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U.S. men hold small edge in swimming world rankings

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The U.S. still reigns in men’s swimming, but the world rankings show the field is as diverse as ever and much tighter than on the women’s side, where there are U.S. medal contenders in every event.

U.S. men would earn four golds and eight medals overall from the 14 individual Olympic events based on fastest times from 2018 across all competitions. That’s one more gold and two more total medals than the second-place nations. It’s close.

Japan, ramping up to host the Olympics in two years, is second in the world in men ranked in the top three (six) and top five (11 to the U.S.’ 14) of Olympic events.

The biggest meet remaining on the calendar, the Asian Games, finished last week. Every swimming power has had its major international meet of the year among the Commonwealth Games in April and the European Championships, Pan Pacific Championships and Asian Games this month.

Gone for now are the days of the U.S. and Australia dominating and American superstars Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte collecting four or five individual gold medals in Olympic events.

Caeleb Dressel could succeed Phelps and Lochte. He did earn a Phelps record-tying seven golds at the 2017 Worlds, including three in individual Olympic events. This year, Dressel ranks Nos. 1, 8 and 12 in those events (100m butterfly, 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle), although he did his job in qualifying for all three for the 2019 Worlds after a whirlwind spring turning professional.

The other Americans on top of the rankings are Ryan Murphy (100m back), who swept the backstrokes in Rio, and Chase Kalisz, who leads both individual medleys after sweeping them at the 2017 Worlds. No doubt Kalisz is the world’s best all-around swimmer.

But look around the world.

Lithuania, which has never put a man in the top six of an Olympic swimming event, has the world’s fastest 200m freestyler. Germany, which last earned Olympic men’s swimming gold as West Germany, and Ukraine, with no Olympic golds, have world leaders in distance freestyles.

Great Britain has two individual men’s medals total from the last three Olympics. But on 2018 times, it would earn two golds and two silvers, shared among four different swimmers. Adam Peaty has company in the British camp.

Russia last earned an Olympic men’s swimming gold in 1996, but it now has men in three different strokes atop world rankings.

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2018 Swimming World Rankings — Men
50m Freestyle

1. Ben Proud (GBR) — 21.11
2. Bruno Fratus (BRA) — 21.35
3. Andrea Vergani (ITA) — 21.37
4. Kristian Gkolomeev (GRE) — 21.44
4. Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 21.44

100m Freestyle
1. Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 47.75
2. Katsumi Nakamura (JPN) — 47.87
3. Alessandro Miressi (ITA) — 47.92
4. Pedro Spajari (BRA) — 47.95
5. Gabriel Santos (BRA) — 47.98

200m Freestyle
1. Danas Rapsys (LTU) — 1:45.12
2. Duncan Scott (GBR) — 1:45.34
3. Sun Yang (CHN) — 1:45.43
4. Kyle Chalmers (AUS) — 1:45.56
5. Townley Haas (USA) — 1:45.56

400m Freestyle
1. Sun Yang (CHN) — 3:42.92
2. Mack Horton (AUS) — 3:43.76
2. Jack McLoughlin (AUS) — 3:44.20
4. Mykhailo Romanchuk (UKR) — 3:45.18
5. Zane Grothe (USA) — 3:45.32
5. James Guy (GBR) — 3:45.32

800m Freestyle
1. Mykhailo Romanchuk (UKR) — 7:42.96
2. Zane Grothe (USA) — 7:43.74
3. Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) — 7:45.12
4. Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) — 7:45.19
5. Florian Wellbrock (GER) — 7:45.60

1500m Freestyle
1. Florian Wellbrock (GER) — 14:36.15
2. Mykhailo Romanchuk (UKR) — 14:36.88
3. Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) — 14:42.85
4. Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) — 14:46.93
5. Jack McLoughlin (AUS) — 14:47.09

100m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy (USA) — 51.94
2. Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 52.34
3. Kliment Kolensikov (RUS) — 52.51
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) — 52.53
5. Matt Grevers (USA) — 52.55

200m Backstroke
1. Evgeny Rylov (RUS) — 1:53.36
2. Ryan Murphy (USA) — 1:53.57
3. Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 1:53.99
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) — 1:55.11
5. Mitch Larkin (AUS) — 1:55.40

100m Breaststroke
1. Adam Peaty (GBR) — 57.10
2. James Wilby (GBR) — 58.64
3. Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN) — 58.78
4. Anton Chupkov (RUS) — 59.06
5. Arno Kamminga (NED) — 59.14
5. Ross Murdoch (GBR) — 59.14

200m Breaststroke
1. Anton Chupkov (RUS) — 2:06.80
2. Josh Prenot (USA) — 2:07.28
3. Ippei Watanabe (JPN) — 2:07.56
4. Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN) — 2:07.81
5. Zac Stubblety-Cook (AUS) — 2:07.89

100m Butterfly
1. Caeleb Dressel (USA) — 50.50
2. Piero Codia (ITA) — 50.64
3. Chad le Clos (RSA) — 50.65
4. Jack Conger (USA) — 51.00
5. Joseph Schooling (SIN) — 51.04

200m Butterfly
1. Kristof Milak (HUN) — 1:52.71
2. Nao Horomura (JPN) — 1:53.79
3. Chad le Clos (RSA) — 1:54.00
4. Tamas Kenderesi (HUN) — 1:54.14
5. Daiya Seto (JPN) — 1:54.34

200m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz (USA) — 1:55.40
2. Mitch Larkin (AUS) — 1:56.21
3. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) — 1:56.37
4. Wang Shun (CHN) — 1:56.52
5. Philip Heintz (GER) — 1:56.67

400m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz (USA) — 4:07.95
2. Daiya Seto (JPN) — 4:08.79
3. Jay Litherland (USA) — 4:10.21
4. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) — 4:10.30
5. David Verraszto (HUN) — 4:10.65

Five thoughts off Pan Pacific Swimming Championships

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Five thoughts off the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, which wrap up with the open-water events Tuesday …

1. Katie Ledecky among swimmers affected by travel
Ledecky extended her distance dominance to six years — earning three golds, a silver and a bronze — but after each of her individual finals sessions expressed either dissatisfaction with her race times or difficulty adjusting to the 16-hour time difference from their California training camp.

Ledecky said the team arrived in Japan on Sunday, four days before the meet began, and the acclimation was tougher than anticipated.

She was notably beaten by younger swimmers for the first time in the 200m free, challenged for the first time in five years in the 400m free and 18 seconds slower than her world record in the 1500m free.

Her best times this year all came before the year’s major international meet (a first).

Still, Ledecky’s wins in the 400m, 800m and 1500m frees came in times faster than any swimmer in history, aside from Ledecky. Judged by anybody else’s standard, Ledecky is still recording unheard-of performances.

A storyline to follow the next two years: Canadian Taylor Ruck, the 200m free winner, is set to enroll at Stanford, where Ledecky trains.

2. Caeleb Dressel’s off-summer not a major concern
A reminder of just how great Dressel was in 2017:

50m Freestyle: lowers PB by .38, fastest in the world by .12
100m Freestyle: lowers PB by .84, fastest in the world by .48
100m Butterfly: lowers PB by 2.36, fastest in the world by .76

If Dressel went on to drop his times by about half as much in 2018 and beyond, he would break all three world records (each set in the high-tech suit era).

The phrase “tied Michael Phelps‘ record” was attached to Dressel after his seven golds at 2017 Worlds. He had another record-breaking NCAA season at the University of Florida and turned professional in the spring.

Nationals and Pan Pacs did not go as planned. After his last swim in Tokyo, Dressel spoke openly for the first time about a late June motorcycle accident he said was caused by a driver pulling out in front of him that “maybe, maybe didn’t interfere with” his training.

Dressel did not improve any of his personal bests this summer (didn’t come within a half-second of them) and ranks Nos. 8 and 11 in the world this year in the 50m and 100m frees.

Still, Dressel is No. 1 in the world in the 100m fly and qualified for all three events for 2019 Worlds. He’s just 21 years old, younger than Phelps was at his peak. Plus not knowing how much the accident affected him, it’s no time for major panic.

3. Chase Kalisz is the world’s best swimmer
Kalisz was asked before nationals what was the more impressive feat — sweeping the individual medleys at a world championships or winning seven total gold medals at worlds.

“I just won two races,” Kalisz said then. “Caeleb won seven. So I’m going to give it to him.”

Fair enough. But Kalisz finished Pan Pacs as the only man in the world to be ranked No. 1 in multiple Olympic races. Give him his due.

Kalisz swept the 200m and 400m IMs, as he did at 2017 Worlds, soundly beating his biggest rivals, Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto, in their home country.

Hagino and Seto may have been training to peak at the Asian Games later this month, but for now Kalisz is the unquestioned king. While many swimmers struggled adapting to Tokyo, Kalisz went faster in both events than he did at nationals and set a personal best in the 200m IM.

Kalisz dominates the races that determine the world’s best all-around swimmer. That focus means he doesn’t get the relay opportunities like Dressel. Of Dressel’s seven golds in 2017, four came in relays.

4. Japan is emerging for Tokyo 2020
Rikako Ikee, 18, is the fastest female 100m butterflier this year, ahead of Olympic and world champion and world-record holder Sarah Sjöström.

Yui Ohashi, 22, leads both IMs in an off-year for Olympic and world champion and world-record holder Katinka Hosszu.

Japan would earn another nine individual silver and bronze medals right now if they were handed out based on fastest times in the world in Olympic events this year, according to FINA. And that’s with the Asian Games yet to take place.

That’s double the amount of individual swimming medals Japan earned at the Rio Olympics or the 2017 World Championships. It would be the most individual swimming medals earned by any nation other than the U.S. and Australia since East Germany at the 1988 Seoul Games.

5. Notable U.S. absences for 2019 World Championships
The following U.S. swimmers won’t be at 2019 Worlds in South Korea: 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte (suspended), four-time 2012 Olympic champion Missy Franklin, seven-time Olympic medalist Dana Vollmer, 2000 and 2016 Olympic 50m free champ Anthony Ervin, Olympic 100m breast bronze medalist Cody Miller, world 200m breast silver medalist Bethany Galat, world 100m breast silver medalist Kevin Cordes and world 200m IM bronze medalist Madisyn Cox (suspended).

Most of those were decided before or during nationals two weeks ago.

Moreover, five-time Olympic champ Nathan Adrian and Olympic 200m free bronze medalist Conor Dwyer qualified strictly in relays. No individual events for them.

These swimmers can take note of the past.

In 2010, Matt Grevers failed to qualify for 2011 Worlds. He still made the 2012 Olympic team and earned 100m back gold in London.

Michael Phelps didn’t compete at 2015 Worlds due to suspension (though he did qualify for that team). He came back to close his career with five golds in Rio.

The full list of U.S. qualifiers for worlds is here.

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MORE: Caeleb Dressel ‘lucky’ after motorcycle incident

Caeleb Dressel ‘lucky’ after motorcycle incident in June

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Caeleb Dressel downplayed a motorcycle incident in June where he was forced to drive onto a grassy median.

“It wasn’t anything too big,” Dressel told Ahmed Fareed during NBC Sports’ coverage of the Pan Pacific Championships. “I had a gentleman pull out in front of me, so I had to avoid him. … Nothing major [of the injuries]. A few minor things. Other than that, I was fine. … I think the accident was as lucky as I could have gotten with it. It maybe, maybe didn’t interfere with my training.”

Dressel, who won a Michael Phelps-record-tying seven gold medals at the 2017 World Championships, was slower in all of his events at nationals and the just-completed Pan Pacs than a year ago.

That included his first race after the incident, when he finished sixth in the 100m freestyle at nationals two weeks ago. His coach, Gregg Troy at the University of Florida, called it the worst thing that’s happened to Dressel in the pool in four years.

At Pan Pacs, Dressel won the 100m butterfly and finished second in the 50m and 100m frees, all events he won at 2017 Worlds. Pan Pacs fields are weaker than worlds because the meet does not include European nations or China’s best swimmers.

Dressel said his motorcycle is finally repaired, but it sounds like he won’t be riding it again soon.

“A lot of people have put a temporary hold on me,” he said, “probably a permanent one.”

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MORE: U.S. qualifiers for 2019 World Swimming Championships