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Five women’s races to watch at U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials

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With 26 events over eight days, there will be plenty to watch at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, starting Sunday on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

Here are five women’s events to focus on:

Women’s 100m freestyle – July 1
Three 19-year-olds will battle some Olympic veterans for six Olympic berths (only two individually, though), and some vets who are not necessarily freestyle specialists. The top seed is Simone Manuel, who clocked in at 53.25 as a 17-year-old at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships. Seeded second will be Missy Franklin (53.68), the reigning Olympic 100 and 200 backstroke champ. Third is reigning Olympic 100 butterfly champ Dana Vollmer (53.59). Then there’s 19-year-old Katie Ledecky (53.75), who won gold at the 2015 Worlds in every freestyle event longer than 100 meters, and another 19-year-old, Abbey Weitzeil (53.77). A relay spot could go to 33-year-old Natalie Coughlin, who has won 12 Olympic medals, two of which were in the 100 free (bronze in 2004 and ’08).

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Women’s 200m freestyle – June 29
The 200 free will be similarly loaded with big names battling for six spots. Ledecky is the favorite after winning the event at the 2015 Worlds and posting the world’s second-fastest time so far this year (1:54.43). Franklin won bronze at last year’s Worlds in 1:55.49, seventh-fastest since the start of 2015. And Allison Schmitt is the defending Olympic gold medalist. She won in London in 1:53.61, but her best time since January 2015 is 1:56.23. Manuel, seeded ninth, could vie for a berth here as well.

Women’s 100m backstroke – June 28
This one could come down to Franklin and Coughlin. Franklin is the defending Olympic champion, winning the London 100 back in 58.33; she placed fifth at the 2015 Worlds in 59.40, tops among Americans. Coughlin, however, holds the fastest American time since the start of 2015 (59.05). She’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist in this event (2004 and ’08), but was edged out at the 2012 Trials by Franklin and then-18-year-old Rachel Bootsma, whose recent times leave her a longshot in the event at this year’s Trials.

Women’s 400m individual medley – June 26
Maya DiRado, 23, looks set to make her Olympic debut after winning silver in the 400 IM at the 2015 Worlds in 4:31.71, the second-fastest time in the world since the start of 2015. Close behind is Elizabeth Beisel, who posted 4:31.99 at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, and won silver at the London Games with a time of 4:31.27. Caitlin Leverenz also took part in that Olympic final, placing sixth (4:35.49); her best mark since is 4:35.46. And Ledecky will be seeded fifth in this race, though she is unlikely to have designs on swimming it in Rio.

Women’s 200m butterfly – June 30
Cammile Adams made her Olympic debut four years ago after winning this event at Trials, and then finished fifth in London (2:06.78). She dropped her time to 2:06.40 and won silver at the 2015 Worlds, and her best mark since January 2015 is 2:06.33, fifth in the world. She’ll be challenged at Trials by 18-year-old Katie McLaughlin, who placed sixth at Worlds last year in 2:06.95, the world’s 11th-best time in the past two years. DiRado and Hali Flickinger could also contend for that second spot.

Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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