Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel and an Alaskan post statement swims

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Katie Ledecky swam the second-fastest 200m freestyle of her life. Caeleb Dressel, in one of his non-primary events, beat the top-ranked American. And a 17-year-old Alaskan rocketed into the Olympic discussion.

The first set of events at a Pro Series stop in Mission Viejo, California, generated the most buzz of any one day of a professional swim meet in the U.S. so far in 2021. The Olympic Trials, where the top two per individual event are in line to go to Tokyo, are in two months.

Start with Ledecky, who won Friday’s opening race, the 200m free, in 1:54.40, matching the fastest time ever in an American pool.

“Passed the first test,” Ledecky said of a meet that continues Saturday and Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). Full results are here.

The only time she’s been faster was at the Rio Olympics, when she prevailed in 1:53.73. Since, Ledecky shared 200m free silver at the 2017 Worlds, took bronze at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships and didn’t race it at 2019 Worlds due to a stomach virus.

With her time on Friday, Ledecky improved to third-fastest in the world since the start of 2019 (behind veteran world champion Federica Pellegrini of Italy and 20-year-old Australian rival Ariarne Titmus) and fastest this year.

“It was a good confidence-building swim,” Ledecky said. “It was right where I felt like I should be.”

Immediately after Ledecky’s win, Dressel notched a similarly defining victory, though because of the event rather than the time.

Dressel, who won six medals in Olympic events at worlds in 2017 and 2019 (10 of the 12 gold), won the 200m free (which he did not swim at worlds) in 1:47.57. He ranks third among Americans this year (and outside the top 10 since the start of 2019), but on Friday he beat the highest-ranked American, Andrew Seliskar.

Dressel is in the mix for the 4x200m free relay at the Olympics, which could be a potential seventh Olympic event. It will likely take a swim in the 1:45s to make the Olympic team in the individual 200m free, potentially an eighth event for Dressel, which he did not rule out.

“I would not want to give up an opportunity to have another swim at the Olympics and representing the U.S. in the 200m free,” Dressel said. “I don’t want to say I’m going to promise anything or what. We’re going to get the feet wet at trials.”

Dressel noted he swam the 200m free at the 2017 World Championships trials and finished sixth to make that relay pool. The fifth- and sixth-place swimmers in the 100m and 200m frees at trials usually swim preliminary heats of relays at worlds and the Olympics (and are eligible for medals).

Dressel did not swim the 4x200m free relay at 2017 Worlds. The schedule set up so that he had two other individual swims during those sessions.

At Olympic Trials, the 200m free heats, semifinals and final are in sessions where Dressel has no other scheduled events. At the Olympics, the 200m free and the 4x200m free relay are in sessions with no more than one race in Dressel’s primary events.

“I’ll get my feet wet with that swim [at trials] and kind of feel out the meet, and then we’ll go from there,” Dressel said. “So I’m not sure. I’ll talk to [coach Gregg] Troy once we’re getting into crunch time [closer to Olympic Trials], and then we’ll figure out what our concrete plan will be.”

Dressel also won the 100m butterfly, where he holds the world record, a half-hour after the 200m free.

In other events Friday, Lilly King comfortably won the 100m breaststroke in 1:05.70.

But the Olympic and world champion and world-record holder wasn’t the story of the race. In second place: 17-year-old Alaskan Lydia Jacoby, who between prelims and the final lowered her personal best by 1.17 seconds and now ranks second in the U.S. this year and third since the start of 2019.

No person born in Alaska has made an Olympic swim team, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org. No Alaskan has made an Olympic swim team, according to an Alaska Swimming Hall of Fame contact.

Nic Fink won the men’s 100m breast in 59.74, lowering his mark as fastest American this year. Fink, a 27-year-old eyeing his first Olympics, remains outside the top five Americans since the start of 2019. Andrew Wilson, who was second on Friday, owns the top time in that span of 58.93.

Melanie Margalis swam the world’s fastest 400m individual medley in 2021, clocking 4:35.18 and beating a field that included Olympic hopefuls by 2.37 seconds. Margalis, a 29-year-old who was fourth in the 200m IM in Rio, ranks fourth in the world in the 400m IM since the start of 2019, trailing the three 2019 World Championships medalists.

Rio Olympian Kelsi Dahlia won the women’s 100m fly in 58.11. She remains the second-fastest American in the event since the start of 2019, trailing 16-year-old Claire Curzan. Curzan is slated to swim a 100m fly in her native North Carolina on Saturday.

ON HER TURF: Carissa Moore lands air reverse, earning near-perfect score

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson
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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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