Kiwi swimmer Lewis Clareburt has produced the performance of his career to claim bronze at the world championships in Korea overnight.

The 20-year-old, who won bronze at last year's Commonwealth Games, finished third in the 400m medley while breaking the New Zealand record.

Clareburt swam a time of 4:12.07 breaking the national record by more than two seconds to finish three seconds behind winner Daiya Seto of Japan and silver medalist Jay Litherland.

He is the fifth New Zealander to win a medal at the event and first male since Danyon Loader in 1994.

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Lauren Boyle claimed two silver medals in 2015 to go with three bronze medals in 2013.

Anthony Mosse (silver in 1986) and Gary Hurring (silver in 1978) are the only other New Zealanders to win a medal at the world championships.

Silver medalist Jay Litherland of the United States, gold medalist Daiya Seto of Japan and bronze medalist Lewis Clareburt of New Zealand. Photo / Getty
Silver medalist Jay Litherland of the United States, gold medalist Daiya Seto of Japan and bronze medalist Lewis Clareburt of New Zealand. Photo / Getty

It was a night of history in Gwangju as American Caeleb Dressel won his record eighth medal, helping the U.S. to silver in the 4x100-metre medley relay after anchor Nathan Adrian got overtaken for gold in the closing meters.

"Part of me is very happy," Dressel said. "Part of me wants to cry that I'm done with it. I've got pimples on my face from just the stress of the meet. I'm probably losing some hair."

One night after becoming the first swimmer to win three golds in one night at a worlds for the second time, Dressel's haul included six golds at the biggest meet after the Olympics.

"It was a very tough week," he said. "I knew I was going to have to come with fire, passion and pride in every single race."

Two years ago in Hungary, Dressel tied Michael Phelps' record of seven golds at a single worlds, including three in one night.

Dressel hauled the U.S. from fourth to first on his butterfly leg with a split of 49.28 seconds. Adrian found himself in a three-way fight with Britain and Russia coming down the stretch.

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Brit Duncan Scott surged ahead approaching the wall and got there first with a split of 46.14 to Adrian's 47.60.

"That last 15 meters, it's tough," Adrian said. "I was trying to be strong, I was trying to hold on, but this time I couldn't do it."

Luke Greenbank, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Scott took gold for Britain in 3 minutes, 28.10 seconds.

Ryan Murphy, Andrew Wilson, Dressel and Adrian finished in 3:28.45. It was just the second silver, and first since 1998, in an event the Americans have won 13 times.

"There's a time to get silver in relays and it's at a world championships, that's for sure," Adrian said.

Russia earned bronze.

Dressel's golds came in the 50 and 100 free, 50 and 100 butterfly, mixed 4x100 free relay and 4x100 free relay. His other silver was in the mixed 4x100 medley relay. He was named the FINA male swimmer of the meet.

- With AP