U.S. swimming trials: Races to watch with world champs spots at stake

Lydia Jacoby, Lilly King
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Five standout races at this week’s U.S. swimming international team trials in Greensboro, N.C., where the top two in most individual events make the world championships in Budapest this summer …

Women’s 200m Freestyle (Wednesday)
Katie Ledecky carries an eight-year undefeated streak in domestic freestyle races of 200 meters or longer. It doesn’t figure to be snapped in Greensboro, but usually the 200m free is the closest of her four primary events (200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees).

Allison Schmitt, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and American record holder, was the last woman to beat Ledecky in the U.S. back in 2014. She was also second at the Olympic Trials last year, 1.68 seconds behind, but hasn’t raced since Tokyo and isn’t entered in world championships trials.

Paige Madden, 23, is the new top challenger. At Olympic Trials, she was one hundredth behind Schmitt in the 200m free and runner-up to Ledecky in the 400m free, 3.59 seconds back. This year, Madden is second-fastest in the country, 2.46 seconds behind Ledecky.

Other notables: Erin Gemmell, 17 and the daughter of Ledecky’s former D.C. area coach, and Leah Smith, the 2016 Olympic 400m free bronze medalist.

Women’s 100m Butterfly (Thursday)
Last year, an 18-year-old Torri Huske broke the American record. A 16-year-old Claire Curzan became the third-fastest American in history in this event. They went one-two at Olympic Trials, but repeating that in Greensboro may prove more difficult.

Kate Douglass, the Olympic 200m individual medley bronze medalist, beat Huske and Olympic gold medalist Maggie Mac Neil at the NCAA Championships last month, breaking the American record in short-course yards.

Then there’s Kelsi Dahlia, the fastest American butterflier in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. She was fourth at Olympic Trials and ranks second in the nation this year behind Curzan. That’s not surprising given Huske and Douglass have focused on short-course yards racing.

MORE: U.S. Swimming Trials Broadcast Schedule

Men’s 100m Butterfly (Thursday)
The most loaded of Caeleb Dressel‘s three Olympic gold medal events. Like Ledecky, Dressel is favored to leave no doubt and win his primary races (50m and 100m frees and 100m fly), but unlike Ledecky, Dressel is not known for fast times outside of major meets. So he doesn’t enter trials as the fastest American this year in any event. In the 100m fly, he ranks third in 2022.

Shaine Casas, best known for his backstroke, has been the most impressive U.S. man so far this year across all events. He has the fastest 100m fly time in the nation in 2022, though it is 1.64 seconds off Dressel’s world record from Tokyo.

If Dressel is in top form, Casas figures to fight Michael Andrew for the second spot on the world team. Andrew didn’t swim the 100m fly at Olympic Trials but ranks second in the nation this year.

Women’s 100m Breaststroke (Friday)
Lydia JacobyLilly King and Annie Lazor all won breaststroke medals in Tokyo. They’re all entered in both the 100m and 200m breast events at world championships trials, but of course only two of them can make the world team per event.

After King won Olympic Trials over Jacoby, the Alaskan high schooler took surprise gold in Tokyo. King earned 100m breast bronze and 200m breast silver at the Olympics. Lazor took bronze in the 200m breast.

This year, King has been the fastest American in the 100m by a significant 1.16 seconds over training partner Lazor, with Jacoby in third.

Men’s 200m Individual Medley (Saturday)
The top five from the Olympic Trials are entered, but Casas, who didn’t swim it in Omaha, has been faster than all of them in 2022. He could race this event after contesting the 200m back, 100m fly and 100m back the preceding three days in Greensboro, bringing stamina into the equation.

Chase Kalisz, the Olympic 400m IM champion, hasn’t raced that longer distance since Tokyo, so he could be putting all of his IM eggs in the 200m basket.

Andrew, who distanced Kalisz by 1.53 seconds at Olympic Trials, ranks third in the nation this year behind Casas and Kalisz. But he’s questionable to race the 200m IM at the end of what could be a busy week in shorter events.

Carson Foster, a University of Texas sophomore, missed the Tokyo Olympic team, then swam a 400m IM time the day before the Olympic final that would have won gold by nearly a second. He’s favored to make the team in the longer distance, but in the 200m IM, he’s among a pack of contenders.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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