The U.S. has dominated swimming since the heyday of its rivalry with Australia more than a decade ago, but the Aussies had one of their biggest recent gold-medal sweeps at the expense of the Americans on Friday.
Cate Campbell and Kyle Chalmers won the 100m freestyles at the Pan Pacific Championships, the biggest international meet for U.S. swimmers this year, in Tokyo.
The Aussies also beat the U.S. in the 4x200m free relay, with Madeline Groves holding off Katie Ledecky on anchor.
Groves was given a 2.88-second lead and edged Ledecky by .25, marking the American women’s first loss in a major international meet since 2009 Worlds.
Ledecky had the fastest split of the relay — 1:53.84 — which was .28 faster than Canadian Taylor Ruck, who won the individual 200m free over Ledecky on Thursday.
U.S. leadoff Allison Schmitt had the slowest leg of the 16 total swimmers — 1:58.62 — the slowest by an American woman in a 4x200m free final at a major meet since 2010, though leadoff legs are slowed by reaction time.
The U.S. men held off Australia in the 4x200m free, with Townley Haas touching .24 ahead of Jack Cartwright.
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Campbell clocked the second-fastest time ever — 52.03 seconds — to hand Simone Manuel her first loss in a major international 100m free in three years. Manuel, a distant runner-up in 52.66, shared the 2016 Olympic title with Canadian Penny Oleksiak and took the 2017 World title outright.
“I definitely was disappointed with losing, but I think I’m more disappointed with my time,” said Manuel, who was .12 faster at nationals two weeks ago.
Campbell entered the Rio Games as the world-record holder but was a disappointing sixth in Brazil, later saying she swam with a hernia. The 26-year-old skipped the 2017 Worlds but stormed back this year, clocking 52.37 in March, good for No. 2 in the world going into Pan Pacs.
“I can put to bed all the nightmares and thoughts that come creeping in when you’re lying awake, stewing over past performances,” Campbell said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I swam a personal best. These don’t come around very often at my age. I couldn’t be happier.”
Chalmers, the surprise Rio Olympic 100m free champion, pulled off another upset to take the Pan Pacs title. He touched in 48.00, beating world champion Caeleb Dressel and fellow Aussie Cartwright by .22.
Chalmers, 20, entered the final with the fifth-fastest time this year among the eight racers. He missed the 2017 Worlds after undergoing heart surgery and was third at the Commonwealth Games on April 8.
“I was beginning to doubt myself that little bit in the 100m,” Chalmers said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I haven’t done a whole lot of 100m work, but I’m a competitor.”
Australia bagged as many gold medals Friday at Pan Pacs — a meet without European nations and top stars from China and South Africa — as it did in all swim events at the Rio Olympics. The Aussies won a single gold at the 2017 Worlds.
Dressel dominated the 100m free at 2017 Worlds, winning in an American record 47.17 seconds as one of his Michael Phelps-record-tying seven gold medals at the meet.
He was sixth at the U.S. Championships two weeks ago in what coach Gregg Troy said was the worst thing that’s happened to him in the pool in four years since matriculating at the University of Florida.
“Pretty far off my best,” Dressel said Friday. “It’s been a little bit of a hectic year [Dressel finished his college career and turned pro in the last six months]. It was a learning year. Pan Pacs is a little more low key than worlds and Olympics. It’s just been a little crazy. That’s all right for right now.”
Dressel managed a different kind of victory Friday, grabbing one of two spots on the U.S. team in the 100m free for the 2019 World Championships, along with U.S. champion Blake Pieroni.
That means Nathan Adrian will not contest a 100m free at a major international meet for the first time since he was a prelim relay swimmer at the 2008 Olympics.
Also Friday, Rio gold medalist Ryan Murphy won the 100m backstroke in 51.94, just .09 off his world record. The race lacked world champion Xu Jiayu as China is saving its best swimmers for the Asian Games later this month.
World champion Kylie Masse of Canada captured the women’s 100m back in 58.61, .11 ahead of 2015 World champion Emily Seebohm of Australia. American Kathleen Baker, who at nationals broke Masse’s world record, earned bronze.
U.S. Olympian Hali Flickinger won the 200m butterfly in 2:07.35. Flickinger ranks second in the world this year with her 2:05.87 from nationals.
Japan’s Daiya Seto took the men’s 200m fly in 1:54.34, ranking him fifth in the world this year. The top American was Zach Harting in third in 1:55.05.
Pan Pacs continue Saturday, highlighted by Ledecky in the 400m freestyle (full broadcast schedule here).
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