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U.S. female swimmers historically dominant in 2018 world rankings

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The U.S. has a female swimmer ranked in the top four of every Olympic event this year, which is the first time since 2007, according to FINA and USA Swimming databases.

The world’s fastest times came into focus following last week’s Asian Games, the biggest meet remaining on the 2018 senior international schedule. There are still opportunities remaining, particularly the Youth Olympics in October, but that has an age limit of 18 years old.

The biggest meet of the year for every swimming power has passed — the Commonwealth Games in April and the European Championships, Pan Pacific Championships and Asian Games this month.

This is the only year in the four-year cycle without an Olympics or a world championships. The best way to determine the world’s best swimmers is to compare best times from around the world throughout the year.

The U.S. women would earn medals in 12 of 14 individual Olympic events if awarded based on fastest times this year, matching their results from the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships.

Katie Ledecky would take three golds (400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles) and a silver (200m freestyle). Kathleen Baker would earn 100m backstroke gold and silver in the 200m back and 200m individual medley, making her the most versatile swimmer in the country.

The notable improvement this year came in the U.S.’ traditionally weak events — the 200m breaststroke and 200m butterfly.

In 2016, the top-ranked U.S. women in the 200m breast was Katie Meili at No. 14, according to FINA. No Americans made the Olympic final. Now it’s arguably a deep event. Micah Sumrall (formerly Lawrence) is ranked No. 3 in 2018 despite taking all of 2017 off from competition. Bethany Galat and Lilly King finished second and fourth in the 200m breast at 2017 Worlds.

In 2017, Hali Flickinger was the top American in the 200m fly but No. 12 in the world. The U.S. hasn’t earned an Olympic women’s 200m fly medal since Misty Hyman‘s upset gold at Sydney 2000, its longest drought in any men’s or women’s Olympic pool event. In every other event, the U.S. has earned at least one medal between the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

But Flickinger, a 24-year-old veteran, took gold at Pan Pacs after lowering her personal best at nationals from 2:06.67 to 2:05.87. Flickinger was seventh in Rio and ninth at the 2017 Worlds. She’s No. 2 in the world this year.

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2018 Swimming World Rankings — Women
50m Freestyle
1. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) — 23.74
2. Pernille Blume (DEN) — 23.75
3. Cate Campbell (AUS) — 23.78
4. Simone Manuel (USA) — 24.10
5. Maria Kameneva (RUS) — 24.21
5. Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) — 24.21

100m Freestyle
1. Cate Campbell (AUS) — 52.03
2. Bronte Campbell (AUS) — 52.27
3. Simone Manuel (USA) — 52.54
4. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) — 52.72
5. Taylor Ruck (CAN) — 52.72
5. Pernille Blume (DEN) — 52.72

200m Freestyle
1. Taylor Ruck (CAN) — 1:54.44
2. Katie Ledecky (USA) — 1:54.56
3. Ariarne Titmus (AUS) — 1:54.85
3. Rikako Ikee (JPN) — 1:54.85
5. Charlotte Bonnet (FRA) — 1:54.95

400m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (USA) — 3:57.94
2. Ariarne Titmus (AUS) — 3:59.66
3. Leah Smith (USA) — 4:02.21
4. Wang Jianjiahe (CHN) — 4:03.14
5. Simona Quadrella (ITA) — 4:03.35

800m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (USA) — 8:07.27
2. Simona Quadrella (ITA) — 8:16.45
3. Ariarne Titmus (AUS) — 8:17.07
4. Leah Smith (USA) — 8:17.27
5. Wang Jianjiahe (CHN) — 8:18.09

1500m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (USA) — 15:20.48
2. Simona Quadrella (ITA) — 15:51.61
3. Wang Jianjiahe (CHN) — 15:53.01
4. Li Bingjie (CHN) — 15:53.80
5. Ashley Twichell (USA) — 15:55.68

100m Backstroke
1. Kathleen Baker (USA) — 58.00
2. Kylie Masse (CAN) — 58.54
3. Emily Seebohm (AUS) — 58.66
4. Olivia Smoliga (USA) — 58.75
5. Regan Smith (USA) — 58.83

200m Backstroke
1. Kylie Masse (CAN) — 2:05.98
2. Kathleen Baker (USA) — 2:06.14
3. Margherita Panziera (ITA) — 2:06.18
4. Taylor Ruck (CAN) — 2:06.36
5. Regan Smith (USA) — 2:06.43

100m Breaststroke
1. Yulia Efimova (RUS) — 1:04.98
2. Lilly King (USA) — 1:05.36
3. Molly Hannis (USA) — 1:05.78
4. Reona Aoki (JPN) — 1:05.90
5. Katie Meili (USA) — 1:06.19

200m Breaststroke
1. Yulia Efimova (RUS) — 2:20.72
2. Reona Aoki (JPN) — 2:21.85
3. Micah Sumrall (USA) — 2:21.88
4. Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA) — 2:22.02
5. Lilly King (USA) — 2:22.12

100m Butterfly
1. Rikako Ikee (JPN) — 56.08
2. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) — 56.23
3. Kelsi Dahlia (USA) — 56.44
4. Emma McKeon (AUS) — 56.54
5. Maddie Groves (AUS) — 57.19

200m Butterfly
1. Alys Thomas (GBR) — 2:05.45
2. Hali Flickinger (USA) — 2:05.87
3. Zhang Yufei (CHN) — 2:06.61
4. Laura Taylor (AUS) — 2:06.80
5. Mireia Belmonta (ESP) — 2:07.09

200m Individual Medley
1. Yui Ohashi (JPN) — 2:08.16
2. Kathleen Baker (USA) — 2:08.32
3. Kim Seoyeong (KOR) — 2:08.34
4. Sydney Pickrem (CAN) — 2:09.07
5. Melanie Margalis (USA) — 2:09.43

400m Individual Medley
1. Yui Ohashi (JPN) — 4:33.77
2. Fantine Lesaffre (FRA) — 4:34.17
3. Ilaria Cusinato (ITA) — 4:34.65
4. Ally McHugh (USA) — 4:34.80
5. Aimee Wilmott (GBR) — 4:34.90

Australians defeat U.S. freestyle sprinters, relay at Pan Pacs

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The U.S. has dominated swimming since the heyday of its rivalry with Australia more than a decade ago, but the Aussies had one of their biggest recent gold-medal sweeps at the expense of the Americans on Friday.

Cate Campbell and Kyle Chalmers won the 100m freestyles at the Pan Pacific Championships, the biggest international meet for U.S. swimmers this year, in Tokyo.

The Aussies also beat the U.S. in the 4x200m free relay, with Madeline Groves holding off Katie Ledecky on anchor.

Groves was given a 2.88-second lead and edged Ledecky by .25, marking the American women’s first loss in a major international meet since 2009 Worlds.

Ledecky had the fastest split of the relay — 1:53.84 — which was .28 faster than Canadian Taylor Ruck, who won the individual 200m free over Ledecky on Thursday.

U.S. leadoff Allison Schmitt had the slowest leg of the 16 total swimmers — 1:58.62 — the slowest by an American woman in a 4x200m free final at a major meet since 2010, though leadoff legs are slowed by reaction time.

The U.S. men held off Australia in the 4x200m free, with Townley Haas touching .24 ahead of Jack Cartwright.

PAN PACS: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Campbell clocked the second-fastest time ever — 52.03 seconds — to hand Simone Manuel her first loss in a major international 100m free in three years. Manuel, a distant runner-up in 52.66, shared the 2016 Olympic title with Canadian Penny Oleksiak and took the 2017 World title outright.

“I definitely was disappointed with losing, but I think I’m more disappointed with my time,” said Manuel, who was .12 faster at nationals two weeks ago.

Campbell entered the Rio Games as the world-record holder but was a disappointing sixth in Brazil, later saying she swam with a hernia. The 26-year-old skipped the 2017 Worlds but stormed back this year, clocking 52.37 in March, good for No. 2 in the world going into Pan Pacs.

“I can put to bed all the nightmares and thoughts that come creeping in when you’re lying awake, stewing over past performances,” Campbell said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I swam a personal best. These don’t come around very often at my age. I couldn’t be happier.”

Chalmers, the surprise Rio Olympic 100m free champion, pulled off another upset to take the Pan Pacs title. He touched in 48.00, beating world champion Caeleb Dressel and fellow Aussie Cartwright by .22.

Chalmers, 20, entered the final with the fifth-fastest time this year among the eight racers. He missed the 2017 Worlds after undergoing heart surgery and was third at the Commonwealth Games on April 8.

“I was beginning to doubt myself that little bit in the 100m,” Chalmers said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I haven’t done a whole lot of 100m work, but I’m a competitor.”

Australia bagged as many gold medals Friday at Pan Pacs — a meet without European nations and top stars from China and South Africa — as it did in all swim events at the Rio Olympics. The Aussies won a single gold at the 2017 Worlds.

Dressel dominated the 100m free at 2017 Worlds, winning in an American record 47.17 seconds as one of his Michael Phelps-record-tying seven gold medals at the meet.

He was sixth at the U.S. Championships two weeks ago in what coach Gregg Troy said was the worst thing that’s happened to him in the pool in four years since matriculating at the University of Florida.

“Pretty far off my best,” Dressel said Friday. “It’s been a little bit of a hectic year [Dressel finished his college career and turned pro in the last six months]. It was a learning year. Pan Pacs is a little more low key than worlds and Olympics. It’s just been a little crazy. That’s all right for right now.”

Dressel managed a different kind of victory Friday, grabbing one of two spots on the U.S. team in the 100m free for the 2019 World Championships, along with U.S. champion Blake Pieroni.

That means Nathan Adrian will not contest a 100m free at a major international meet for the first time since he was a prelim relay swimmer at the 2008 Olympics.

Also Friday, Rio gold medalist Ryan Murphy won the 100m backstroke in 51.94, just .09 off his world record. The race lacked world champion Xu Jiayu as China is saving its best swimmers for the Asian Games later this month.

World champion Kylie Masse of Canada captured the women’s 100m back in 58.61, .11 ahead of 2015 World champion Emily Seebohm of Australia. American Kathleen Baker, who at nationals broke Masse’s world record, earned bronze.

U.S. Olympian Hali Flickinger won the 200m butterfly in 2:07.35. Flickinger ranks second in the world this year with her 2:05.87 from nationals.

Japan’s Daiya Seto took the men’s 200m fly in 1:54.34, ranking him fifth in the world this year. The top American was Zach Harting in third in 1:55.05.

Pan Pacs continue Saturday, highlighted by Ledecky in the 400m freestyle (full broadcast schedule here).

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Katie Ledecky dominates, Caeleb Dressel upset to open swim nationals

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IRVINE, Calif. — Katie Ledecky didn’t feel very fast. Couldn’t find the gear in the second half of the 800m freestyle on Wednesday night.

She still won by 10 seconds.

Ledecky opened the U.S. Swimming Championships with a convincing — but not especially satisfying — victory in her trademark Olympic event to qualify for August’s Pan Pacific Championships. The five-time Olympic gold medalist bagged an uncharacteristic victory on a night that included two upsets among six finals, notably world champion Caeleb Dressel finishing sixth in the 100m freestyle.

Ledecky was under world-record pace at 350 meters at the outdoor Irvine High School pool. She finished 7.19 seconds slower than her world record in 8:11.98. It’s still faster than any other woman has ever covered 800 meters, giving Ledecky the 19 fastest times in history.

“I’m fine with it, didn’t feel super sharp, but it always takes me a little bit of time to get into these meets,” Ledecky said, noting swimming in 80-degree heat. “My best races are when the first 400 and the second 400 are pretty even.”

It’s nit-picking, but Ledecky’s splits were not even. She went 7.4 seconds slower in the back half than the first 400 meters. Of her 18 other fastest times in history, Ledecky’s biggest difference in splits was 5.9 seconds.

Second-place Leah Smith still couldn’t close on Ledecky, even with a personal best.

Ledecky is just getting started in Irvine. She’s scheduled to swim three more events, starting with the 200m freestyle on Thursday. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs live finals coverage at 9 p.m. ET.

SWIM NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Results | Swimmers to Watch

This is the biggest domestic meet between now and the 2020 Olympic Trials because it’s a qualifier for the next two major international meets. It’s likely that the top three finishers per individual Olympic event will make the Pan Pacs team, which is capped at 26 men and 26 women.

Once a swimmer makes Pan Pacs in one event, he or she can swim any event at Pan Pacs, taking some of the pressure off this week’s meet. Swimmers’ best times between nationals and Pan Pacs determine the 2019 World Championships team.

The biggest star in danger of not qualifying for Pan Pacs and worlds is Missy Franklin.

The quadruple 2012 Olympic champion missed Wednesday’s 100m freestyle final. Her only other event this week, in her first major meet since her disappointing Rio Games, is the 200m free on Thursday. Franklin must finish in the top four, but she ranks 10th in the U.S. in the event this year.

The meet already lacks 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte, who is suspended until July 2019 for an illegal IV infusion after a social media blunder.

In other Wednesday events, co-Olympic champion Simone Manuel clocked the fastest 100m free ever on U.S. soil — 52.54, also her second-fastest time ever. She beat Mallory Comerford by .55. Margo Geer and Abbey Weitzeil were third and fourth to make the Pan Pacs team, too.

The men’s 100m free didn’t go to plan. Dressel, who won seven medals at the 2017 Worlds, was stunningly sixth (after qualifying seventh into the eight-man final). Dressel lowered the American record in the 100m free twice at worlds but was 1.53 seconds slower than his best time in Wednesday’s final.

Instead, Blake Pieroni clocked a personal-best 48.08 for the upset. Pieroni snuck onto the Rio Olympic 4x100m free relay by placing sixth at trials. He beat a field Wednesday that included all three active members of the Rio 4x100m free final team, edging Nathan Adrian by .17. Adrian lost the 100m free at nationals for the first time since the 2008 Olympic Trials.

Dressel is entered in seven more events this week. All he must do is make the team in one of them, and he can re-enter the 100m free at Pan Pacs.

Olympian Hali Flickinger captured the 200m butterfly by 1.04 seconds over Katie Drabot in 2:06.14. Flickinger, seventh in Rio, made her third straight major international meet in the 200m fly and now ranks third all-time among Americans in the event.

Justin Wright took 1.48 seconds off his 200m fly personal best on Wednesday en route to upsetting Olympians Chase Kalisz and Jack Conger.

Jordan Wilimovsky, fourth and fifth in two Rio distance events, won the 1500m freestyle in 14:48.89, 6.45 seconds ahead of Robert Finke.

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