Katie Ledecky, Ryan Murphy, Caeleb Dressel Well-Positioned For Another Successful Trials

Katie Ledecky of United States of America reacts after competing in the 400m Freestyle Women Heats during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 23rd, 2023. Katie Ledecky placed first.
Katie Ledecky -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Katie Ledecky, Ryan Murphy, Caeleb Dressel Well-Positioned For Another Successful Trials

Top American swimmers have begun their final preparations for next month’s Olympic Trials, with most having completed their final in-season races prior to their all-important trip to Indianapolis. All of their training and racing efforts this year and from the previous two years will culminate in a football stadium in four weeks.

With Olympic spots and even swimming careers on the line, the pressure will be immense as always, although perhaps slightly less than the last edition of Olympic Trials when a one-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic gave veterans and hopefuls even more time to overthink and overanalyze the meet. At any Trials, though, not all possible contenders can handle the weight of Olympic selection. Some might tighten up behind the blocks or deviate from their race strategy — and the results will be costly.

So much about Trials is unpredictable, but here is a rather safe bet: expect multi-time individual Olympic champions like Katie Ledecky, Ryan Murphy and Caeleb Dressel to be ready. None of those three have provided any sizzling performances thus far in 2024, but that’s no concern. All three have built steadily throughout the season and recorded some of their quickest times during this weekend’s Club Excellence Series.

Ledecky, competing at the Atlanta Classic, swam the world’s fastest time in the 1500 freestyle, a result which might be faster than the eventual silver-medal-winning time at the Paris Games, and she swam her first sub-4:00 400 free performance of the season, notching a time that only Summer McIntosh and Ariarne Titmus have beaten in 2024.

The 27-year-old Ledecky has literally never had a poor end-of-season performance since she rose to prominence at the London Olympics in 2012. Her one blemish came when she was sick at the World Championships in 2019, but she still earned a gold medal and two silvers. Ledecky has already won seven Olympic gold medals, and should everything proceed as expected over the next two months, she will likely move into a tie for second-most Olympic gold medals of any athlete regardless of sport. Golds in the 800 and 1500 free, which Ledecky is heavily favored for, would give her nine, behind only the other-worldly 23 of Michael Phelps.

Does anyone really think Ledecky will be unprepared for Trials?

Similar story for Murphy, the top American backstroker for the better part of a decade. His results thus far in 2024 had been forgettable, particularly in the 200 back, but he recorded his season-best mark in the event by more than a second at the Southern California Invite this weekend while also clipping his season-best in the 100 back.


Ryan Murphy — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Murphy is known for holding some of his cards until absolutely necessary, so we can reasonably expect to see times at Trials that will vault him into the gold-medal conversation in both backstroke distances. Remember, Murphy has won gold or silver in the 200 back at every major meet since the 2016 Olympics, and he has been on the podium for the 100 back at every meet but one during that time. It also will not hurt that Russian rivals Evgeni Rylov, Kliment Kolesnikov and Miron Lifintsev are all expected Paris because of the country’s current ban from Olympic sport aside from neutral athletes.

As for Dressel, after a shaky cameo at last year’s U.S. Nationals, we have seen him steadily progress back toward the form that made him the most dominant swimmer in the world for five years. His times have been notable, including a 48.30 season-best mark in the 100 free at the Atlanta Classic, but just as impressive was his performance Friday night: a solid 1:47.38 in the 200 free, potentially putting himself in the 800 free relay conversation for the Olympics, followed by a 51.38 in the 100 fly not long after.

Dressel’s closing speed is on point; his 26.15 homecoming split in that fly race was three tenths quicker than he went in his world-record-setting performance at the Tokyo Games.

His Olympic cycle might have included its significant hurdles, but like Ledecky, his current University of Florida training partner, and Murphy, his former club teammate and friend for more than 20 years, Dressel is on track, producing the sort of confidence-building swims that bode extremely well for what is to come.

We have no hesitation in projecting that next month in Indianapolis, these three swimmers will spend plenty of time in the spotlight as they each pick up tickets to another Olympic Games.

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