Caeleb Dressel needs to command the Olympics the best way he’s finished at worlds. Katie Ledecky is in search of to increase her dominance. Ryan Lochte goes after his fifth — and final — Olympic berth. A few teenage women have designs on shaking up the veterans. Simone Manuel and Lilly King are again, too.
After a year-long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Olympic swimming trials get underway wanting a bit totally different. Masks are as a lot a part of the gear as fits, caps and goggles, together with frequent testing for COVID-19.
The eight-day meet begins Sunday in a short lived pool inside CHI Well being Heart in downtown Omaha, the fourth time the U.S. workforce has been chosen in Nebraska. Michael Phelps started his historic run to eight Olympic gold medals by making the workforce on the first trials held in Omaha in 2008.
He retired after Rio in 2016, leaving Dressel to choose up Phelps’ mantle because the world’s dominant male swimmer. He had a Phelps-like efficiency on the 2019 world championships, profitable a document eight medals, together with six gold. At 2017 worlds, he received seven golds.
“I don’t suppose that falls on my shoulders alone,” Dressel mentioned. “Michael was one man inside USA Swimming, however he wasn’t USA Swimming. That’s what makes USA Swimming so robust is the workforce and as a collective complete.”
Within the Phelps’ period, swimmers had been primarily competing for one spot as a result of he earned the opposite. Now, issues have opened up significantly on the boys’s facet.
The pandemic pressured a number of adjustments at trials, together with lowering enviornment capability to half of its normal 17,560. Cardboard cutouts combine with followers within the seats. The trials had been break up into two totally different meets, with the slowest swimmers competing per week earlier to keep away from overcrowding. Those that completed first or second superior to this week’s competitors, which NBC will air each evening in primetime.
“The children are dying to race,” mentioned Ray Looze, who coaches Olympic champion breaststroker King. “I believe there’s going to be some world data that go down as a result of there’s been some those that have needed to undergo a fantastic deal, they usually actually, actually need it dangerous.”
Defending Olympic backstroke champion Ryan Murphy can’t wait to swim in entrance of a stay, loud crowd after followers had been banned from meets throughout the pandemic.
“It actually does add a stage of adrenaline behind the blocks,” he mentioned, “and it makes us really feel like we’re doing one thing actually cool when individuals are cheering, once they’re invested.”
The U.S. trials are sometimes thought-about extra aggressive than the Olympics. Those that end third — and miss the workforce — would typically be within the hunt for a medal on the video games. Even the largest names are frightened about getting their hand on the wall as a result of solely the highest two finishers earn Olympic berths. These ending within the high six of the 100 and 200 freestyles can even qualify.
“There’s loads of hype on and you may get discouraged,” Lochte mentioned. “So simply keep calm and simply get pleasure from it. Take pleasure in it and embrace every little thing that’s happening round you as a result of that is in all probability one of many funnest swim meets on the planet.”
Some story traces to comply with at these trials:
— Dressel was a minor participant in Rio, profitable gold on a relay with Phelps and making the 100 free closing. Now, he’s poised to step into the highlight in Tokyo, having dominated on the final two world championships. He’s entered in six occasions at trials, beginning with the 200-meter freestyle on Monday.
— Ledecky is raring to decorate her haul of six Olympic medals, together with 5 gold. She’s entered in 4 occasions — the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyles. The so-called mile is a brand new occasion for ladies in Tokyo, and Ledecky already swam the world’s quickest time in it in April. She’s the highest seed in every of her occasions besides the 100 free, through which she’s tenth. “I really feel very assured within the work that I’ve put in,” she mentioned. “I’ve massive objectives for myself.”
— Manuel made historical past in Rio as the primary Black girl to win a person swimming gold medal, tying Canada’s Penny Oleksiak within the 100 free. She took silver within the 50 free. Manuel has continued to be one of many world’s greatest sprinters over the past 5 years. Out of the water, she’s used her fame to debate race and push for extra range in her sport. “I am actually excited to be right here, realizing the challenges that I confronted this yr and the way far I’ve come,” she mentioned.
— King is the favourite to defend her Olympic title within the 100 breaststroke, through which she owns the world document. She’s seeded second within the 200 breast, the place she didn’t make the ultimate in Rio. King is the outspoken conscience of the U.S. workforce, by no means shy in calling out drug cheats for his or her misdeeds and selling social justice.
— Lochte is attempting to equal Phelps’ feat of creating 5 Olympic groups. He’s 36, married with two youngsters and has competed sporadically since getting arrested 5 years in Rio after mendacity about being robbed at a fuel station. He owns 12 Olympic medals. He’s entered in six occasions at trials, however is unlikely to compete in all of them. His greatest probability is the 200 particular person medley, the place he owns the world document set in 2011 and is seeded fifth.
— Youngsters Claire Curzan and Torri Huske wish to make a splash. Curzan, a 16-year-old from North Carolina, is top-seeded within the 100 butterfly and No. 2 within the 50 free. Huske is an 18-year-old from Virginia headed to Stanford within the fall. She’s seeded second within the 100 fly, third within the 50 free, fifth within the 100 free, and sixth within the 200 IM.
— Lochte is not the one veteran in search of a return Olympic journey. Additionally on the boys’s facet is 36-year-old Matt Grevers, 32-year-old Nathan Adrian (who overcame testicular most cancers), and 29-year-olds Tom Shields and Cody Miller. At 40, Tony Ervin has obtained all of them beat. He was the 50 free champion on the 2000 Sydney Video games and later auctioned off his medal to assist survivors of the 2004 tsunami. Ervin, who additionally received the 50 free at Rio, harbors no illusions about making the workforce, viewing the trials as an opportunity to go the torch to the following era. On the ladies’s facet, 29-year-old Melanie Margalis is a contender in a number of occasions to make her second Olympics.
Extra AP Olympic protection: https://apnews.com/OlympicGames and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports