Caeleb Dressel shatters 50 freestyle record, goes sub-18 twice (video)

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Caeleb Dressel staked his claim as the world’s greatest swimmer last year. He’s off to a pretty good start this year, too.

Dressel, who matched Michael Phelps‘ record with seven gold medals at the 2017 World Championships, shattered his own NCAA and American records in the 50-yard freestyle at the NCAA Championships on Thursday night.

The University of Florida senior became the first swimmer to break 18 seconds in the event, which is contested in a 25-yard pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for major international meets like the Olympics.

Dressel came into Thursday with the 11 fastest times ever, holding the NCAA and American record with an 18.20.

Then Dressel clocked 18.11 in Thursday morning’s preliminary session.

In the evening finals, he led off UF’s 200-yard free relay team with a 17.81, igniting a roar from the crowd at the University of Minnesota. About 50 minutes later, Dressel clocked 17.63 to win the individual 50 free, hitting his pre-meet goal time.

“There needs to be a fine line between goal setting and laughter,” said Dressel, who kneels, says a prayer and talks to himself before races to stay calm. “I don’t think you should sell yourself short. This meet, I think 17.6 was a perfect swim. There’s still room to improve. I think both of my breakouts were still pretty bad.”

In eight hours, Dressel chopped more than a half-second off the world record in the shortest race in swimming. He won the 50 free final by 1.01 seconds over Olympic 4x100m free relay teammate Ryan Held.

In comparison, the difference between NCAA women’s 50 free winner Simone Manuel and 11th place was .96.

Dressel is .84 faster than anyone else in history in this event (second place is 50m and 100m freestyle world-record holder Cesar Cielo of Brazil from his college days at Auburn), granted it’s not swum on the major international level.

Still, in comparison, the gap between the women’s 50-yard free record holder (Manuel) and the No. 63 woman on the all-time list is also .84, according to USA Swimming’s online records.

“I know probably everybody in the world of swimming expected 17.9, but I don’t really care about other people’s expectations,” Dressel said. “I want to set my own and put my own pressure on myself. I actually deleted all my social media, so I don’t know what people are saying. I don’t have a clue. It’s kind of nice actually, you guys should try it. I don’t have any apps on my phone. It’s very freeing.”

Dressel’s time drops in the last year have been astounding. At 2017 Worlds, he lowered his 100m free personal best from 47.91 (Rio Olympics) to 47.17. In the 100m butterfly, from 50.87 (2017 Nationals) to 49.86. In the 50m freestyle, from 21.53 (2017 Nationals) to 21.15.

“It’s not a shock. He’s incredible,” Lochte, who was in attendance in Minnesota, said on Thursday night, according to FloridaGators.com. “He is the next ‘you name it.’ He is the face of swimming from now on.”

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Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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Freestyle skiers in World Cup action on NBC Sports, Peacock

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Olympic gold medalists David Wise and Alex Hall headline World Cup freestyle skiing and snowboarding stops in the U.S. this weekend, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

Wise, who last Sunday won his fifth X Games Aspen ski halfpipe title, led the qualifiers into the final at the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix in California.

He’s joined in the 10-man final by U.S. Olympic teammates Aaron Blunck and Birk Irving. The women’s ski halfpipe final includes the top three from last week’s X Games — Brit Zoe Atkin, Canadian Rachael Karker and American Svea Irving. Olympic champion Eileen Gu of China is out after suffering a knee injury in an X Games training crash.

The ski slopestyle finals include the reigning men’s and women’s Olympic gold medalists — Hall, plus Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland.

The marquee snowboarders in Mammoth finals are Olympic big air silver medalist Julia Marino (slopestyle) and X Games silver medalist Maddie Mastro (halfpipe). Two-time Olympic champion Chloe Kim is taking the season off, and another double Olympic champion, Jamie Anderson, is pregnant.

Aerials and moguls skiers are competing in their lone U.S. World Cup stop in Park City, Utah.

The moguls fields including Olympic gold medalists Walter Wallberg of Sweden, Mikael Kingsbury of the U.S., Perrine Laffont of France and Jakara Anthony of Australia. Olympic silver medalist Jaelin Kauf is the standout American.

The aerials include every member of the U.S. team that took gold at last year’s Olympics — Ashley Caldwell, Chris Lillis and Justin Schoenefeld.

Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding World Cup Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Saturday Moguls 11 a.m. CNBC, Peacock
Ski Halfpipe 3 p.m. NBC, Peacock
Sunday Ski Slopestyle 12 p.m. CNBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 12 Aerials, Dual Moguls 2 p.m. NBC, Peacock
Snowboard Halfpipe 2 p.m. CNBC, Peacock

All NBC and CNBC coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

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