, I'm happy with it.
"It bodes well for my future 200m and 400m IMs."
Japan's Hagino took his second successive major silver, having also finished second in the Olympic final last year after winning the 400m IM gold in Rio.
Wang had to settle for bronze for the third year in a row over 200m after finishing third in last year's Olympic final and at the 2015 world champs in Kazan.
"I am very satisfied with the bronze medal," said the 23-year-old Wang.
"I was until the beginning of the month in a training camp in the USA, and after that, I went back home, to Beijing, so I'm still suffering from jet lag."