Dressel and Ledecky headline another stacked U.S. Olympic swimming event

Seven-time Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel brings a new perspective to the busy U.S. Olympic swimming trials, where he and freestyle phenom Katie Ledecky will once again star in the fierce battle for spots at the Paris Olympics.

Dressel and Ledecky bring formidable credentials to the nine-day meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, where only a top-two finish can secure an individual race spot in Paris and any mistake could mean heartbreak.

It has been a winding road back to this point for 27-year-old Dressel, who after his two relay golds at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and five gold medals in Tokyo in 2021, branded himself the heir apparent to American great Michael Phelps.

But Dressel abruptly withdrew from the 2022 world championships and took a nine-month break from the sport.

He is set to compete in the 100-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly and 50-meter freestyle, and while he is not the top-ranked swimmer competing in any of these events, his steady progress in the in recent months that he will be ready for young challengers such as world bronze medalist Dare. Rose in the 100m butterfly and world silver medalist Jack Alexy in the 50m free.

While his comeback picked up steam this year, Dressel said his extended break had refreshed his relationship with the sport.

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“I knew I was in a place where it wasn’t healthy,” he said this year as his comeback picked up steam. “It got to the point where I thought: if I don’t break a world record in any event, then my career is a waste.

“Like that was my thought, which is pretty ridiculous… Because I know I’m a good swimmer, but if you asked me that a few years ago, I don’t know what I would say.”

Ledecky, who burst onto the international stage as a 15-year-old with her victory in the 800m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, will compete in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle in the hunt for a fourth Games and a chance to add to her stock of seven Olympic gold medals.

Katie Grimes, who has already secured a place in Paris in open water swimming, will try to earn a place in the pool as she competes in the 800m and 1500m free, the 400m individual medley and possibly the 400m free.

Kate Douglass, who took bronze in the 200-meter medley in her Olympic debut in Tokyo, enters the battle as the top-ranked American in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle, the 200-meter breaststroke and the 200-meter individual medley.

FILE PHOTO: Katie Ledecky of the USA celebrates after winning the women’s 800m freestyle final at the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka. | Photo credit: REUTERS

The women’s 100m fly promises fireworks, with Torri Huske, the Tokyo Olympian who challenged Sarah Sjostrom’s world record in April, taking on the red-hot Gretchen Walsh and world silver medalist Claire Curzan.

Regan Smith will headline the women’s 100m and 200m backstroke and 200m butterfly, aiming to secure a chance to renew her rivalry with Australia’s Kaylee McKeown and Canada’s Summer McIntosh.

Ryan Murphy, who completed an Olympic backstroke double in Rio but settled for silver and bronze in Tokyo, is the frontrunner in the men’s 100m and 200m backstroke.

Carson Foster leads the way in the men’s 200m and 400m medley, aiming to set up a Paris duel with French phenomenon Leon Marchand.