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.

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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