Who knows if 16-year-old Claire Curzan would have made the Olympic team, had the Tokyo Games been held this year.
What’s clear is that she swam like an Olympian on Friday, recording the fastest 100m butterfly for an American since the start of 2019 at the U.S. Open, the biggest domestic meet since the Olympics were postponed to 2021.
Curzan, a North Carolina high school junior, clocked 56.61 seconds, chopping nearly one second off her personal best. She moved from seventh in the 2019-20 U.S. rankings to first, stamping herself as a favorite to make next year’s Olympic team.
“I don’t really know what I was expecting going into this, but I couldn’t be happier with my time,” Curzan said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I don’t know if words can describe it.”
Katie Ledecky, at 15 in 2012, is the only younger swimmer to make either of the last two U.S. Olympic teams.
Curzan supplanted Rio Olympian Kelsi Dahlia atop the U.S. 100m fly rankings, seven months before the Olympic Trials, where the top two qualify for Tokyo.
She extended a remarkable run during the coronavirus pandemic, breaking a slew of national age group records this summer and fall. Her fast swimming goes back farther. Curzan also earned three individual medals at the 2019 World Junior Championships.
The U.S. Open, combining results from nine different sites, continues Saturday. A TV and stream schedule is here.
In other Friday night events, Rio Olympic silver medalist Kathleen Baker topped world-record holder Regan Smith in the 100m backstroke, 59.82 to 59.95. Baker swam in Indianapolis. Smith raced in Des Moines, where she held off fellow 18-year-old Phoebe Bacon by .23.
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