Abbey Weitzeil

Ryan Held, after lean years post Rio, now among world’s fastest swimmers

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Ryan Held had been a missing man since his viral Rio Olympic podium experience, when he broke down into tears and was consoled by Michael Phelps. He re-emerged Wednesday with the fastest-ever 100m freestyles in a U.S. pool.

Held won the 100m free at the U.S. Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., in 47.39 seconds, ranking him third in the world this year. Only American Caeleb Dressel and Australian Kyle Chalmers, who went one-two at last week’s world championships, have been faster in 2019.

Held swam 47.43 in the morning prelims, which also went under the previous fastest time in a U.S. pool set by Nathan Adrian at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Now, only Dressel and David Walters rank ahead of Held on the U.S. all-time 100m free list in any pool worldwide.

Quite a turnaround for Held. He was a surprise third in the 100m free at the 2016 trials to earn a spot on the 4x100m free relay that took gold in Rio. He then finished sixth and eighth in the 100m free at the last two national championships. Held lowered his personal best from 48.26.

“Those two races, this morning and afternoon, had like two years of disappointment, bad summers built up,” Held told Tanith White on NBCSN, adding later that he was sick and burnout from swimming last summer before making a coaching change. “This was finally the summer that it all came together.”

Dressel was originally entered in the 100m free but scratched after a busy world championships last week in South Korea where he earned six gold medals and eight total medals.

Held attributed to Dressel the motivation for other U.S. sprinters to improve going toward the Olympic year. Dressel has lowered Walters’ 2009 American record three times from 47.33 to 46.96, just .05 off the world record.

“A single tide raises all ships,” Held said on USA Swimming’s Deck Pass Live. “Caeleb just pushing the bar that much further. It was like, well, I’ve got to beat him. I’ve got to put the pedal to the metal.”

MORE: U.S. Swimming Champs TV Schedule

In other events, 17-year-old Regan Smith won the women’s 200m butterfly in 2:07.26.

Smith, who broke the 100m and 200m backstroke world records at last week’s world championships, swam an off-stroke but still topped a field that included world 200m fly bronze medalist Katie Drabot. Smith’s time ranks her No. 6 in the world this year and third among Americans behind world silver medalist Hali Flickinger and Drabot.

Luca Urlando took the men’s 200m fly, as expected, in 1:54.92. The 17-year-old ranks third in the world this year with a 1:53.84 from June, when he broke Phelps’ national age-group record.

But Urlando was not at last week’s worlds as that team was decided in 2018. Last summer, Urlando was the highest-ranking U.S. swimmer not to make the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships team, though it was initially announced that he did make it.

Had Urlando made Pan Pacs and then swum .17 faster there than he did at nationals, he would have made the team for July’s world championships. Urlando went to Junior Pan Pacs instead last summer and did not swim faster than at nationals.

Should Urlando, the grandson of an Italian Olympic hammer thrower, make the Tokyo Games, he is in line to be the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Phelps made his Olympic debut.

Olympian Abbey Weitzeil took a women’s 100m free that lacked Olympic and world champion Simone Manuel. Weitzeil, who was seventh at the Rio Games, swam a personal-best 53.18, which ranks her ninth in the world this year.

MORE: Dana Vollmer details swimming retirement

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Connor Jaeger, Abbey Weitzeil end Olympic Swim Trials with wins

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Connor Jaeger had to swim nearly a mile to earn another race at the Olympics.

Abbey Weitzeil claimed her second individual event in Rio with a frantic dash from one end of the pool to the other.

The final night of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials came down to the long and short of it, a pair of races that couldn’t provide more of a contrast.

Jaeger used a powerful finishing kick to pull away from Jordan Wilimovsky in the 1,500-meter freestyle Sunday night, while Weitzeil claimed victory in the 50 free just ahead of Simone Manuel.

The metric mile was a two-man race all the way. By the end, no one was within a half-lap of the leaders.

Jaeger got a strong kick off the next-to-last wall and began to get some separation on his only challenger. Pulling away on the final lap, he finished in 14 minutes, 47.61 seconds.

“He’s the fastest American ever, so it’s fun to just try and hang with him as far as I can,” said Wilimovsky, who touched in 14:49.19 — more than 17 seconds ahead of third-place finisher Michael McBroom.

Jaeger and Wilimovsky had already locked up their berths in Rio before they dove in the pool. Jaeger also won the 400 free, while Wilimovsky had earned a spot for the U.S. in the open-water event at Rio.

Now, he’ll become the first U.S. swimmer to compete in both the pool and the ocean at the same Olympics.

“It’s really, really cool,” Wilimovsky said. “Obviously open water has only been around (at the Olympics) since 2008, so it’s not that old.”

Jaeger won a silver medal in the 1,500 at last year’s world championships. Four years ago, he finished sixth in the event at the London Olympics.

“We’re going to have to be better in Rio,” said Jaeger, who was more than 6 seconds off his personal-best time. ”

The 50 free was a carbon copy of the 100 free.

Weitzeil won in 24.28 seconds and Manuel was next at 24.33 — the same 1-2 finish they had in the two-lap race. Madison Kennedy missed out on a trip to Rio by 15-hundredths of a second.

“I’m super stoked,” Weitzeil said. “I came to this meet in 2012 as a 16-year-old just making the cuts, just came to participate. To go from then to now in four years, winning events that I was thinking about during that time, it’s just amazing. It hasn’t set in what I’ve actually done.”

Four other swimmers who already earned spots on the Olympic team were farther back.

Olivia Smoliga finished fourth, while Dana Vollmer, Lia Neal and Amanda Weirbrought up the back of the pack.

VIDEO: Michael Phelps reflects on Trials, looks ahead to Rio

Missy Franklin misses qualifying in 100m freestyle; Katie Ledecky advances

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — For Missy Franklin, another miss at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

The star of the London Games struggled to an 11th-place showing in the semifinals of the 100-meter freestyle Thursday night, failing to even make it to the final.

That leaves Franklin with only one individual race in Rio and just one more chance to bulk up her program: the 200 backstroke.

No matter what, Franklin’s bubbly personality will be much less of a presence at these Summer Games than it was four years ago.

“That speed just doesn’t feel like it’s quite there this meet,” she said. “No idea why. It’s super disappointing, but I really feel like my endurance is there, so it gives me a lot of hope for my 200 back.”

Franklin is going to her second Summer Games, but she won’t be nearly as busy this time around.

As a high schooler in London, Franklin took part in seven events, winning four golds and a bronze. She finished fifth in the 100 free, but won’t be part of that race at all this time around.

At age 21, Franklin hasn’t been able to recapture the magic that carried her to such heights in 2012. Outside of a gutsy runner-up finish in the 200 freestyle, she’s shaping up as one of the biggest flops of these trials.

Franklin finished seventh in the 100 backstroke, a race she won in London, and that knocks her out of consideration for the 4×100 medley relay.

SWIM TRIALS: Video | Results | Broadcast Schedule

Her dismal showing in the 100 free surely removes any possibility of taking part in the 4×100 free relay.

At most, Franklin will have only three events on her Rio agenda.

Katie Ledecky, meanwhile, could add to her growing program. She advanced as the seventh seed from the 100m freestyle semis (54.04). Abbey Weitzeil was the top qualifier at 53.57 seconds.

Also advancing were 19-year-old Simone Manuel (53.64), Amanda Weir (53.72), Dana Vollmer (53.74), Lia Neal (53.87), Kelsi Worrell (54.00) and Allison Schmitt (54.07).

Franklin could only produce a time of 54.24, while Natalie Coughlin‘s Olympic hopes likely ended altogether. The 12-time Olympic medalist struggled to a 14th-place showing in 54.87.

Ledecky may end up scratching to rest for other events. The 100m is not one of her strongest events — she’s the World champion in the 200m, 400m and 800m — though she could still be eligible for the 4x100m relay in Rio even if she pulls out.

MORE: Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte cruise into 200m medley final at Trials