Simone Manuel

Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel welcome Olympic decision amid backyard pool, backpack lunges

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Katie Ledecky had reportedly turned to a backyard pool to swim last weekend. Simone Manuel, without a weight room available, piled books into a backpack and did lunges at home.

That’s been life for two of the world’s best swimmers for much of the last two weeks. No surprise, then, that they were relieved that the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021.

“I think that a lot of the athletes expected it, but I support today’s decision,” Manuel told NBC Olympic primetime host Mike Tirico. “The health of everyone is more important than the Olympics at this time. So I’m just excited that a decision has finally been made and we can move on and get prepared for 2021.”

No more uncertainty over whether to keep preparing for a potential June Olympic Trials. No more searching for pools around their base of Stanford University, which closed its athletics facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The search to swim brought Ledecky and Manuel to Menlo Circus Club, two miles up the road. That didn’t last. Ledecky and Manuel eventually turned to swimming in somebody’s backyard pool on a few occasions, according to the Washington Post.

“Honestly, it’s been more just therapeutic,” Ledecky said, according to the newspaper, which added she and Manuel considered relocating to Florida to find an Olympic-size pool. “It hasn’t really been training. It’s just been something to do, something to get our minds off the uncertainty that we’ve all been in these last 10 days or so.”

Manuel said that after Stanford’s pool closed two Fridays ago, a ripple effect of events essentially ended her training. She’s used to nine practice sessions a week — 22 hours in the water — and four more hours of dryland work.

“For a period of time we were being told that the Olympics are still on, and you’ve got to do the best that you can, so scrambling, trying to figure out what to do about training,” Ledecky said.

On a scale of one to 10, Manuel said right now she would be a three on the range of readiness to compete.

“Even if I am able to train, I’m training short-course yards [25-yard pools], and in no way is that going to allow you to win Olympic medals [in 50-meter pools],” she said. “I’m not able to lift in the gym, and so I’m really just putting books in a backpack and trying to do lunges.”

They can now exhale. It’s still unknown when Ledecky and Manuel can return to regular training, but the last two weeks put that problem in perspective.

“As we stand together to meet today’s challenges, we can dream about a wonderful Olympics in a beautiful country,” Ledecky posted on social media. “Now is the time to support all those working to heal the sick and keep us all healthy.”

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Regan Smith caps another impressive swim meet with another historic time

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Regan Smith swam the sixth-fastest 100m backstroke in history, completing yet another impressive meet in Des Moines on Saturday.

Smith, a Minnesota high school senior, won the 100m back in 58.18 seconds at a Tyr Pro Series stop.

Smith, who lowered the world record to 57.57 leading off a relay at the 2019 World Championships, beat a field that included former world-record holder Kathleen Baker (second in 58.56) and world bronze medalist Olivia Smoliga (third in 59.25). Full Des Moines results are here.

“That’s my second-best time ever, so I really can’t complain,” Smith said.

That trio should gather again at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, when the top two per individual event qualify for the Tokyo Games.

Smith’s Olympic prospects are pretty promising.

In Des Moines, she swept the backstrokes and lowered her personal bests in the 100m and 200m butterflies.

Smith, who broke both backstroke world records at July’s world championships, now ranks second and third among Americans in the butterflies since the start of 2019, though she may not swim the 100m fly at trials.

In other events Saturday, Caeleb Dressel outsprinted Nathan Adrian and Michael Andrew to win the 50m freestyle in 21.51 seconds. Dressel, the third-fastest man in history with a best of 21.04, also won the 100m butterfly on Friday.

Andrew won the 200m individual medley in 1:56.83, a personal best by .66 of a second. He remains the second-fastest American in the event since the start of 2019.

“It’s a relatively open event,” for the U.S. Olympic team, said Andrew, who previously lowered his 100m breaststroke personal best in Des Moines, rebounding after not earning an individual medal at worlds. “Try and make a statement to say, hey guys, this is a race we’re focusing on. We want you to know, we’re coming for it.”

Ryan Lochte, trying to make his fifth Olympics at age 35, was seventh in the 200m IM in 2:01.60. Lochte is the world-record holder and four-time world champion in the event. More notably for Tokyo Olympic hopes, he ranks fifth among Americans since the start of 2019. It may be his best hope at trials.

Madisyn Cox and Melanie Margalis tied for the win in the women’s 200m IM in 2:09.03. That’s a personal best for Cox by .66. Baker, who wasn’t in the race, remains fastest among Americans since the start of 2019 with a 2:08.84.

Olympic champion and world-record holder Ryan Murphy won a battle of the U.S.’ top backstrokers, taking the 100m in 52.79. Jacob Pebley, a Rio Olympic 200m backstroker, was second in 54.45, while 2012 Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers was fourth in 54.62.

Simone Manuel and Lilly King took runner-up finishes in the 50m free and 200m breast, respectively, at a meet where top swimmers are not peaked as they continue to build up for the trials.

The Pro Series moves to Mission Viejo, Calif., for the next stop from April 16-19.

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Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Caeleb Dressel headline Pro Series at Des Moines; TV, live stream info

Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel
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U.S. swimming’s biggest stars gather at a Pro Series meet in Des Moines, igniting the run-up to June’s Olympic Trials live on NBC Sports and Olympic Channel this week.

Katie LedeckySimone ManuelLilly KingRegan Smith, Caeleb DresselRyan Murphy and Ryan Lochte headline the strongest domestic field outside of a national championships since at least 2018, if not the entire Olympic cycle.

Live finals coverage airs at 7:30 ET on Olympic Channel (Thursday) and NBCSN (Friday), streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. USASwimming.org live streams the rest of the finals sessions, including the 1500m freestyles on Wednesday and the last night of competition Saturday.

Some key potential Olympic Trials previews via early entry lists that could change:

Men’s 100m Freestyle (Thursday): Dressel, Nathan AdrianRyan Held
Women’s 200m Freestyle (Friday): Ledecky, Manuel, Allison Schmitt
Men’s 100m Backstroke (Saturday): Murphy, Matt GreversJacob Pebley
Women’s 100m Backstroke (Saturday): Smith, Kathleen BakerOlivia Smoliga

It marks Ledecky’s first meet of 2020. She’s expected to go for four individual events at an Olympics for the first time — the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees, with the women’s 1500m debuting at the Olympics in Tokyo.

It will take a top-two finish to make the Olympic team in each one at trials. That shouldn’t be a problem given Ledecky hasn’t lost to an American in those events in six years.

Manuel, reigning world champion at 50m and 100m free, has recently been tested, even defeated by University of Tennessee senior Erika Brown. Brown and the rest of the NCAA stars aren’t in Des Moines as they’re preparing for national championships. Manuel’s top competition in the sprints should come from fellow world team members Mallory Comerford and Margo Geer.

Dressel, who won 13 golds between the last two world championships, has yet to race on the top domestic level in 2020. He’s entered in every stroke, plus the individual medley, but should focus on the sprint freestyles and 100m butterfly. Most of his top U.S. rivals in the 50m and 100m frees — including Adrian, Held and Michael Andrew — are entered in Des Moines.

Loche, a 12-time Olympic medalist eyeing a fifth Olympics at age 35, is also slated to race on the top domestic level for the first time this year. He’s been focusing on the individual medleys. Lochte is entered in the 200m IM with 2017 World champion Chase Kalisz and in the 400m IM with 2019 World silver medalist Jay Litherland.

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