nathan adrian

Nathan Adrian
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Nathan Adrian pledged to aid coronavirus relief. Olympians around the world joined him.

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For the last decade, Nathan Adrian proved a leader for U.S. swimming as its last man, the anchor on freestyle and medley gold-medal relays. Recently, outside of the pool, Adrian again became a magnetic force for the sport, domestically and on the other side of the world.

Adrian’s marketing agency, Octagon, helped start the website athletesrelief.org last month. Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Chloe Kim are among more than 100 athletes and sports personalities who pledged items that will be raffled among donors who gave $25 or more.

All of the money goes to coronavirus relief, specifically earmarked for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s (CDP) COVID-19 Response Fund.

Adrian, who owns 15 Olympic or world championships gold medals, pitched in a signed Speedo racing suit.

“If any of my fellow athletes would like to join in, leave a comment below with a signed item you’d like to donate and we’ll add it,” Adrian posted on Instagram. The replies splashed in, including from Olympic champions Natalie Coughlin and Ryan Murphy, both Cal products like Adrian.

But also athletes with a degree or two of separation, water polo champion Maggie Steffens. And Summer Sanders, the 1992 Olympic swimming gold medalist who donated a signed “Figure it Out” board game, from the 1990s Nickelodeon show that she hosted. Both Steffens and Sanders went to Stanford, Cal’s archrival.

“Hopefully whoever wins the eventual prize will appreciate it because ‘Figure it Out’ was part of my childhood,” Adrian said. “Summer Sanders, before I even knew she was a swimmer, I knew she was the host of ‘Figure it Out.'”

In total, more than 20 people from the swimming community joined after Adrian’s post — including photographers, USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey III and longtime coach Mark Schubert, who donated a Porsche experience at a California test track.

Perhaps the most head-turning contributor: Kyle Chalmers, the Australian who succeeded Adrian as Olympic 100m freestyle champion in 2016. Chalmers also added a signed racing suit to the fundraiser.

“It’s cool that a guy, for instance, Kyle Chalmers reaches out from across the Pacific Ocean,” said Adrian, whose career dates to the tail end of the heyday of the U.S.-Australia swimming rivalry in the 2000s. “That’s something special. I mean, I’m friendly with Kyle. When we see each other, we’ll joke around, have a good time. But it’s not like I text him every day. So to have him reach out of the blue is pretty cool.”

Total donations combining items from all athletes were up to $196,000 as of this afternoon. The campaign was recently extended from May 1 to June 1.

“The cool part about was how the rest of the swim community started rallying around the cause,” Adrian said. “It’s really cool to be part of a community that wants to help, that wants to do something during this time. I’m not necessarily calling anybody else out by any means, but it’s nice to be a part of a community that felt the urge to want to help during this time.”

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Caeleb Dressel recalls summer tears in Golden Goggles speech

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Two weeks before the world championships, Caeleb Dressel was in tears after multiple practices going into the biggest meet of the year.

“Just because how bad I was doing,” Dressel said of his workouts. “I knew the pressure that was coming with it, what I expected of myself. So, it wasn’t an easy year, just the mental doubt I had coming into worlds.”

Four months later, Dressel stood at the podium of Sunday night’s Golden Goggles to receive two major awards — Male Race of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year, each for the second time.

Dressel earned a record eight medals at worlds in Gwangju, South Korea, including six golds and a world record in the 100m butterfly, taking Michael Phelps‘ mark off the books.

He reflected in his acceptance speech for Race of the Year for that 100m fly.

“If I can leave you with something, just don’t ever compare yourself to anyone,” Dressel said. “I’m not in this to beat one person in particular, which a lot of you can guess who I’ve been compared to. It’s not me. I don’t swim the same events. He’s a much better swimmer. I’m not in this to beat anybody’s medal count, records. I just want to see how far I can take this. I’m just a kid from Green Cove [Springs, Fla.] who has no business taking it as far as I have. I just want to see how far I can take it.”

Simone Manuel broke Katie Ledecky‘s six-year streak of winning Female Athlete of the Year. While Ledecky struggled at worlds with illness, her Stanford teammate Manuel earned seven medals, including four golds, and swept the 50m and 100m frees.

“When I first started in swimming, it was pretty difficult for me,” Manuel said. “It still is difficult to this day. But, often times, I didn’t feel like I fit in or it was the sport for me. Often times, people questioned why I was swimming because I’m not supposed to swim. And it’s really difficult. I never thought that I would see the day where I would stand up here and receive this award. What I’ve learned through this journey, even though it’s been very hard, is to follow your passion. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do anything.”

Regan Smith‘s incredible worlds performance — three world records in two races — was rewarded with Female Race of the Year (200m backstroke) and Breakout Performer of the Year.

“Before this summer, I was really just a little kid who had no idea what was going on in swimming,” said the 17-year-old from Minnesota. “I still am, but I feel like after this summer I really have a new perspective.”

Nathan Adrian, who came back from testicular cancer to be part of three relays at worlds, earned the Perseverance Award. He accepted while sporting a mustache for Movember.

“It’s a reminder to men out there, who actually on average live almost eight years less life than women, and one of the contributing factors to that is because they don’t see the doctor when they first notice something is wrong,” Adrian said. “To all you men out there, go see the doctor.”

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2019 U.S. swimming rankings (men)

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With many of the U.S.’ top swimmers taking a break after the world championships, and thus missing the national championships, the best way to survey the early favorites for June’s Olympic trials is to look at rankings by swimmers’ fastest times for 2019.

Last week’s world junior championships marked the last top international meet of the summer, making it a good time to take stock of the field in all of the individual Olympic events.

Caeleb Dressel, fresh off a six-gold, eight-medal world championships, is comfortably ahead in his three primary individual events (50m and 100m freestyles and 100m butterfly) by .58, .43 and 1.18 seconds.

He is in line to try for at least six Olympic events when including the men’s 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays and a mixed-gender 4x100m medley relay. Two of his events at worlds aren’t on the Olympic program.

Dressel could get up to the Phelpsian eight events next year if he adds the 200m free and men’s 4x200m free relay, but he ranks 11th in the U.S. in the 200m free this year (granted didn’t swim it when peaked at worlds). The top six at trials should make the relay pool, and the top two will make the individual event. Keep an eye on if he swims the 200m free in Tyr Pro Series meets next spring leading up to trials.

MORE: U.S. women’s swim rankings

Aside from triple Rio gold medalist Ryan Murphy topping both backstrokes, the rest of the U.S. men’s rankings have seen major changes in this Olympic cycle.

Zane Grothe and Bobby Finke succeeded the retired Connor Jaeger as the top distance freestylers. Andrew Wilson, who was fourth and fifth in the two breaststrokes at 2016 trials, is now the top man in that stroke.

Then there’s Ryan Lochte, who is trying to come back from two suspensions to become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in an individual event since 1904. Lochte, who turns 36 during the Tokyo Games, moved to fourth in the U.S. this year in the 200m individual medley by winning the national title.

Another veteran Olympic champion, Nathan Adrian, would just miss a hypothetical Olympic team if it was based on best times of 2019. Adrian, who is coming back from testicular cancer, is one spot shy in the 50m free and two spots shy of a 4x100m free relay spot. But that he’s even contending after announcing his diagnosis on Jan. 24 and undergoing two surgeries is impressive. Look for faster times in 2020.

Teen watch: Luca Urlando, 17, followed up breaking Phelps’ national age group record in the 200m butterfly by winning the world junior title last week with a time more than a second slower than his personal best. He ranks third in the world and first in the U.S. this year but wasn’t at July’s worlds because he didn’t qualify last summer.

Another 17-year-old, Carson Foster, won the world junior title in the 200m IM. He slots right behind Lochte in the U.S. rankings. Foster was 2 years old when Lochte made his Olympic debut in 2004. And yet another 17-year-old, Jake Mitchell, is second to Grothe in the 400m free.

Either Urlando or Foster would be the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since Phelps, Aaron PeirsolIan Crocker and Klete Keller in 2000.

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2019 U.S. Swimming Rankings — Men
50m Freestyle
1. Caeleb Dressel — 21.04
2. Michael Andrew — 21.62
3. Nathan Adrian — 21.87
3. Ryan Held — 21.87
5. Michael Chadwick — 21.95
5. David Curtiss — 21.95

100m Freestyle
1. Caeleb Dressel — 46.96
2. Ryan Held — 47.39
3. Maxime Rooney — 47.61
4. Zach Apple — 47.79
5. Blake Pieroni — 47.87
6. Tate Jackson — 47.88

200m Freestyle
1. Andrew Seliskar — 1:45.71
2. Kieran Smith — 1:46.21
3. Townley Haas — 1:46.37
4. Dean Farris — 1:46.45
5. Luca Urlando — 1:46.51
6. Blake Pieroni — 1:46.62

400m Freestyle
1. Zane Grothe — 3:45.78
2. Jake Mitchell — 3:47.95
3. Bobby Finke — 3:48.17
4. Eric Knowles — 3:48.34
5. Mitch D’Arrigo — 3:48.39

800m Freestyle
1. Bobby Finke — 7:47.58
2. Zane Grothe — 7:50.14
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 7:53.11
4. Michael Brinegar — 7:54.56
5. Andrew Abruzzo — 7:54.70
5. Jake Mitchell — 7:54.70

1500m Freestyle
1. Bobby Finke — 14:51.15
2. Zane Grothe — 14:56.10
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 14:59.94
4. Michael Brinegar — 15:00.82
5. Arik Katz — 15:05.93

100m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 52.44
2. Shaine Casas — 52.72
3. Matt Grevers — 52.75
4. Justin Ress — 53.31
5. Michael Andrew — 53.40
5. Jacob Pebley — 53.40

200m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 1:54.12
2. Austin Katz — 1:55.57
3. Shaine Casas — 1:55.79
4. Jacob Pebley — 1:56.35
5. Clark Beach — 1:57.14

100m Breaststroke
1. Andrew Wilson — 58.93
2. Cody Miller — 59.24
3. Ian Finnerty — 59.49
4. Michael Andrew — 59.52
5. Devon Nowicki — 59.69

200m Breaststroke
1. Will Licon — 2:07.62
2. Andrew Wilson — 2:07.77
3. Nic Fink — 2:08.16
4. Josh Prenot — 2:08.77
5. Cody Miller — 2:08.98

100m Butterfly
1. Caeleb Dressel — 49.50
2. Maxime Rooney — 50.68
3. Jack Conger — 51.21
4. Andrew Seliskar — 51.34
5. Jack Saunderson — 51.36

200m Butterfly
1. Luca Urlando — 1:53.84
2. Zach Harting — 1:55.26
3. Miles Smachlo — 1:55.94
4. Nicolas Albiero — 1:56.05
5. Trenton Julian — 1:56.09

200m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz — 1:56.78
2. Michael Andrew — 1:57.49
3. Abrahm Devine — 1:57.66
4. Ryan Lochte — 1:57.76
5. Carson Foster — 1:58.46

400m Individual Medley
1. Jay Litherland — 4:09.22
2. Charlie Swanson — 4:11.46
3. Bobby Finke — 4:13.15
4. Carson Foster — 4:13.39
5. Chase Kalisz — 4:13.45