Katie Ledecky has one Olympic Trials swim left, as does her Little Flower buddy

2021 U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming - Day 6
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Katie Ledecky checked every box at the Olympic Trials so far. All that’s left is the event that made her famous nine years ago — the 800m freestyle — on Saturday night.

Ledecky qualified fastest into the final by 10.84 seconds in an eight-and-a-half-minute race. She is undefeated in this event since winning the 2012 Olympics at age 15.

Ledecky can become the fifth U.S. woman to swim in four individual events at an Olympics after Shirley BabashoffSummer SandersKatie Hoff (who did five in 2008) and Missy Franklin, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org. (Tracy Caulkins also won four events at the 1980 Olympic Trials, but the U.S. boycotted those Games.)

Ledecky will also be part of the 4x200m free relay in Tokyo, giving her the chance to become the first American woman to win five golds at a single Olympics in any sport (Simone Biles can, too, but Ledecky can do it first by a matter of days.)

But Ledecky trails Australian rival Ariarne Titmus in the world rankings in the 200m and 400m frees. Titmus doesn’t swim the 1500m like Ledecky, so the 800m is at the tail end of her distances.

The number to monitor Saturday is 8:15.57, Titmus’ winning 800m free time from the Australian Trials. Ledecky went 8:16.61 in prelims.

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

A look at tonight’s races …

Men’s 100m Butterfly FINAL9:04 p.m. ET
Caeleb Dressel swam the third-fastest 100m fly in history in Friday’s semifinals. He already owned the fastest two times, so the tattooed Floridian is an overwhelming favorite here. His world record of 49.50 is in play. Rio Olympian Tom Shields, who in December 2019 shared that he attempted suicide in 2018, was the second-fastest qualifier. Shields ranked sixth in the nation in 2019, but on Friday clocked his fastest time in five years.

Women’s 200m Backstroke FINAL — 9:12
Regan Smith, 19, is favored here, in her best event, to qualify for a third individual event in Tokyo. She’s the world-record holder, and nobody else in this field has ever come within two and a half seconds of that best time. However, 18-year-old Phoebe Bacon was .23 off Smith in the semifinals (and the lone swimmer within 1.15 seconds of her). Bacon, sixth in the 100m back, was Ledecky’s “little buddy” as a pre-K student at Little Flower School in Bethesda, Md., when Ledecky was a fourth-grader at the same institution.

Women’s 800m Freestyle FINAL — 9:22
Bella Sims, a 16-year-old who qualified in the 4x200m relay, was second-fastest in the prelims by 1.22 seconds. She is already set to become the youngest U.S. Olympic swimmer since Ledecky in 2012. Sims will look to hold off Erica Sullivan, who was second to Ledecky in the 1500m free, Haley Anderson, who made the team last year in the open-water 10km, and Ally McHugh, who was fifth in her best event, the 400m IM.

Men’s 50m Freestyle Semifinals — 9:39
Tony Ervin, at 40 the oldest swimmer at Trials, was eliminated in morning prelims in 23rd place. Ervin won the 50m free at the Olympics in 2000 and 2016, but said in 2018 that his goal was not to make it to Tokyo, but try and make the final to shake the hands of the two men who do go. Nathan Adrian, 32 and an eight-time Olympic medalist, gets his last chance to qualify for Tokyo in this event. He was third in the prelims behind Dressel, an overwhelming favorite, and Michael Andrew.

Women’s 50m Freestyle Semifinals — 9:52
Simone Manuel gets her last chance at making the Olympic team in this event (where she is world champion and holds the American record). She was second in prelims, two days after failing to qualify for the 100m free final. Abbey Weitzeil, a Rio Olympian who already made it in the 100m free, was fastest.

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Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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