Caeleb Dressel repeats as 100m freestyle champ at swim worlds

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Caeleb Dressel repeated as 100m freestyle world champion, clocking the second-fastest time in history on Thursday.

Dressel earned his third gold in four events so far in Gwangju, South Korea, touching in 46.96 seconds, just .05 off Brazilian Cesar Cielo‘s world record from the 2009 Worlds. Frenchman Alain Bernard also swam 46.94 in 2009, but that time was not recognized because his swimsuit was not approved.

“I know I was just off the world record, but really the goal was just to swim the best race that I could, and if that was the time I got tonight, I was happy,” Dressel said. “I’m going to talk to [coach Gregg] Troy, and I guarantee you the first thing he’s going to say is what we could have done better.”

Dressel prevailed by .12 over Australian Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers, who was absent from Dressel’s 2017 World Championships breakout due to heart surgery.

“I consider him a better 100m freestyler,” Dressel said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA of Chalmers. “I look up to him in that aspect.”

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Dressel previously won the 50m butterfly and was part of the victorious U.S. men’s 4x100m free this week. He also earned silver with the mixed-gender 4x100m medley.

Dressel won a Michael Phelps-record-tying seven golds at the 2017 Worlds, albeit two were in mixed-gender relays that weren’t on the program in Phelps’ era. Dressel can still win seven this week if he runs the table from here on out, and possibly eight if he’s added to the 4x200m free relay.

If Dressel is added to that relay, he could swim three events both on Friday night and Saturday night. In all of Phelps’ Olympics, he never swam three times in one session.

In other events Thursday, Katie Ledecky returned from illness to help the U.S. go under the world record in the 4x200m free relay. Problem is, Australia went even faster to win. More on Ledecky and that event here.

American Chase Kalisz took bronze in the 200m individual medley, .64 of a second behind Japanese rival Daiya Seto.

It marked the first time a non-American won the event at an Olympics or worlds since 2001, snapping a streak of 12 straight titles among Phelps (seven), Ryan Lochte (four) and Kalisz (one). Kalisz, who swept the IMs at 2017 Worlds, has the 400m IM later this week.

“This is when I operate at my best, when I’m from a behind position,” Kalisz said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’ll be watching this race a few times next year.”

Hungarian Boglarka Kapas zoomed past Americans Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot in the last 25 meters of the 200m butterfly.

Kapas kept the U.S. from ending a world title drought in the event dating to Summer Sanders‘ gold in 1991. Kapas clocked 2:06.78, slower than silver medalist Flickinger and bronze medalist Drabot’s leading semifinal times, and won by .17.

Australian Matthew Wilson tied the 200m breaststroke world record in the semifinals, clocking 2:06.67, two lanes across from the man whose mark he matched, Japanese Ippei Watanabe. They’ll be in Friday’s final, but Olympic silver medalist Josh Prenot failed to advance.

Olympic and world 100m breaststroke champion Lilly King was absent from the women’s 200m semifinals because of a preliminary heat DQ.

American Olivia Smoliga won the 50m backstroke, which is not an Olympic event. Smoliga, who earned eight golds at the short-course worlds in December, edged Brazilian Etiene Medeiros by .11.

NBC Sports researcher Megan Soisson contributed to this report from Gwangju.

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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