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American Swimming Stars Dressel and Manuel Settle for Olympic Relay Spots
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By Associated Press
Published 4 weeks ago on
June 20, 2024

Simone Manuel is introduced before the Women's 100 freestyle finals Wednesday, June 19, 2024, at the US Swimming Olympic Trials in Indianapolis. (AP/Darron Cummings)

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INDIANAPOLIS — Coming back from lengthy layoffs, American swimming stars Caeleb Dressel and Simone Manuel were eager to claim their first individual events of the Paris Olympics.

Instead, they had to settle for supporting roles.

Dressel finished third in the men’s 100-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials on Wednesday night, while Manuel touched fourth in the women’s 100 free.

Only the top two will get to swim the events individually in Paris, but Dressel and Manuel will both be part of the 4×100 freestyle relays.

“I think Paris is going to be a blast,” said Manuel, who has endured a long road back after being diagnosed with overtraining syndrome ahead of the Tokyo Games. “It’s a different spot than I’m used to right now with only being a relay swimmer. But it’s my third Olympic team and that’s something that’s really hard to accomplish.”

Potential breakout star Kate Douglass claimed the victory and Torri Huske took the runner-up position, with Gretchen Walsh also finishing ahead of Manuel.

Dressel, the winner of five gold medals in Tokyo, won’t get a chance to defend his 100 freestyle title after reaching the wall behind Chris Guiliano and Jack Alexy.

“I’m trying to have fun; I am having fun,” Dressel told the crowd of 22,209 on the deck of the temporary pool inside Lucas Oil Stadium. “You don’t know how much it means to me, the love I’m getting from you. It’s been tough.”

Dressel walked away from swimming in the midst of the 2022 world championships, later revealing that he needed an extended break to rediscover his love of the sport.

Dressel failed to even qualify for the 2023 worlds, but his times have improved significantly since last fall. He still has a shot to qualify individually in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly — two more events he won at the last Summer Games.

Manuel also has the 50-meter freestyle left on her plate.

In perhaps the surest bet of the meet, Katie Ledecky claimed her third victory with another dominating performance in the 1,500 freestyle, though the time was a bit of a disappointment.

Seventeen-year-old Thomas Heilman won the men’s 200 butterfly, while Matt Fallon touched first in the 200 breaststroke. Both will be first-time Olympians.

Relay Team Selection

Dressel was all smiles as he hugged the guys ahead of him, saying he was pleased to be on the relay that will set its sights on taking down the world record at the Olympics.

“That’s an unbelievably fast top four, top five — oh my gosh, the top six,” he said, looking at the times on the massive scoreboard above the pool. “That’s a great group of guys. It’s fast.”

Guiliano and Alexy were tied at the turn, but Guiliano got to the wall in 47.38 seconds to edge Alexy’s 47.47. The margin was even closer to third, with Dressel missing an individual spot by just six-hundredths of a second.

His time of 47.53 was about a half-second off his winning performance in Tokyo (47.02).

Hunter Armstrong finished fourth, with Ryan Held and Matt King also likely to be added to the Olympic team as relay swimmers.

Manuel was the first Black woman to capture an individual swimming gold when she tied for the top spot in the 100 freestyle at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

She didn’t get a chance to defend her title in Tokyo, and she won’t swim the event in Paris either.

Still, Manuel was clearly moved just to be on a relay, breaking down in tears in front of the big crowd.

“It’s a miracle that I’m even able to stand up here and be able to race again.” she said. “The people close to me know the journey it took to get here. I’m really proud of myself and proud of Team USA.”

Douglass was fourth at the turn, but she powered to the finish for a winning time of 52.56. Huske finished at 52.93, while Walsh faded from the lead at the midway point to touch third in 53.13.

Manuel was next at 53.25, with fifth-place finisher Abbey Weitzeil (53.70) also likely headed to her third Olympics as a relay option.

After winning a bronze medal in the 200 individual medley at Tokyo, Douglass has become one of America’s most versatile swimmers. She won a total of 14 medals at the last three world championships in everything from the freestyle to the breaststroke to the individual medley to the relays.

Now, she’s headed back to the Olympics, though there’s still plenty of work to do in Indy.

Douglass entered five events, leading to a grueling double Wednesday. She returned from her 100 freestyle victory to take the top time in the semifinals of the 200 breaststroke, stamping her as the favorite over local favorite Lilly King in Thursday’s final.

Women’s 1,500 Freestyle

Ledecky added to her victories in the 200 and 400 free, though she doesn’t plan to swim the shorter event in Paris. She’s also a huge favorite to take the 800 free title before she leaves Indy.

Ledecky’s time of 15 minutes, 37.35 second was nearly 17 seconds off her world record and not much better than her pace in the preliminaries.

“I was expecting to go a lot faster,” she conceded. “I know I have a lot more in me than the end result today. I just didn’t have that next gear.”

Grimes earned her second individual event at the Olympics with a time of 15:57.77, adding to her victory in the 400 individual medley. She’ll be swimming indoors and outdoors at the Olympics, having also claimed a spot in the 10-kilometer open water race.

Men’s 200 Butterfly

Heilman will become the youngest U.S. male Olympic swimmer since Michael Phelps made the team for Sydney at age 15.

Luke Whitlock, 18, had laid claim to that distinction a night earlier with his second-place showing in the 800 freestyle. Then someone even younger made the team when Heilman touched first in 1:54.50.

“I’m just looking forward to hanging out with the team and building relationships that will last a lifetime,” Heilman said.

Luca Urlando claimed the expected second spot in Paris with a time of 1:55.08.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

Fallon cruised to victory in 2:06.54, more than 2 seconds ahead of expected Olympic teammate Josh Matheny (2:08.86) in the runner-up spot.

Fallon broke an 8-year-old American record with his time. Josh Prenot held the previous mark of 2:07.17 since the 2016 trials

“It doesn’t even feel real yet,” Fallon said. “I just wanted to go out there and have fun, and I definitely did in that race.”

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