SWIMMING: Titmus scares another world record in Adelaide, while Ledecky, Huske and Andrew claim wins at U.S. Trials

Tokyo-bound American Freestyle superstar Katie Ledecky (Photo: USA Swimming)

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Katie Ledecky breezed to her first win at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, winning the women’s 400 m Free in 4:01.27 in the first of four events she expects to win on the way to the Tokyo Games in July.

Ledecky led from start to finish and posted only her third-fastest time of the season, unchallenged all the way. Behind her, there was a fierce fight for second with 22-year-old Paige Madden taking over second place with two laps to go to finish in 4:04.86, a seasonal best by nearly five seconds. That was enough to move 2017 Worlds silver medalist Leah Smith to third (4:06.27), with open-water star Haley Anderson fourth (4:07.42).

As is so often the case in swimming, youth will be served and 18-year-old Torri Huske followed up on her American Record in the women’s 100 m Fly in Sunday’s semifinals with an even faster swim in the final, lowering her record from 55.78 to 55.66, leading from start to finish. It’s not only the world leader in 2021, but the no. 5 performance in history (she’s still the no. 3 performer). Second in 56.43 was 16-year-old Claire Curzan, who has timed 56.20 earlier this year. The 2016 Trials winner, Kelsi Dahlia – now 26 – was fourth (56.80).

The men’s 100 m Breast final was a win for Michael Andrew as expected; he had set American Records in the heats and semis. But the final was almost too close, as the top three places were separated by just 0.07. Andrew blasted to the lead and was clear of the field at the turn, but Nic Fink was chasing him down on the final lap, only to be passed by Andrew Wilson, who came from fourth to second, out-touching Fink by 58.74-57.80. Andrew remains at no. 3 on the world list for 2021 and Wilson and Fink are now nos. 8-9.

In the men’s 200 m Free, Kieran Smith – already the 400 m Free winner – led the heats at 1:46.54 with sprint superstar Caeleb Dressel second-fastest at 1:46.63. Dressel dropped out of the semifinals, but has made a case for being on the 4×200 m Free Relay in Tokyo. Smith continued with a win in the semifinals in 1:45.74, fastest by an American this year, ahead of Zach Apple (1:46.22) and Townley Haas (1:46.30), finishing 1-2-3 in the second semi. The final is Tuesday.

Defending men’s Olympic 100 m Backstroke champ Ryan Murphy made a statement in the semifinals, winning the first race in 52.22, making him the no. 3 performer in the world for 2021, with the final still to come. Hunter Armstrong, 20, won the second heat in 52.67, making him the fourth-fastest of 2021. London 2012 Olympic champ Matt Grevers, now 36, was sixth overall (53.18) and earned a spot in the final.

The women’s 100 m Back semifinals proved that former world-record holder Regan Smith isn’t conceding anything to Australian star Kaylee McKeown. Smith won the second semi in 57.92, the no. 4 time in history and second this season only to McKeown’s mark of 57.45 at the Aussie Trials on Sunday. Veteran Olivia Smoliga won the first semi in 58.50. Former world-record holder Kathleen Baker (58.00 in 2018) suffered a fractured foot in early May and finished a non-qualifying 11th in 1:00.51.

Reigning Olympic gold medalist in the 100 m Breaststroke, Lilly King, is serving notice she is going to be hard to handle in Tokyo. She already had the world lead at 1:05.32 from a meet in March, but zoomed to the fastest heat time in 1:05.67 and then re-set her world lead in the semifinals, winning in 1:04.72, the no. 8 performance ever. Her world record of 1:04.13 from 2017 is in jeopardy in the final. Annie Lazor was second-fastest at 1:05.37, now no. 2 in the world for 2021 and a lifetime best, moving her to no. 10 all-time!

The U.S. Trials continue though next Sunday; Tuesday’s finals include the men’s 200 m Free, women’s 100 m Back and the women’s 100 m Breaststroke.

There were plenty more fireworks at the Australian Olympic Trials in Adelaide on Monday, with Ariarne Titmus scaring another world record.

Fresh off the no. 2 performance in history in the 400 m Free, Titmus roared to victory in the women’s 200 m Free in 1:53.09, again the second-fastest swim in history, just 0.11 off of the world mark of 1:52.98 by Italy’s Federica Pellegrini in 2009. Worth noting: Pellegrini’s performance was made in a non-textile suit, making Titmus’s mark worthy of world-record appreciation.

Also claiming a second world lead was McKeown, already the new world-record-setter in the women’s 100 m Backstroke. This time, she grabbed the 2021 lead in the women’s 200 m Medley, finishing in 2:08.19, replacing American Madisyn Cox’s 2:08.51 from May.

Jack McLoughlin won the men’s 800 m Free in 7:42.51 to take the no. 2 spot on the year list.

The Australian Trials continue through Thursday.

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