Three thoughts following the USA Swimming National Championships, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast, heading into the world championships in three weeks …
1. Katie Ledecky will have her best medal output ever at worlds
Here’s another adjective for Katie Ledecky: Consistent. Her times at the 2016 Olympic Trials and 2017 World Championships Trials:
In four finals covering 1,500 meters, Ledecky swam within one second of her pool time at the Olympic Trials. Some key differences from year to year:
- The Olympic Trials was an eight-day meet. The World Championships Trials was five days.
- The Olympic Trials ended five weeks before the Olympics. The World Championships Trials ended three weeks before the world championships. This could have impacted Ledecky’s tapering schedule. She said last week she was less tapered for world trials than she was for Olympic Trials, which makes swimming nearly identical times all the more impressive.
- Ledecky is coming off her freshman year at Stanford.
Ledecky will contest the exact same individual events in Budapest as she did at the 2015 Worlds — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees — and she is No. 1 in the world this year in each event, comfortably. She is expected to swim one more relay than in 2015, adding the 4x100m free to her 4x200m free.
Her path to a potential six gold medals (tying Missy Franklin‘s female worlds record) is boosted by two swimmers whom she will not be racing.
Swede Sarah Sjöström, who came the closest of anyone to beating Ledecky in Rio, is skipping what would have been a showdown with Ledecky in the 200m free in Budapest to focus on 50m and 100m events.
Australian Cate Campbell, the 100m freestyle world-record holder, is skipping worlds altogether. This is key, given Campbell anchored Australia to 4x100m free relay gold over the U.S. at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics.
Australia loses more than one second without Campbell in its relay quartet. Counting times from each nation’s nationals, Australia (without Campbell) would beat the U.S. (with Ledecky) by one tenth of a second in an on-paper 4x100m free.
2. Caeleb Dressel joins Phelps, Lochte
In the last 15 years, only two U.S. men have raced in four individual events at a single Olympics or world championships — Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
Well, Caeleb Dressel can join that club in Budapest. The 20-year-old rising Florida senior qualified for the 50m and 100m butterfly and freestyles. He’s also eligible for five relays, meaning he must choose from nine total events at the eight-day Budapest meet.
No way he swims them all. For one, the 50m freestyle prelims and semis, 100m butterfly prelims and semis and 4x200m free relay prelims and final are all on the same day. (Dressel squeaked into the 4x200m free relay pool by placing sixth at nationals.)
Dressel has been the next big phenom in U.S. sprint freestyles since he was a high schooler, swimming for the same club team as Rio gold medalists Ryan Murphy and Joseph Schooling. He almost quit the sport entirely three years ago as the No. 1 recruit in the nation.
But he may be better in the butterfly. Dressel clocked the fastest time in the world in the 100m fly by .42 at nationals, lowering his personal best by 1.35 seconds. Only Phelps and Ian Crocker have swum faster among Americans all time.
Medals in Dressel’s other three individual events will be harder to come by. He ranks Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in the world in the 50m free, 100m free and 50m fly.
3. Lilly King, Yulia Efimova times three
The most memorable head-to-head in Rio was between American Lilly King and Yulia Efimova in the 100m breaststroke. King memorably finger-wagged an image of the Russian and then said she disagreed with Efimova being allowed to compete in Rio due to her previous doping ban.
King would beat Efimova in the 100m breast, but less remembered is that King flamed out in the 200m breast semifinals. Efimova made that final and finished second.
Well, King has improved drastically in the 200m breast. In sweeping the breaststrokes last week, she lowered her 200m personal best by 2.2 seconds.
Now, King and Efimova are right next to each other in the 2017 world rankings in every breaststroke, which should make for plenty more headlines in Budapest:
1. King — 29.66
2. Efimova — 29.88
1. Efimova — 1:04.82
2. King — 1:04.95
1. Efimova — 2:19.83
2. King — 2:21.83
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