Caeleb Dressel, Katie Ledecky romp to wins at U.S. Olympic swim trials
American swimming stars earn dominant victories on next-to-last night of event
The stars shined brightly on the next-to-last night of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.
Caeleb Dressel added another event to his Tokyo program, powering to a dominating victory in the 100-meter butterfly Saturday.
Katie Ledecky blew away the field in the 800 freestyle, winning by more than 5 seconds in a race where the runner-up spot provided the only drama.
Leading right from the start, Ledecky was essentially racing herself. She started out under world-record pace but tailed off when it was clear no one could challenge her.
"It's challenging," she said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm going faster than I am. The biggest thing moving forward from here is try to get in some race environments in training and continue to push myself."
Ledecky finished more than 10 seconds off her world-record performance at the Rio Olympics.
"It was a fine swim," she said. "I thought I'd be a lot better than that given how good my prelim swim felt."
Fifteen-year-old Katie Grimes outraced veteran Haley Anderson for the expected second spot at the Olympics, knocking more than 11 seconds off her personal best to touch second in 8:20.36.
‼️ Tokyo, here they come ‼️<br><br>🇺🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/ryan_f_murphy?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ryan_f_murphy</a> (200 BK)<br>🇺🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/SwimmerMichael?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SwimmerMichael</a> (200 IM)<br>🇺🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/chasekalisz?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@chasekalisz</a> (200 IM)<br>🇺🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/lazorlaze?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@lazorlaze</a> (200 BR)<br>🇺🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/_king_lil?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_king_lil</a> (200 BR)<br>🇺🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/AbbeyWeitzeil?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AbbeyWeitzeil</a> (100 FR)<br>🇺🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/erikabrown27?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@erikabrown27</a> (100 FR)<br>🇺🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/OliviaSmoliga?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@OliviaSmoliga</a> (400 FR-R)<br>🇺🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/n__hinds?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@n__hinds</a> (400 FR-R) <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SwimTrials21?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SwimTrials21</a> <a href="https://t.co/OzFnLGhL7Q">pic.twitter.com/OzFnLGhL7Q</a>—@USASwimming
Anderson, who already made the team in marathon swimming, just missed out on a race at the Olympic pool. She finished third, 15-hundredths of a second behind the youngster.
"Speechless," Grimes said. "I wasn't expecting that. I just wanted to finish it. I'm so honored to be in this meet, to be going to Tokyo. I'm so thankful."
As with Ledecky, no one was even close to Dressel as he finished the fly in 49.87 — just off his world record of 49.50 set two years ago at the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
"I would've liked to have been faster to put on a little bit of a show for the crowd," Dressel said.
No complaints, though.
"This meet has gone as according to plan as it could have," he said.
Tom Shields claimed the second spot on the U.S. team by touching next in 51.19. Shields was an Olympian in 2016, taking gold as part of the 4x100 medley relay.
Dressel, who already made the Olympic team with a victory in the 100 freestyle, made it 2-for-2 on the night when he returned a short time later to win his heat in the semifinals of the 50 free.
Dressel aiming to join elite company
Dressel is hoping to swim three individuals events in Tokyo and perhaps all four relays, giving him a chance to join Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi as the only swimmers to win seven swimming medals at the Olympics.
At the last world championships, Dressel became only the second swimmer after Phelps to win eight medals at a major international competition.
The 24-year-old Floridian captured six gold medals and two silvers, though two of those were in non-Olympic events.
He said there's room for improvement in the 100 fly.
"I was a little too excited coming home," he said. "I was a little sloppy at the end."
With Phelps now retired, Dressel and Ledecky are expected to be the biggest American swimming stars at the Olympics.
There was a surprise in the women's 200 backstroke. Favorite Regan Smith, who has already won the 100 back, faded to third in the longer race to miss out on a second individual event in Tokyo.
Rhyan White took the victory in 2:05.73, with Phoebe Bacon claiming the second spot in 2:06.46.
Smith finished third in 2:06.79, more than 3 seconds off her personal best.
White and Bacon are both headed to the Olympics for the first time.
Olympic veterans bounce back
Two Olympic veterans bounced back from disappointing performances to keep their Olympics hopes alive.
Simone Manuel, who revealed that she was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome after failing to advance from the final of the 100 free, qualified third for the final of the 50 free in 24.50.
"I'm just trying to race as best as I possibly can with whatever my body has," Manuel said. "The mentality I have is I don't quit. I'm a person that fights to the end. I'll never know what the 50 is going to be if I don't go out there and give it a try."
Nathan Adrian is facing the same challenge in the men's 50. The eight-time Olympic medalist was third-fastest in the semifinals at 21.78, trailing only Dressel (21.51) and Michael Andrew (21.55).
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Adrian must finish in the top two in Sunday final to make his fourth Olympic team.
The first Black woman to win an individual gold medal in swimming, Manuel won't get a chance to defend her historic title in the 100. But, like Adrian, she can lock up a spot in Tokyo by finishing in the top two of the 50 on the last night of the meet.
Manuel said revealing her health and mental issues relieved some of the pressure she was feeling coming into the trials.
"I've gotten a lot of nice messages and responses from people," she said. "It makes me think that I'm not alone."
"I just want to see whatever I've got," Manuel said. "I want to walk away with my head held high after this meet."
Abbey Weitzell was fastest in the women's 50 free, posting a personal best of 24.27 to take the top seed into the final. She already won the 100 free at these trials.
"I'm super excited. I haven't done a best time since 2015," the 24-year-old Californian said. "I was really shocked when I saw the screen, but I can't let my guard down."