Mission accomplished: Dressel, Ledecky get the job done with wins at US trials

Caeleb Dressel of the United States reacts after competing in a semifinal heat for the Men’s 50m freestyle during Day Seven of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CHI Health Center on June 19, 2021 in Omaha, Nebraska. — Getty Images via AFP
Caeleb Dressel of the United States reacts after competing in a semifinal heat for the Men’s 50m freestyle during Day Seven of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CHI Health Center on June 19, 2021 in Omaha, Nebraska. — Getty Images via AFP

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OMAHA, June 20 — World record-holder Caeleb Dressel will try to add 100m butterfly Olympic gold to his two world titles after a victory yesterday at the US Olympic swimming trials.

Dressel, who clocked the world record of 49.50 at the 2019 World Championships, led wire-to-wire on the way to victory in 49.87sec.

That was a shade off his semi-final time of 49.76, but easily enough for victory over Tom Shields, a 2016 Rio Olympics relay gold medallist who was second in 51.19.

Dressel, who won two relay golds in Rio but finished sixth in the 100m freestyle, has since emerged as a multi-event star, winning a record eight medals, six gold, at the 2019 worlds.

He had already punched his ticket to Tokyo in the 100m freestyle, and later Saturday topped the semi-final times in the 50m free ahead of Michael Andrew and 2012 100m free gold medallist Nathan Adrian.

“The goal of this meet is making the team,” Dressel said. “I would have liked to be a little faster just to put more of a show on for the home crowd.

“But we made the team and I’m in the final of the 50. This meet’s going as according to plan as it possibly could have.”

Katie Ledecky echoed that sentiment after completing her qualifying campaign with another dominant victory in the 800m freestyle, her time of 8:14.62 putting her more than five seconds ahead of surprise second-place finisher Katie Grimes.

The time was nothing spectacular for Ledecky, who owns the world record of 8:04.79 and in fact the top 10 times of all time.

But the five-time Olympic gold medallist said she wasn’t too concerned about times coming out of the eight-day trials in which she qualified to swim the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles in Tokyo.

“I think we feel pretty good coming out of this week, mission accomplished,” Ledecky said. “You can’t really take that for granted.”

The 15-year-old Grimes was impressive in taking second place in a career best 8:20.36, running down open water Olympian Haley Anderson on the final lap.

“I was just, like, in shock,” said Grimes. “I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am.

“Ohh,” she added on a sigh. “Gosh.”

As she hung on a lane rope and absorbed her accomplishment, Grimes was congratulated by Ledecky and by two other members of her club team in the final who had already booked Tokyo berths — Bella Sims and Erica Sullivan.

“I told Katie Grimes after her third place in the (1500m) you’re the future,” Ledecky said. “I told her after that one she’s the now.”

There was a certain symmetry in the one-two finish. Nine years ago Ledecky was 15 when she won the 800m free at trials and went to London and won her first Olympic gold.

Backstroke shocker

It was an upset in the women’s 200m backstroke, as Rhyan White and 18-year-old Phoebe Bacon finished one-two to shut world record-holder Regan Smith out of a 200m spot in Tokyo.

White, 21, had already punched her ticket to Tokyo with a runner-up finish to Smith in the 100m back.

She won the 200m in 2:05.73sec while Bacon, an 18-year-old University of Wisconsin standout, was second in 2:06.46.

Smith, who is already on the team in 200m butterfly as well as the 100m back, was third in 2:06.79.

It was a season-best for the swimmer who set the world record at 2:03.35 in 2019, but not near enough to give her a chance at a backstroke double in Tokyo.

Simone Manuel, 100m freestyle gold medallist in Rio, bounced back from her shock exit in the semi-finals of the 100m free with the third-fastest time in the 50m free semis.

Abbey Weitzeil, winner of the 100m, led the way into Sunday’s 50m final in 24.27, with teenager Torri Huske second in their semi in 24.45.

Manuel won her semi-final in 24.50.

“It’s nice to just swim as fast as I can,” said Manuel, who had revealed her battle with overtraining syndrome after her 100m free exit.

“I do think sharing my story kind of helped me free myself and allowed me to go out and fight to be on the team.” — AFP

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