PERTH, AUSTRALIA, JAN. 9 -- Two old hands on the U.S. swimming team showed the youngsters how it's done, and then the youngsters joined in the fun.

Matt Biondi and Janet Evans, Olympic champions, world record-holders and mainstays of American swimming for years, got the U.S. squad back on the victory track in a big way at the World Swimming Championships today.

Biondi retained his title in the men's 100-meter freestyle with an effort of 49.18 seconds, well off his world record (48.42), but a big victory for the rangy Californian.

"When I stood on the dais, I thought: 'I'm the fastest swimmer in the 100 freestyle on the whole planet,' " Biondi said. "When I won my first world title {in 1986}, I didn't know what it meant."

Evans, a triple gold medalist at the 1988 Olympics, finally added a world championship to her victory list, beating Australian teenager Hayley Lewis by swimming 4:09.40 in the women's 400 freestyle.

The victory gave Evans revenge over Lewis, who won the 200 freestyle Tuesday. It also helped take the sting out of a disappointing fourth in the 400 individual medley and a disqualification in the Evans-anchored 800 freestyle relay Monday.

"It's been a long few days," Evans said. "Especially with the 400 IM and then the relay. But I think I'll be better now for the 800."

Evans holds the world record in the 800 freestyle.

The U.S. also got a surprise gold medal in diving when Kent Ferguson, a six-time national champion but never winner of a major international title, defeated top-ranked Tan Liangde of China in the men's three-meter springboard.

"Wow, wow, wow!" Ferguson exclaimed. The U.S. has not lost in the three-meter springboard at the world championships since the event was introduced in 1973.

And the U.S. string of successes continued Thursday in the long-distance race. Chad Hundeby of Irvine, Calif., won the 25-kilometer race on the Swan River in 5 hours 1 minute 45.78 seconds, about two minutes ahead of Italy's Sergio Chariandini.

With just one gold in the first two days of swimming, the U.S. team had been reeling. It had been favored to win both men's and women's team titles but was having trouble topping the medal counts of countries such as Hungary and Denmark.

But Biondi and Evans changed that, and then the women's 400 freestyle relay team added a third gold on a chilly night with a victory over Germany in 3:43.26.

The relay team included two members of U.S. swimming's up-and-coming group, Nicole Haislett and Jenny Thompson.

The victory was especially sweet for Haislett, the women's 100 freestyle winner but the goat in the relay disqualification -- she left too early on the second leg.

The victories left the United States leading the swimming medal count with five golds, three silvers and two bronze. Hungary has three gold medals, while Germany and Italy are tied for second overall with six medals apiece.

The third Hungarian gold went to Krisztina Egerszegi in the women's 100 backstroke, in 1:01.78. American Janie Wagstaff was third behind Hungary's Tunde Szabo.

Spain got its first medal when Martin Lopez Zubero, born in the U.S. and a student at the University of Florida, won the men's 200 backstroke in 1:59.52.