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Ledecky, King and Hobson lead America’s relay race in pursuit of pride in Paris

Ledecky, King and Hobson lead America’s relay race in pursuit of pride in Paris

Katie Ledecky in 1:55.22 and Luke Hobson in 1:44.89 on top of the 200m freestyle final and Lilly King‘s victory in 1:05.43 in the 100-meter breaststroke joined the backstroke bonanza on Day 3 at the US Trials in the vault of America’s relay chances at the Paris Olympics, three years after a turning in the tide of tradition and history in Tokyo.

US trials for Paris – full results

Team USA has long made a habit of medaling in every relay in every passing event in its pool – and most of those have been gold. The fuel for the future was that moment when the American men missed the 4x200m free Olympic podium for the first time on all available occasions since it all started in 1896.

The men kept up their country’s winning tradition in both 4x100m races Caeleb Dressel at its fiery best (day 4 at Trials will provide an update on the progress of Tokyo’s sprint king in the 100m free), but the women did not take gold and in the first Olympic swimming final with men and women on the same relay team, the mixed 4×100 medley, the Americans were left empty-handed.

Of course, this doesn’t look like a collapse in American standards at all, and Team USA will arrive in Paris with the squad most likely to take the biggest medals again. In terms of gold, the battle is on: the Australian women are, but not exclusively, capable of tipping the balance, as they have done in recent seasons, on top of the gains made since the days of Susie O’Neill, Petria Thomas, Leisel Jones, Jodie Henry, Libby Lenton/Trickett, Stephanie Rice and Co in their own tradition, which goes back to the time of Shane Gould and her reigning success of five solo medals in Munich 1972, and Dawn Fraserthe founding member of the Triple Crown Club.

Underlying all explanations about the ebb and flow of American strength, including questions about China and Russia, is a subtle but important shift in the global swimming order: Australia and Britain led the way in Tokyo, with solid contributions from Canada and Italy, then, wanted to show that the rest of the world has what it takes to undermine American dominance and meet stronger competition at every passage.

The trend continued at the world titles in Fukuoka last year, when the Dolphins defeated the Eagles in total gold count to top the medal list.

Here’s how Day 3’s relay-related events went at Trials in Indy:

Women’s 200 meters free: solo tickets for Ledecky and Weinstein on top of relay scrap

Katie Ledecky by Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK

Katie LedeckyOlympic champion in 2016, one hand ahead of Sweden’s ‘fly queen’ Sarah Sjöströmled from go to gold and booked a second ticket to her fourth Games with a final length of 29.87, stopping the clock at 1:55.22.

Ledecky’s best remains her Rio gold-winning 1:53.73, while her 1:53.76 split in Tokyo put the US past Australia for silver.

Claire Weinstein‘s 1:56.18 was good for the second USA ticket to Paris, with Paige Madden And Erin Gemmel taking the guaranteed free berths of 4×200 meters in respective times of 1:56.36 and 1:56.75. Something went wrong with the timing in Gemmel’s orbit. Her mark in the 50 and 150 meters is missing from the data, but the bigger footnote about her is that as a young girl she dressed up as Katie Ledecky wearing an American cap with the legend on it for Halloween. Treat no trick.

And now she’s on Team USA with her inspiration, the bond that formed long before it would bear fruit in a relay that Americans took silver three years ago, when China set world record speed of a quartet with two of the 23-go -free TMZ positives from 2021 and one of the clenbuterol positives from 2016-17, who will be back in action in Paris.

Ariarne Titmus celebrates her world record 200m freestyle in Brisbane, photo by Delly Carr, courtesy of Swimming Australia
Ariarne Titmus celebrates her world record 200m freestyle in Brisbane, photo by Delly Carr, courtesy of Swimming Australia

The medals in Tokyo, Australia in third, had a split average of 1:54 high. The Dolphins go to Paris with two women in 1:52.5, Ariarne Titmus at a world record of 1:52.23 at trials in Brisbane last week, and Mollie O’Callaghan at 1:52.48 and two at 1:55s.

Ignore the relay start for now and the first four Dolphins at the trials come together at 7:36.02, within the global standards of 7:37.50 they set at last year’s world titles in Fukuoka.

So that’s where it’s going… And here’s how it went at US Trials Ledecky, once again the leader:

Men’s 200m Free: Solo tickets for Hobson and Giuliano on top of relay scrap

Luke Hobson clocked the sixth fastest time of the year for a 1:44.89 victory as the only man within 1:45, four others within 1:46 in the battle for the right to represent the United States in the 4x200m freestyle.

Hobson equaled all time the 1:44.89, in which the Eindhoven Express, Pieter van den Hoogenbandachieved the then world record at the 2002 World Championships two years after winning at Sydney 2000, ahead of Ian Thorpe by four lengths and Alex Popov by two.

Hoogie’s best is now the 23rd best ever, 0.02 seconds behind Hobson’s best in the semi-finals at the world titles in Fukuoka last year. The second American berth for the Paris 200 solo when Chris Giuliano at 1:45.38.

Hobson was sixth at the first wall and then fourth at the halfway point before posting a 26.61 to get his feet on the final wall in 1:17.77, six others at 1:18s. This is how the hunt for relay selection went:

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In relay terms, an average split of 1:44 to 1:44 is the likely benchmark for a golden shot in Paris. Like all other quartets, the Americans are on the cusp. It will all come down to the ‘power of now’ in Paris.