Italy's Frederica Pellegrini rejoices with her medal at the World Championship. Image Credit: Reuters

Gwangju, South Korea: Federica Pellegrini defeated a field of younger competitors, minus ailing Katie Ledecky, to win the 200-metre freestyle at the world swimming championships on Wednesday night.

Sun Yang was back in the pool but with none of the rancour from the previous night when he was booed and shunned on the medals podium. The Chinese star with a history of doping failed to medal in the 800 free.

Pellegrini overtook 18-year-old Australian Ariarne Titmus down the stretch to earn her fourth career gold in the event. The 30-year-old Italian touched in 1 minute, 54.22 seconds.

“I am too old for this,” she said afterward.

Titmus, who stunned Ledecky in winning the 400 free, took silver in 1:54.66.

Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden earned bronze in 1:54.78. She received oxygen on the pool deck after the race, but appeared for the medal ceremony.

Ledecky hasn’t been at the pool since Monday. She withdrew from the 200 free heats and the 1,500 free final on Tuesday with an illness. The American star is being monitored by doctors, but no diagnosis has been disclosed.

Pellegrini joined Katinka Hosszu of Hungary and Sjostrom as the only women to win an event at least four times at worlds. Pellegrini’s other golds came in 2009, 2011 and 2017.

Kristof Milak of Hungary won the 200 butterfly, breaking Michael Phelps’ 10-year-old world record.

Milak touched in 1:50.73 to lower the mark of 1:51.51 that Phelps set at the 2009 worlds in Rome during the height of the high-tech suit era.

The 19-year-old swimmer became the first teenager to win a world title in the event since Phelps at age 18 in 2003.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Milak, who climbed out of the pool and took two deep bows as the crowd cheered.

Chad le Clos of South Africa was out under world-record pace through the first lap before Milak gained the lead after 150 meters.

Daiya Seto of Japan earned silver in 1:53.86. Le Clos settled for bronze in 1:54.15.

Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri won the 800 free in 7:39.27. Triple Olympic champion Sun had already retained his 200 and 400m crown in Gwangju but he finished a distant sixth in the 800m final,

A brutal schedule looked to have taken its toll on Sun, who has been involved in angry confrontations with Australian Mack Horton and Britain’s Duncan Scott after they snubbed him at two different medal ceremonies in response to bombshell claims made in a Fina doping panel report.

The leaked document alleged Sun allowed vials of blood to be smashed with a hammer after he was visited by testers last year.

“I was exhausted,” said the Chinese idol. “My legs and arms felt sore - the hardest part is juggling a tight schedule, which I will have to do at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”

Henrik Christiansen of Denmark earned silver and David Aubry of France took bronze.