Saturday, July 31, 2021
Dressel, Ledecky Post History-Making Swims on Penultimate Session of Pool Swimming at #TokyoOlympics
As the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 nears the end of its swimming competition, there was no shortness of excitement or momentum on the second-to-last finals session at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
Caeleb Dressel (Green Cove Springs, Fla./Gator Swim Club) kicked off the night with the 100-meter butterfly final, the first of his three swims in the session. Dressel flew off the blocks with a .60 reaction time and held strong in the first half of the race, touching first at the turn in 23.00. Despite a charge from Hungary’s Kristof Milak, Dressel finished the race in a jaw-dropping 49.45, besting his previous world record from the 2019 FINA World Championships and earning him Olympic gold.
“That was a really fun race to be a part of – really fun,” Dressel said. “I’m sure it was fun to watch, I’m just excited for the sport. It was well executed – body wasn’t as good as it could have been, that is just the body I was given on this day. I felt better yesterday for the fly, but it’s fine. I knew what I had to do to execute, and it hurt.
“What a close race. Two of the fastest times in history, you don’t get that very often, so to be a part of that is very special.”
Dressel’s career resume in the 100m butterfly now features two world-record setting swims, an Olympic gold medal, a world champion title and eight of the top-10 times in history. The medal gave him the third of his time in Tokyo, and the fifth Olympic medal of his career.
Next event was the women’s 200m backstroke final, where the duo of Rhyan White (Herriman, Utah/University of Alabama/WFFM) and Phoebe Bacon (Chevy Chase, Md./Wisconsin Aquatics/NCAP) would represent the red, white and blue.
The two stayed in the same pack for the entire race, touching the wall in adjacent positions for three of the four 50-meter turns. White, Bacon and Australia’s Emily Seebohm battled it out in the final 50 to see who would carry home the bronze, but ultimately it was Seebohm who touched third in 2:06.17 while White followed in fourth (2:06.39) and Bacon in fifth (2:06.40).
“It was really fun being in the final,” White said. “It’s kind of heartbreaking, obviously, getting fourth. Me and Phoebe (Bacon) put up a really good fight. I think we represented our country well.”
Bacon’s fifth-place time is good for a new personal best, while White leaves Tokyo with Olympic Finalist titles in both the 100- and 200m backstroke events.
Katie Ledecky (Bethesda, Md./Nation’s Capital/Alto Swim Club) and Katie Grimes (Las Vegas, Nev./Sandpipers of Nevada) was the next American duo to take the starting blocks on the Tokyo morning, this time in the final of the women’s 800m freestyle.
Ledecky led from start-to-finish, capturing gold in 8:12.57, but had to hold off a strong push from Australia’s Ariarne Titmus who won silver in 8:13.83.
“It’s awesome,” Ledecky said of her races against Titmus in Tokyo. “We’re really friendly and it’s amazing what she has accomplished this week as well. I’m really thrilled to have that kind of competition, it is something that fuels me, I know it fuels her as well.
The medal gives Ledecky her third-consecutive gold medal in the Olympic 800m freestyle, a feat that had never been accomplished in the event before. Across all events, only four times has an Olympic race been three-peated. Ledecky now has seven Olympic golds of her career, putting her one shy of Jenny Thompson for the most ever recorded by a female swimmer.
A few lanes below Ledecky, Grimes would finish fourth in 8:19.38. At age 15, she is the youngest swimmer on this year’s Olympic roster and the youngest U.S. swimmer to grace an Olympic pool since Ledecky did so in 2012.
“It was tough, but fun,” Grimes said. “I was really nervous going into that, but I was just so happy to be in the final with such an amazing heat of girls, I just wanted to enjoy myself and not worry about a time or anything. I was really hoping to get on the podium, but I’m happy with being fourth right now, I think that’s pretty good.
“Being able to represent USA in a heat like that is so special to me. I’m not just doing it for me or my team, I’m doing it for my country. To be able to get fourth out of that and compete in that heat, I’m just super thankful.”
The last final of the session was the Olympic debut of the mixed 4x100m medley relay. The U.S. was represented by Ryan Murphy (Jacksonville, Fla./California Aquatics/Bolles), Lydia Jacoby (Seward, Alaska/Seward Tsunami Swim Club), Torri Huske (Arlington, Va./Arlington Aquatic Club) and Caeleb Dressel (Green Cove Springs, Fla./Gator Swim Club).
Murphy, the veteran backstroker already with two medals during his time in Tokyo, kicked the team off with a 52.23 split. Up next was Jacoby, who, upon diving into the water, had her goggles fall off to just beneath her nose – an inconvenience that she had to swim her entire leg of the relay with.
“I’ve never really had that happen before,” Jacoby said. “It’s out of my control at that point once I was in the water, so I just swam as best I could with what was happening at the moment.”
After solid efforts from Huske and Dressel, who posted 56.27 and 46.99 splits, respectively, the team ended fifth in 3:40.58.
“I think it was solid,” Murphy said of the relay team’s performance. “The rest of the group did really well. I’m really proud of Lydia (Jacoby) and how she handled those circumstances. Anyone who has swam with their goggles in their mouth, like she did – she did fantastic there. The rest of the relay did really nice as well.
“Watching that race, even as someone who is in the race, is really exciting. The lead changes are so drastic, that I think for the viewer, you really have to be dialed in to every lane, where I think in a lot of swim races, you’re kind of just focused on two, three or four lanes. So I think it definitely adds an element of making sure you’re watching the whole field for the viewers.”
In semifinal action, the men’s and women’s 50m freestyle events were contested for a shot at tomorrow’s final. Dressel came out of the semi, which was his second of three swims on the Tokyo morning, as the top seed with a 21.41. Michael Andrew (Encinitas, Calif./MA Swim Academy) finished fifth in 21.67. If the two are to share the podium tomorrow, it would be the fifth time that two U.S. swimmers have medaled in the event.
On the women’s side, Abbey Weitzeil (Santa Clarita, Calif./California Aquatics) went a lifetime best 24.19 to head to tomorrow’s final as the fourth seed. Her time moves her up to No. 4 on the list of all-time fastest Americans in the event. Her U.S. teammate, Simone Manuel (Sugar Land, Texas/Alto Swim Club), went 24.63 to finish 11th, which is three-tenths outside of Olympic finalist territory.
The pool swimming competition at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 concludes tomorrow with finals of the men’s and women’s 50m freestyle, men’s 1500m freestyle and the men’s and women’s 4x100m medley. Action from Tokyo will begin at 10:30 a.m. JST / 9:30 p.m. ET. All coverage on the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team can be found at www.usaswimming.org/Tokyo2020.
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