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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Ledecky, Dressel, White Secure Wins on Dramatic Day 7 at Olympic Trials-Swimming

Ledecky, Dressel, White Secure Wins on Dramatic Day 7 at Olympic Trials-Swimming

Nine years ago at 2012 Olympic Trials - Swimming, it was Katie Ledecky and Kate Ziegler headed to the London Olympics in the 800 freestyle.

Ziegler was the chiseled veteran – a holding multiple world championship titles. Ledecky, then 15, was the young upstart who went on to win gold in London and the rest, as they say, has been a career filled with tremendous history.

Saturday night, the roles were reversed as Ledecky, now the vet, welcomed another 15-year-old Katie–this one named Grimes–to the Olympic family, as the two earned spots on the team headed to Tokyo. 

“I don’t remember watching those Olympics (2012), but later, I went back and watched her race (in London),” said Grimes, who was six when Ledecky made her first Olympic team. “And I thought, ‘she’s 15. She’s incredible.’ I’m sure it’s crazy, and who knows, maybe I’ll be like her nine years from now and there will be another 15 year old.”

With her win in 8:14.62–the second fastest time in 2021 behind her own 8:13.64 mark she set in March–Ledecky recorded the most wins by a female in Trials history. She owns the top 10 times all-time in the event. 

Grimes, of Sandpipers of Nevada, finished third earlier this week in the 1500 freestyle behind Ledecky and Grimes’ Sandpiper teammate Erica Sullivan, finished in 8:20.36 – a personal-best time by almost 11 seconds.

“She was 8:20 tonight, and I was 8:19 in 2012,” said Ledecky, who won her fourth individual event (200, 400, 800, 1500) Saturday. “I’ve definitely come full circle. I don’t know what it is about Kates and Katies in the freestyle swims.”

In the first of his two sprints Saturday night, world-record-holder Caeleb Dressel recorded a blistering 49.87 to win the 100 butterfly. It was the second-fastest time in 2021 – second to the 49.76 be posted in Friday’s semifinal. Dressel owns seven of the top 10 fastest times in the event. 

Tom Shields, who was the runner-up in this event at Trials and a finalist in Rio five years ago, was second in 51.19, a single hundredth faster than he was in 2016. 

Dressel returned less than 30 minutes after his 100 fly final to swim the second 50 freestyle semifinal – advancing to Sunday’s final with the fastest time, 21.51, just .04 ahead of Michael Andrew (21.55). 

“The goal all week has just been to make the team, and tonight it was in the 100 fly,” Dressel said. “I have the morning off (Sunday), and the meet is going as close to plan as possible.”

Three-time Olympian Nathan Adrian, who is still vying to qualify for his fourth team, is the third seed in Sunday’s final (21.78). 

In a gripping finish in the women’s 100 backstroke final, Rhyan White, who qualified earlier this week in the 100 backstroke, touched first in 2:05.73 – third-fastest time in 2021. 

Close behind was Phoebe Bacon, who wrestled the second spot away from world-record-holder Regan Smith, 2:06.46-2:06.79 to make her first Olympic team. 

“I knew Regan would take it out fast over the first 100, and I just wanted to keep up,” White said. “I think I swim better if I have no expectations. I like being the underdog and keeping a low profile. There’s not as much pressure.”

Simone Manuel, who missed making the 100 freestyle final earlier this week, ended the evening’s races by qualifying for Sunday’s 50 freestyle final. 

Abbey Weitzeil, who won this event five years ago at Trials, finished with the top time – 24.27, a personal-best – followed by Torri Huske, the Trials champion in the 100 butterfly (24.45), and Manuel (24.50). 

Sunday’s race will be Manuel’s final chance to make her second Olympic team. She is the defending Olympic silver medalist in the event.

“I haven’t gone a best time in that event since 2016,” said Weitzeil, whose previous personal-best was 24.28. “My race plan was just to get a lane tomorrow (in the final).”

The last day of 2021 Olympic Trials Sunday features the men’s and women’s 50 freestyle as well as the men’s 1500 freestyle events. The entire Olympic team will be revealed and announced at the conclusion of the meet. 

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