Hali Flickinger

Caeleb Dressel repeats as 100m freestyle champ at swim worlds

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Caeleb Dressel repeated as 100m freestyle world champion, clocking the second-fastest time in history on Thursday.

Dressel earned his third gold in four events so far in Gwangju, South Korea, touching in 46.96 seconds, just .05 off Brazilian Cesar Cielo‘s world record from the 2009 Worlds. Frenchman Alain Bernard also swam 46.94 in 2009, but that time was not recognized because his swimsuit was not approved.

“I know I was just off the world record, but really the goal was just to swim the best race that I could, and if that was the time I got tonight, I was happy,” Dressel said. “I’m going to talk to [coach Gregg] Troy, and I guarantee you the first thing he’s going to say is what we could have done better.”

Dressel prevailed by .12 over Australian Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers, who was absent from Dressel’s 2017 World Championships breakout due to heart surgery.

“I consider him a better 100m freestyler,” Dressel said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA of Chalmers. “I look up to him in that aspect.”

SWIM WORLDS: TV Schedule | Results

Dressel previously won the 50m butterfly and was part of the victorious U.S. men’s 4x100m free this week. He also earned silver with the mixed-gender 4x100m medley.

Dressel won a Michael Phelps-record-tying seven golds at the 2017 Worlds, albeit two were in mixed-gender relays that weren’t on the program in Phelps’ era. Dressel can still win seven this week if he runs the table from here on out, and possibly eight if he’s added to the 4x200m free relay.

If Dressel is added to that relay, he could swim three events both on Friday night and Saturday night. In all of Phelps’ Olympics, he never swam three times in one session.

In other events Thursday, Katie Ledecky returned from illness to help the U.S. go under the world record in the 4x200m free relay. Problem is, Australia went even faster to win. More on Ledecky and that event here.

American Chase Kalisz took bronze in the 200m individual medley, .64 of a second behind Japanese rival Daiya Seto.

It marked the first time a non-American won the event at an Olympics or worlds since 2001, snapping a streak of 12 straight titles among Phelps (seven), Ryan Lochte (four) and Kalisz (one). Kalisz, who swept the IMs at 2017 Worlds, has the 400m IM later this week.

“This is when I operate at my best, when I’m from a behind position,” Kalisz said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’ll be watching this race a few times next year.”

Hungarian Boglarka Kapas zoomed past Americans Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot in the last 25 meters of the 200m butterfly.

Kapas kept the U.S. from ending a world title drought in the event dating to Summer Sanders‘ gold in 1991. Kapas clocked 2:06.78, slower than silver medalist Flickinger and bronze medalist Drabot’s leading semifinal times, and won by .17.

Australian Matthew Wilson tied the 200m breaststroke world record in the semifinals, clocking 2:06.67, two lanes across from the man whose mark he matched, Japanese Ippei Watanabe. They’ll be in Friday’s final, but Olympic silver medalist Josh Prenot failed to advance.

Olympic and world 100m breaststroke champion Lilly King was absent from the women’s 200m semifinals because of a preliminary heat DQ.

American Olivia Smoliga won the 50m backstroke, which is not an Olympic event. Smoliga, who earned eight golds at the short-course worlds in December, edged Brazilian Etiene Medeiros by .11.

NBC Sports researcher Megan Soisson contributed to this report from Gwangju.

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Lilly King completes sweep of Yuliya Efimova at FINA Champions Series

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Lilly King is the fastest breaststroker going into next month’s world championships. She can let her swimming do the talking when it comes to Russian rival Yuliya Efimova.

King beat Efimova three times in two nights at the FINA Champions Series stop in Indianapolis, wrapping up her breaststroke sweep in the 100m on Saturday. It marked their first races against each other since the 2017 World Championships.

King clocked 1:05.13 to hold off Efimova by .38 in the four-swimmer race.

King lowered her own fastest time in the world this year. She now owns the fastest times of 2019 in the 50m, 100m and 200m breasts among swimmers going to worlds. (The only woman with a faster breaststroke is training partner Annie Lazor, who did not qualify for worlds last summer, in the 200m.)

King and Efimova traded victories (and finger wags) at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds, with Efimova excelling at 200m. Now it appears King, who at 22 is five years younger than Efimova, is really coming into her own ahead of worlds in South Korea in late July.

Full FINA Champions Series results are here.

In other events Saturday, Jacob Pebley scored a rare win over Olympic champion Ryan Murphy in the 200m backstroke. Pebley, who took second to Murphy at nationals in 2016, 2017 and 2018, touched in 1:56.35 and .16 ahead of Murphy. Russian Yevgeny Rylov, who was not in Indianapolis, remains far and away the fastest in the world this year at 1:54.00.

Hali Flickinger swam the world’s fastest 200m butterfly of 2019, a 2:06.40 to crush Katinka Hosszu by 1.47 seconds. Flickinger was seventh in Rio and missed the 2017 World final, but she was second-fastest in the world in 2018 and appears destined for her first individual medal next month.

The U.S. last put a woman on the Olympic 200m fly podium in 2000 (Misty Hyman, gold) and last had a world champion in 1991 (Summer Sanders), its longest droughts for any pool event in both respects.

Hosszu was later scared in one of her trademark events, the 200m individual medley. The Olympic and world champion made up a 1.29-second deficit to Canadian Sydney Pickrem in the last 50 meters of freestyle. Hosszu’s time, 2:08.50, is the world’s fastest in 2019. Hosszu will try to sweep the IMs at a fourth straight worlds next month.

Dane Pernille Blume won a loaded women’s 50m freestyle. The Rio Olympic champion finished in 24.08, topping world-record holder Sarah Sjöström (24.18) and London Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo (24.56). Sjöström remains fastest in the world this year with a 23.91.

Russian Anton Chupkov prevailed in a rematch of the 2016 Olympic medalists in the 200m breast. He clocked 2:08.98, which was 1.04 seconds faster than surprise Rio gold medalist Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan and 2.81 better than Josh Prenot. Chupkov has been the fastest in the world this year and last year.

The Tyr Pro Swim Series resumes with the last meet before worlds in two weeks in Clovis, Calif.

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MORE: Japan’s Olympic champion swimmer to miss world champs

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