Dressel, Ledecky headline another stacked US Olympic swimming trials

football13 June 2024 23:50| © AFP
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Caeleb Dressel © Gallo Images

Seven-time Olympic gold medallist Caeleb Dressel brings a new perspective to the pressure-packed US Olympic swimming trials, where he and freestyle phenomenon Katie Ledecky are set to star again in the fierce fight for Paris Games berths.

Dressel and Ledecky bring formidable credentials to the nine-day meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, where only a top-two finish can secure an individual race berth in Paris and any slip-up can spell heartbreak.

Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, promises to provide a spectacular setting for swimmers chasing their Olympic dreams when the trials get under way on Saturday.

It's been a twisting path back to this point for 27-year-old Dressel, who followed his two relay golds at the 2016 Rio Olympics with five gold medals in Tokyo in 2021 to stamp himself the heir to US great Michael Phelps.

But Dressel withdrew abruptly from the 2022 world championships, taking a nine-month break from the sport.

He's set to contest the 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly and 50m free, and although he's not the top-ranked swimmer going into any of those events his steady progress in recent months indicates he'll be ready for young challengers such as world bronze medallist Dare Rose in the 100m butterfly and world silver medallist Jack Alexy in the 50m free.

As his comeback gathered steam this year, Dressel said his extended break had refreshed his relationship to the sport.

"I knew I was in a spot where it wasn't healthy," he said this year as his comeback gathered steam. "It got to that point where I was like, if I don't break a world record in whatever event, then my career is a waste.

"Like that was my thinking, which is pretty ludicrous ... Because I know I'm a good swimmer, but if you were to ask me that a couple years ago, I don't know what I'd say."

Ledecky, who burst onto the international scene as a 15-year-old with her victory in the 800m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, is slated to race the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m free in pursuit of a fourth Games and a chance to add to her stash of seven Olympic gold medals.

Katie Grimes, who has already secured a Paris spot in open water swimming, will try to earn a place in the pool as she tackles the 800m and 1500m free, the 400m individual medley and possibly the 400m free.

Kate Douglass, who took 200m medley bronze in her Olympic debut in Tokyo, goes into trials as the top-ranked American in the 50m and 100m freestyle, the 200m breaststroke and the 200m medley.

The women's 100m fly promises fireworks with Tokyo Olympian Torri Huske – who challenged Sarah Sjostrom's world record in April – taking on red-hot Gretchen Walsh and world silver medallist Claire Curzan.

Regan Smith headlines the women's 100m and 200m backstrokes and the 200m butterfly, aiming to secure a chance to renew her rivalries with Australian Kaylee McKeown and Canadian Summer McIntosh.

Ryan Murphy, who completed an Olympic backstroke double in Rio but settled for silver and bronze in Tokyo, headlines the men's 100m and 200m back.

Carson Foster leads the way in the men's 200m and 400m medleys, aiming to set up a Paris duel with French phenomenon Leon Marchand.