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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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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