American swimming stars Dressel and Manuel settle for relay spots at US swim trials

INDIANAPOLIS — Coming back from long layoffs, American swimming stars Caeleb Dressel and Simone Manuel had to settle for relay spots at the Olympics on Wednesday night.

Dressel, the winner of five gold medals at the Tokyo Games, won't get a chance to defend his 100-meter freestyle title in Paris after a third-place finish at the U.S. trials behind Chris Guiliano and Jack Alexy.

Manuel finished fourth in the women's 100 freestyle, with potential breakout star Kate Douglass claiming the victory and Torri Huske the second spot.

Only the top two in each event will get to race individually at the Olympics, but the top four are assured of a spots in the 4x100 freestyle relays.

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 scoreboard at Lucas Oil Stadium. "That's a great group of guys. It's fast."

Dressel and Manuel still have a shot to earn individual races in Paris. Dressel has the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly — two other events he won in Tokyo — while Manuel has the 50 free.

In perhaps the surest bet of the trials, Katie Ledecky claimed her third victory at Lucas Oil Stadium with another dominating performance in the 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.

Manuel, the first Black woman to capture an individual swimming gold when she tied for the top spot in this event at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, had hoped to complete her comeback from overtraining syndrome by claiming a spot in the 100 free.

It didn't work out, but Manuel was clearly moved just to be on a relay.

"It means everything to me," she said, breaking down in tears on deck before the crowd of 22,209. "It's a miracle that I'm even able to stand up here and be able to race again. 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 only fourth at the turn, but she powered to the finish for a winning time of 52.56 seconds. Huske finished at 52.93, while Gretchen 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.

On the men's side, Guiliano and Alexy were tied at the turn but Guiliano got the wall in 47.38, edging Alexy by nine-hundredths of a second. The margin was even closer to third, with Dressel missing an individual spot by just six-hundredths.

After his starring role in Tokyo, Dressel walked away from the sport in the midst of the 2022 world championships, later revealing that he needed to get away for an extended period to rediscover his love of the sport.

"I'm trying to have fun, I am having fun," Dressel told the big crowd. "You don't know how much it means to me, the love I'm getting from you. It's been tough."

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

The other winners Wednesday night were 17-year-old Thomas Heilman in the men's 200 butterfly and Matthew Fallon in the 200 breaststroke.

Ledecky touched in 15 minutes, 37.35 seconds, more than a half-lap ahead of runner-up Katie Grimes at 15:57.77.

"I was hoping to go a little faster, but I'll take it," said Ledecky, whose six individual gold medals are already the most for any female swimmer in Olympic history. "I'll be better in a few weeks."

Grimes earned her second individual event in Paris, adding to her victory in the 400 individual medley. She'll be swimming indoors and outdoors at the Olympics, also claiming a spot in the 10-kilometer open water race.

Manuel won two golds and two silvers at the Rio Games, a breakout performance for swimmers of color in a largely white sport. But her body broke down under the strain of overtraining syndrome ahead of the pandemic-delayed games in Tokyo.

Manuel didn't even qualify to defend her title in the 100 freestyle, though she did rally to earn a spot in the 50 free. In Tokyo, she was eliminated in the semifinals of her only individual event, with her lone medal coming as the anchor of the 4x100 free relay team that finished third.

After the Olympics, she was ordered by her doctor to shut down all physical activity for more than six months to give her body time to properly recover.

Douglass had built on a bronze medal in the 200 individual medley at Tokyo to 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.

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 minute, 54.50 seconds.

"Its gonna be amazing. I'm just looking forward to hanging out with the team and building relationships that will last a lifetime," Heilman said. "Going to the Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I'm looking forward to cherishing every moment."

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

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.