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Open-water swimmers move one step from making Olympic team

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Rio Olympians Haley Anderson and Jordan Wilimovsky are among four U.S. open-water swimmers who on Friday qualified for the world championships, moving one step from making the Tokyo Games.

Anderson, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, and Wilimovsky, who had fourth- and fifth-place finishes in 2016, will be joined by potential first-time Olympians Ashley Twichell and David Heron.

Twichell and Anderson finished second and third behind Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha on Friday. Wilimovsky and Heron were second and fourth as the top Americans in the men’s event won by Italian Olympic 1500m freestyle champion Gregorio Paltrinieri.

The top 10 overall in the men’s and women’s races at worlds in Gwangju, South Korea, in July qualify for the Olympics.

Anderson, 27, and Wilimovsky, 25, both qualified for the Rio Games at the 2015 World Championships, with Wilimovsky earning that world title. Wilimovsky followed that with a silver in 2017, with Anderson taking sixth at those most recent worlds.

The open-water 10km, which debuted at the Olympics in 2008, is the only swim event on the most recent Olympic program that the U.S. has never won.

MORE: U.S. swimmers qualified for world championships

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Simone Manuel, Nathan Adrian win 50m freestyles at winter nationals

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Simone Manuel and Nathan Adrian, each an Olympic 100m freestyle champion, added 50m golds at winter nationals in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday night.

Manuel easily won the splash and dash by .48 of a second in 24.39. Manuel earned silver or bronze in the 50m free at the 2016 Olympics, 2017 World Championships and this past summer’s Pan Pacific Championships, the last three major international meets.

Adrian, who owns Olympic bronze and world silver in the 50m free, won winter nationals by .51 in 21.94. In the last two years, Adrian has ceded the role of top U.S. sprinter to Caeleb Dressel and failed to qualify for an individual event at 2019 Worlds, ending a 10-year streak of racing individually at major international meets.

Thursday’s final lacked Dressel and Michael Andrew, who will be racing the 50m free at 2019 Worlds.

WINTER NATS: Full Results | TV Schedule

In other events, Katie Ledecky cruised to her second win in as many nights, taking the 400m free by 9.36 seconds in 4:00.35. It’s the 19th-fastest time ever, according to USA Swimming’s database. Ledecky owns the 12 fastest times in history, starting with her world-record 3:56.46 from the Rio Olympics, and last lost a 400m free at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

“I kind of was talking to myself towards the end of that race that if I was under four minutes, that would probably be the easiest a sub-four would feel for me,” Ledecky said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “So to be almost sub-four, that’s really good for the start of the season.”

Ledecky, who routed the 800m free field Wednesday, is also entered in Friday’s 200m free and Saturday’s 100m free.

Rio Olympian Jordan Wilimovsky took the men’s 400m free in 3:50.78, adding to his 800m free title Wednesday. Wilimovsky is better at longer distances, ranked fourth in the world this year in the 800m and 1500m frees and an open-water 10km gold and silver medalist at the last two world championships.

Madisyn Cox took the women’s 200m individual medley in 2:10.76, her best time of a tumultuous 2018. The 2017 World bronze medalist missed nationals after testing positive for a banned substance due to a legal supplement that had been contaminated.

The original two-year suspension was reduced to six months after a FINA panel agreed that she did not intend to dope. Since Cox missed nationals, she also missed qualifying for the biggest international meets of 2018 and 2019, the Pan Pacific Championships three months ago and next summer’s world championships.

Cox ranks 11th in the world this year in the 200m IM and fourth among Americans behind Kathleen Baker, Melanie Margalis and Ella Eastin, who are not competing in Greensboro.

MORE: U.S. breaststroke hope tasked with ending 28-year Olympic drought

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Katie Ledecky wins by 13 seconds, seals Olympic Trials spot

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There was already zero doubt that Katie Ledecky would qualify for the June 2020 Olympic Trials, but she did it officially on the first day of the 18-month window on Wednesday night.

The five-time Olympic champion comfortably won her trademark event, the 800m freestyle, by 13.76 seconds in 8:14.40 at USA Swimming’s Winter Nationals in Greensboro, N.C. At the 200-meter mark, Ledecky became the first of who will be hundreds of swimmers to qualify for the Olympic Trials.

That’s because she split 2:01.46 for the opening 200m, just under the 200m free trials entry standard of 2:01.69. The women’s 800m free entry standard is 8:48.09, which is 43.3 seconds slower than Ledecky’s world record.

The third-year Stanford student now owns 22 of the 23 fastest times ever in the 800m free, according to USA Swimming’s times database. Her time Wednesday was her 20th fastest, just ahead of her 2012 Olympic-winning effort.

“I was happy with it,” Ledecky told media in Greensboro after her first race in three and a half months, the longest break of her career. “I wasn’t really focused on time.”

Eight more women joined Ledecky in swimming under the trials qualifying time on Wednesday, including Ashley Twichell, the open-water 5km world champion.

Later, Rio Olympian Jordan Wilimovsky qualified for trials by taking the men’s 800m free in 7:56.88, well under the trials qualifying standard of 8:12.99. Ledecky should easily beat the men’s qualifying standard in 2019. Her time Wednesday would have placed eighth in the men’s event of 24 swimmers.

NBC Sports and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA air winter nationals coverage all weekend, highlighted by Ledecky, Simone ManuelDana Vollmer and Nathan Adrian. A broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: U.S. breaststroke hope tasked with ending 28-year Olympic drought

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