By Sharon Robb
OMAHA, Neb., June 20, 2021—The final night belonged to Simone Manuel at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials at CHI Health Center.
In her final shot to make her second Olympic team, the four-time Olympic medalist won the 50-meter freestyle in an emotionally-charged race. Her time was 24.29, just 1/100ths ahead of Abbey Weitzeil in 24.30.
The 24-year-old Manuel of Alto Swim Club missed making the team in the 100-meter freestyle which she is defending Olympic gold medalist. She said earlier in the week that she had been battling a condition known as “overtraining syndrome” leading up to Trials which caused her to take three weeks off away from the pool in April because of mental and physical exhaustion.
After the semifinals, Manuel said “I desperately want to be on the team. I feel like I have so much to give this sport, not just in the pool but out of the pool. I just want to see whatever I’ve got. I want to walk away with my head held high at the end of this meet. I am the person who fights to the end. Hopefully, it gets me a ticket to Tokyo, but if it doesn’t, I’m proud of myself.”
On Sunday night, Manuel did punch her ticket to Tokyo in dramatic fashion. Weitzeil was the first to climb over the lane line to congratulate her after the race. The visibly emotional Manuel covered her face and started to cry happy tears and slapped the water.
“More than anything I’m relieved,” Manuel said. “I’m just so happy I accomplished part of my goal. Plans don’t always go as you want them to go, but I’m glad I can walk away with my head held high.
“This year has been difficult, especially the last couple of months. But before I dove in, I felt like it was my moment. Today may have been the longest day of my life. That 50 was the longest 50 of my life. I’m just glad to have it over and be able to regroup and get ready for the Olympics. Hopefully, I can swim faster so I can win a medal for Team USA.”
Added Weitzeil, “I’m literally so excited for Simone right now. I don’t even care about the times. I looked at the board and saw she got first and I was so excited. I don’t even care about my race. She is just an amazing person. I was really rooting for her in that race. During the race, I saw her right there and I was like, ‘yes, let’s go, come on.’ That’s what I was thinking the whole time.”
Not to be overshadowed, Caeleb Dressel of the Gator Swim Club won his third individual event while tying his American record in the 50-meter freestyle in 21.04, fastest time in the world this year.
Dressel’s reaction time was .60 off the blocks. Michael Andrew was second in 21.48, just 25/100ths of a second ahead of sentimental favorite Nathan Adrian, who was attempting to make his fourth Olympic team but finished in 21.73.
“This was really a tough field,” Dressel said. “I’m really glad I got to descend the meet, starting with the 200, then a couple of 100s and ending it with the 50. I’m super happy and hope to go fast in a month.”
Said Adrian, “Those two guys beat me. That’s how this sport works. They are going to be good and going to give Team USA our best shot at getting the most medals as possible. I am now their biggest fan. I’m excited to watch from home and cheer like crazy.”
In the final and longest event of the evening, Clearwater’s Bobby Finke of St. Petersburg Aquatics and University of Florida, led from wire-to-wire to win the 1500-meter freestyle. Finke, who already won the 800, won the 1500 in 14:46.06, his best time by more than 2 1/2 seconds and third fastest time in the world. Michael Brinegar, 800 free runner-up, was second in 15:00.87.
“The time means a lot,” Finke said. “I’ve been waiting to drop in that race for a couple years now. I’m just honored to go to Tokyo and try to improve my time.”
With the U.S. team finalized, there are 26 women and 23 men traveling to training camp in Hawaii before heading to Tokyo.
In addition to Dave Durden (men) and Greg Meehan (women), the remaining coaching staff announced are Gregg Troy, Anthony Nesty, Peter Andrew, Teri McKeever, Todd DeSorbo, Bob Bowman, Jack Bauerle and Ray Looze. The open-water coach is Catherine Kase.
CANADIAN OLYMPIC TRIALS
Fort Lauderdale High alum Philippe Marcoux swims his first race while brother Raphael swims his second event on Monday, both in the 50-meter freestyle. Raphael is seeded fifth in 22.58 and Philippe is seeded ninth in 22.89.
SUNDAY FINAL RESULTS
50-meter freestyle: 1. Simone Manuel, ALTO 24.29, 2. Abbey Weitzeil, CAL 24.30, 3. Torri Huske, AAC 24.46.
50-meter freestyle: 1. Caeleb Dressel, Gator Swim Club 21.04, 2. Michael Andrew, RPC-SI 21.48, 3. Nathan Adrian, CAL 21.73.
1500-meter freestyle: 1. Bobby Finke, SPA 14:46.06, 2. Michael Brinegar, MVN 15:00.87, 3. Jordan Wilimovsky, KSWM 15:05.29.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com