SWIMMING: Rio Olympic stars Murphy and King on the way to Tokyo after Trials wins; Oz’s Stubblety-Cook scares men’s 200 m Breast record

Three more national titles for Olympic and World Breaststroke champ Lilly King (USA) (Photo: USA Swimming)

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It was a good night for defending champions at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, as Rio gold medalists Ryan Murphy and Lilly King will try to repeat in Tokyo in the men’s 100 m Backstroke and the women’s 100 m Breaststroke.

Murphy, the double gold medalist in the 100 and 200 m Back events in 2016, won as expected in the men’s 100 m Back final in 52.33, slower than his semifinal win in 52.22. He had to come from behind, as Shaine Casas zipped out to the lead at the turn, but won by daylight; Casas was then passed coming home by Hunter Armstrong (52.48, no. 4 on the 2021 world list) for second, with Casas finishing third in 52.76 (no. 5).

Matt Grevers, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the event – now 36 – finished sixth (53.27) and Michael Andrew, the 100 m Breast winner, finished eighth (53.59).

King, the dominant women’s Breaststroke swimmer since Rio, won the women’s 100 m Breast in 1:04.79, a little slower than her 1:04.72 in the semifinals, but still the no. 9 swim in history in the event. She led wire-to-wire, but the fight for second was a ferocious three-way battle between Bethany Galat, who turned second in 30.69, ahead of Annie Lazor (30.82). But on the final lap, it was Lydia Jacoby, 17, who charged from fifth all the way to second, touching in 1:05.28 – no. 2 in the world for 2021 – to 1:05.60 for Lazor and 1:05.75 for Galat. The top four in the final now rank 1-2-3-6 on the 2021 world list.

The reigning World Champion in the women’s 200 m Back and former world-record holder in the 100 m Back, Regan Smith won the women’s 100 m Back final as expected, in 58.35, well off of her season’s best of 57.92 in the semifinals. She won convincingly, but the battle behind her was epic, as Katherine Berkhoff was second at the turn, but was passed during the final 50 m by Rhyan White and 2016 Trials winner Olivia Smoliga. Although Smoliga had the fastest final lap in the field, she ended up short of White, 58.60-58.72, and finished third.

Kieran Smith doubled his pleasure and doubled his Trials win total with an impressive win in the men’s 200 m Free, clocking 1:45.29: no. 7 on the world list for 2021. He took the lead on the second lap and was never headed, touching ahead of 2016 Olympian Townley Haas (1:45.66), Drew Kibler (1:45.92) and Andrew Seliskar (1:46.34). With Haas and Kibler’s times, the U.S. now has three of the top 20 on the 2021 world list and with the possible addition of Caeleb Dressel (1:46.63 in heats), could make for a formidable 4×200 m Free Relay squad.

Superstar Katie Ledecky had a busy day, swimming in the women’s 200 m Free heats in the morning and then coming back to swim the 1,500 m Free heats just 51 minutes later. She won her 200 m Free heat in 1:57.58, the second-fastest time of the day behind heat five winner Leah Smith, the 2016 Olympic 400 m bronze medalist (1:57.52).

With only one race in the evening, Ledecky posted the fastest time in the 200m Free semis in 1:55.83, well ahead of Paige Madden’s 1:56.44. The 2012 Olympic champion, Allison Schmidt – now 31 – reached the final with the fourth-fastest time in the semis at 1:57.53. Both the 200 m and 1,500 m Free finals are tomorrow.

In the women’s 200 m Medley semifinals, Madisyn Cox came in with the no. 2 time in the world for 2021 at 2:08.51, but it was Alex Walsh who dominated race two, winning in the fastest time of the day in 2:08.87 (no. 3 in 2021). She finished ahead of Kate Douglass (2:09.99) in her race, with race one winner Meghan Small out-touching Cox, 2:10.09-2:10.22. Veteran Melanie Margalis and 100 m Butterfly winner Torri Huske qualified for the final in fifth and sixth place.

The men’s 200 m Butterfly semifinals produced a tie, as Luca Urlando and Zach Harting both won their heats in 1:55.21, moving to no. 10 on the 2021 world list. Trenton Julian was third in 1:55.35, ahead of Gunnar Bentz (1:55.42).

The U.S. Trials continue though Sunday; Wednesday’s finals include the women’s 200 m and 1,500 m Freestyles – both starring Ledecky – plus men’s 200 m Butterfly and women’s 200 m Medley.

At the Australian Swimming Trials in Adelaide, 22-year-old Zac Stubblety-Cook charged to a decisive win in the men’s 200 m Breast, finishing with the no. 2 performance of all time in 2:06.28, just 0.16 behind the world mark of Russian Anton Chupkov from 2019.

It was the sixth world-leading mark from the Australian Trials and one of four finals on Tuesday.

The men’s 100 m Free was all about Rio Olympic gold medalist Kyle Chalmers, who won in style in 47.59, placing him no. 3 on the world list for 2021 and way ahead of runner-up Matthew Wilson (48.32).

The women’s winners were Brianna Throssell, who won the 200 m Fly in 2:07.63, and Madeleine Gough in the 1,500 m Free. Gough, a 2019 Worlds finalist in the event, won in 15:46.13, no. 2 on the world list in 2021 to Ledecky.

The Australian Trials continue through Thursday.

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