Regan Smith, world’s best backstroker, takes flight in butterfly

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Regan Smith broke both backstroke world records at age 17. Having just turned 19, she won the 100m butterfly at a Pro Series meet in San Antonio on Friday, three months before Olympic Trials.

Smith took the 100m fly in 57.88 seconds, pulling away from Kelsi Dahlia by six tenths of a second. Dahlia was the U.S.’ fastest woman in the 100m fly in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Smith isn’t yet committing to adding the 100m fly to her Olympic Trials slate. The 100m and 200m backs and the 200m fly have been her top events. She’s also ranked fourth in the nation in the 100m fly since the start of 2019.

On Friday, she beat two of the three swimmers ranked ahead of her, though two younger teens who aren’t in San Antonio, Claire Curzan and Torri Huske, have also emerged as contenders in the event.

“Strength [training] has put a lot into my improvement with butterfly,” Smith, who tied for 81st in the 100m fly at the 2016 Olympic Trials at age 14, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA moments after Friday’s victory. “Back in 2016, I was barely doing any dryland or strength training. I definitely think it’s paid off.”

Smith could enter five events at trials — 100m back, 200m back, 100m fly, 200m fly and 200m freestyle — without having to swim more than twice in any single session in Omaha in June. She has the talent to make the Olympic team in the first four, plus potentially grab a top-six spot in the 200m free to make the 4x200m free relay.

“Definitely have to see [about the 100m fly] because it overlaps with the 100m back a little bit [at trials], but I love this race, I really do, so if we can find a way to make it work, then it’s something that I’d love to do at trials,” Smith said.

Earlier Friday, Smith took second in the 200m back to Kathleen Baker, the Olympic 100m back silver medalist. Baker swam 2:07.54, 1.26 seconds faster than the world-record holder.

Baker, the former 100m back world-record holder, is coming back from a rough 2019. In that year, she had pneumonia, broke a rib, suffered a herniated disk and was concussed.

Full meet results are here. The meet finishes Saturday with finals at 8 p.m. ET, live on Olympic Channel, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Also Friday, Katie Ledecky earned her third win in as many nights, taking the 200m free in 1:56.62. She prevailed by .86 over Katie McLaughlin, who ranks fourth among Americans since the start of 2019. The No. 2 American, national record holder Allison Schmitt, swam 2:00.32 in the B final. The No. 3 American, Simone Manuel, didn’t enter the event.

In March 2020, Ledecky won the 200m free at a Pro Series meet in Des Moines in 1:54.59, the fastest time in the world since the start of 2020.

“Some of the times haven’t been there this week,” Ledecky said on Olympic Channel, noting it’s her first time flying to a meet in one year. “I know I put up some good times over the past couple of months, so I feel good where I’m at.”

Andrew Seliskar, the top U.S. man in the 200m free since the start of 2019, took that event in 1:47.01. It marked the lone instance in 18 San Antonio finals that a swimmer has come within a half-second of a winning time from the March 2020 Pro Series meet in Des Moines. The top time last year was 1:46.91 (also by Seliskar).

Olympic champion Ryan Murphy won the men’s 200m back in 1:56.06. Murphy’s expected top challengers at trials, including Austin KatzShaine Casas and Jacob Pebley, weren’t in the field.

Chase Kalisz won a battle between the two 2016 U.S. Olympians in the 400m individual medley in 4:16.53. Kalisz, the Olympic silver medalist, remains ranked third in the nation since the start of 2019, but he defeated No. 1 Jay Litherland, the world silver medalist, on Friday.

Melanie Margalis backed up her No. 1 U.S. ranking in the 400m IM, prevailing in 4:37.81. She distanced a field that included the second-ranked American in the event, Emma Weyant, who placed third, 1.37 seconds behind.

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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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