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Caeleb Dressel flies to second Tokyo berth as Katie Ledecky locks up 800-meter free at U.S. trials

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World record-holder Caeleb Dressel will try to add 100-meter butterfly Olympic gold to his two world titles after a victory Saturday at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

Dressel, who clocked the world record of 49.50 at the 2019 World Championships, led wire-to-wire on the way to victory in 49.87 seconds.

That was a shade off his semifinal time of 49.76, but easily enough for victory over Tom Shields, a 2016 Rio Olympics relay gold medalist who was second in 51.19.

Dressel, who won two relay golds in Rio but finished sixth in the 100-meter freestyle, has since emerged as a multievent star, winning a record eight medals, six gold, at the 2019 worlds.

He had already punched his ticket to Tokyo in the 100-meter freestyle, and later Saturday topped the semifinal times in the 50-meter free ahead of Michael Andrew and 2012 100-meter free gold medalist Nathan Adrian.

“The goal of this meet is making the team,” Dressel said. “I would have liked to be a little faster just to put more of a show on for the home crowd.

“But we made the team and I’m in the final of the 50. This meet’s going as according to plan as it possibly could have.”

Katie Ledecky completed her qualifying campaign with another dominant victory in the 800-meter freestyle, her time of 8:14.62 putting her more than five seconds ahead of surprise second-place finisher Katie Grimes.

“It was a fine swim,” Ledecky said. “I thought it would be a lot better than that just given how good my prelim swim felt.

“It’s just a good reminder and I’ll take that moving forward … 8:14.6 was the time I won with in London so I can’t be too hard on myself.”

The 15-year-old Grimes, swimming in lane eight, clocked 8:20.36, powering past open water Olympian Haley Anderson on the final lap to finish second.

Katie Ledecky (left) reacts with Katie Grimes after winning in women’s 800-meter freestyle finals during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Swimming competition Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska. | USA TODAY / VIA REUTERS
Katie Ledecky (left) reacts with Katie Grimes after winning in women’s 800-meter freestyle finals during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Swimming competition Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska. | USA TODAY / VIA REUTERS

Grimes, who posted her best time by almost six seconds to qualify for the final and dropped another 11 seconds on Saturday, hung on the lane rope and cried when she realized she had earned a trip to Tokyo, Ledecky swimming over to congratulate her.

“I told Katie Grimes after her third place in the (1500-meter) you’re the future,” Ledecky said. “I told her after that one she’s the now.”

Five-time Olympic gold medalist Ledecky — who launched her Olympic career with a surprise 800-meter free victory in London in 2012 at the age of 15 — has lined up an ambitious program for Tokyo.

She is qualified in the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1500-meter freestyles.

It was an upset in the women’s 200-meter backstroke, as Rhyan White and 18-year-old Phoebe Bacon finished one-two to shut world record-holder Regan Smith out of a 200-meter spot in Tokyo.

White, 21, had already punched her ticket to Tokyo with a runner-up finish to Smith in the 100-meter back.

She won the 200-meters in 2:05.73 seconds while Bacon, an 18-year-old University of Wisconsin standout, was second in 2:06.46.

Smith, who is already on the team in 200-meter butterfly as well as the 100-meter back, was third in 2:06.79.

It was a season-best for the swimmer who set the world record at 2:03.35 in 2019, but not near enough to give her a chance at a backstroke double in Tokyo.

Simone Manuel, 100-meter freestyle gold medalist in Rio, bounced back from her shock exit in the semifinals of the 100-meter free with the third-fastest time in the 50-meter free semis.

Abbey Weitzeil, winner of the 100-meter, led the way into Sunday’s 50-meter final in 24.27, with teenager Torri Huske second in their semi in 24.45.

Manuel won her semifinal in 24.50.

“It’s nice to just swim as fast as I can,” said Manuel, who had revealed her battle with overtraining syndrome after her 100-meter free exit.

“I do think sharing my story kind of helped me free myself and allowed me to go out and fight to be on the team.”

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