Katie Ledecky’s first opportunity to make Tokyo Olympic team has arrived in 400m freestyle

2021 U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming - Day 2
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A look at night two of finals at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, live on NBC, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app at 8 p.m. ET …

Katie Ledecky has been one of the faces of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics since the Rio 2016 Games ended. The 24-year-old finally has a chance to make this year’s team on Monday night.

The women’s 400m freestyle, Ledecky’s first of several events is the last of tonight’s three finals, though is then followed by semifinals for two more events.

As the world record holder for nearly seven years, Ledecky is a near-lock to win at Trials. She last lowered her record in 2016 when she won the Olympic title. Ledecky is also a three-time world champion at this distance. She won the 2019 World silver medal while battling illness.

With six Olympic medals already on her resume and the potential to claim five more in Tokyo this summer, Ledecky’s quest for more history begins with her first final of the week.

SWIM TRIALS: Results | TV Schedule | Women’s Event Previews | Men’s Event Previews

A look at tonight’s races:

Women’s 100m Butterfly FINAL — 8:07 p.m.
Two teenagers could be the first names added to the Olympic team roster tonight if all goes according to plan for 18-year-old Torri Huske, who lowered her personal bests in three events during the pandemic, and 16-year-old Claire Curzan. Huske broke seven-time Olympic medalist Dana Vollmer‘s American record in Sunday’s semifinal, going 55.78 seconds. Curzan was the second fastest at 56.81. Six of the eight women in the final swam below the Olympic standard in the semis, including 2016 Olympian and 2017 World bronze medalist Kelsi Dahlia who was third. Dahlia placed eighth in the event in Rio. Nineteen-year-old Regan Smith is seeded sixth, though she is more likely to make the Olympic team in either breaststroke event.

Men’s 200m Freestyle Semifinals — 8:17 p.m.
Kieran Smith, who on Sunday night became one of the first athletes to make the U.S. Olympic pool swimming team when he won the 400m freestyle, is on track to book a spot in his second final of the week. Smith had the top time in the prelims of 1:46.54. Caeleb Dressel was second this morning but scratched and will not continue racing this event, though could remain available for the 4x200m free relay. Rising Michigan senior Patrick Callan had the next best time. Olympians Blake Pieroni and Townley Haas are also in the field. Pieroni is after his first individual Olympic event, while Haas was fifth in the 200 in Rio. Twelve-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte ranked 25th of 50 in the prelims and did not advance to the semis. Lochte was on the last four Olympic 4×200 relay teams.

Women’s 100m Breaststroke Semifinals — 8:35 p.m.
Lilly King was easily the top qualifier in 1:05.67 and should sail through to the final. King won the 2016 Olympic title at this distance and set the current world record of 1:04.13 at the 2017 Worlds. The silver medalist in the 200m breaststroke at those Worlds, Bethany Galat, was second in the prelims, followed by Annie Lazor, who swept both distances at the 2019 Pan American Games and has been second fastest in the nation behind King since the start of 2019. Molly Hannis, who competed in the 200 in Rio with King, also qualified to the semis.

Men’s 100m Breaststroke FINAL — 8:54 p.m.
Believed to be the first to ever set an American record in both the prelim and semifinal rounds at U.S. Olympic Trials, Michael Andrew could also become the first to do so in all three rounds if he lowers his time of 58.14 seconds in the final. After turning pro at age 14, Andrew is expected to finally make his Olympic debut this year at 22. He is joined in the eight-man final by the next three fastest U.S. men in history: Nic Fink, Andrew Wilson and Kevin Cordes, who missed the Olympic podium in Rio by 0.35.

Women’s 400m Freestyle FINAL — 9:04 p.m.
While Ledecky has the potential to finish a few seconds ahead of the field, the race for second place should be far more challenging. The field includes Leah Smith, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist who was second in the country to Ledecky every year from 2014-19. Smith was fourth in the morning’s qualifying round though, behind Sierra Schmidt, a 2015 World junior silver medalist in this race, and Haley Anderson, who has already qualified for her third Olympics in open water swimming. Ashley Twichell, who will be competing in the 5k in Tokyo with Anderson, also made it to the final but scratched.

Men’s 100m Backstroke Semifinals — 9:08 p.m.
Perhaps the most competitive race of the day, the prelims saw eight swimmers under the Olympic standard time of 53.85 seconds and 10 within a second of each other. Recent Cal graduate Bryce Mefford led the pack in 52.99, just ahead of Justin Ress, the 2017 World University Games winner. The real favorite, though, is Ryan Murphy, who has held the world record since setting it when he won the 2016 Olympic gold. Murphy also has the top time by an American since the start of 2019. His predecessor, Matt Grevers, is eager to return to the Olympic stage at age 36 after winning the event in London but finishing third at the 2016 Trials. Andrew is also competing, for his second event of the night.

Women’s 100m Backstroke Semifinals — 9:38 p.m.
Smith has been an Olympic medal favorite since winning the 2019 World title in the 200m backstroke, and she is expected to inch closer to that Olympic debut in this race, if she does not make the team earlier in the 100m fly. Smith also set the 100 breast world record of 57.57 seconds at that meet in her leg of the 4x100m medley relay. She held that record until Sunday when Australian Kaylee McKeown beat it at her own Olympic Trials, going 57.45. Smith’s top spot in prelims (58.35) was followed by this year’s NCAA gold and silver medalists, Katharine Berkoff and Rhyan White, who tied at 58.88 seconds. 2019 World bronze medalist Olivia Smoliga and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Kathleen Baker also qualified to the semis. Smith, Smoliga, White, Baker and Phoebe Bacon, fifth this morning behind Smoliga, are five of the 10 fastest swimmers in the world since 2019.

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