Simone Manuel, Nathan Adrian win 50m freestyles at winter nationals

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Simone Manuel and Nathan Adrian, each an Olympic 100m freestyle champion, added 50m golds at winter nationals in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday night.

Manuel easily won the splash and dash by .48 of a second in 24.39. Manuel earned silver or bronze in the 50m free at the 2016 Olympics, 2017 World Championships and this past summer’s Pan Pacific Championships, the last three major international meets.

Adrian, who owns Olympic bronze and world silver in the 50m free, won winter nationals by .51 in 21.94. In the last two years, Adrian has ceded the role of top U.S. sprinter to Caeleb Dressel and failed to qualify for an individual event at 2019 Worlds, ending a 10-year streak of racing individually at major international meets.

Thursday’s final lacked Dressel and Michael Andrew, who will be racing the 50m free at 2019 Worlds.

WINTER NATS: Full Results | TV Schedule

In other events, Katie Ledecky cruised to her second win in as many nights, taking the 400m free by 9.36 seconds in 4:00.35. It’s the 19th-fastest time ever, according to USA Swimming’s database. Ledecky owns the 12 fastest times in history, starting with her world-record 3:56.46 from the Rio Olympics, and last lost a 400m free at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

“I kind of was talking to myself towards the end of that race that if I was under four minutes, that would probably be the easiest a sub-four would feel for me,” Ledecky said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “So to be almost sub-four, that’s really good for the start of the season.”

Ledecky, who routed the 800m free field Wednesday, is also entered in Friday’s 200m free and Saturday’s 100m free.

Rio Olympian Jordan Wilimovsky took the men’s 400m free in 3:50.78, adding to his 800m free title Wednesday. Wilimovsky is better at longer distances, ranked fourth in the world this year in the 800m and 1500m frees and an open-water 10km gold and silver medalist at the last two world championships.

Madisyn Cox took the women’s 200m individual medley in 2:10.76, her best time of a tumultuous 2018. The 2017 World bronze medalist missed nationals after testing positive for a banned substance due to a legal supplement that had been contaminated.

The original two-year suspension was reduced to six months after a FINA panel agreed that she did not intend to dope. Since Cox missed nationals, she also missed qualifying for the biggest international meets of 2018 and 2019, the Pan Pacific Championships three months ago and next summer’s world championships.

Cox ranks 11th in the world this year in the 200m IM and fourth among Americans behind Kathleen Baker, Melanie Margalis and Ella Eastin, who are not competing in Greensboro.

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April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

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