TYR Pro Swim Series: Simone Manuel Opens Road to Tokyo With Dominant Win in 100 Freestyle

simone-manuel-Pro Swim Series

TYR Pro Swim Series (Greensboro)

With the Olympic year just around the corner, Simone Manuel used the first stop on this year’s Pro Swim Series to deliver a strong performance, as the reigning world champion in both sprint-freestyle events blew away the field in the 100 freestyle. After posting the top qualifying mark in prelims, Manuel cruised to victory in the final in Greensboro, clocking 53.44. Olympic veteran Allison Schmitt was second in 54.41.

Known for her ability to produce in pressure situations, as evidenced by her recent world crowns and her Olympic gold medal in the 100 freestyle from the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Manuel put together a stellar marker on Thursday night. The time registered by Manuel is the second-fastest of her career from a non-championship meet, trailing only the 53.30 she put up this past June, in preparation for the World Championships.

While Manuel has been considered an underdog to the likes of Aussie Cate Campbell and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom in prior international competitions, she has always delivered in the spotlight. Not only did Manuel share the 2016 Olympic title in the 100 freestyle with Canadian Penny Oleksiak, she has captured the past two world championships in the 100 free. Now, with Tokyo creeping closer, Manuel will head into the summer under favorite status. And considering she just managed a best time in the 100 free for this point in the season, there is greater reason to view Manuel as the woman to beat.

“First 100 of the season, so didn’t really know what to expect,” Manuel said. “Training has been going well, but after seeing my time, I’m pretty pleased with it. The time was not the main focus for me. I was really focusing on a lot of details I wanted to fix, especially from World Championships. I’m really happy with it and it’s a good start for the season.”

Katie Ledecky of the United States of America (USA) reacts after winning in the women’s 800m Freestyle Final during the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 27 July 2019.

Katie Ledecky – Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

Not long after Manuel emerged on top of the 100 freestyle, her Team USA and Stanford University compatriot Katie Ledecky blasted the field in the 400 freestyle. Adopting her trademark attacking strategy, Ledecky immediately bolted to the front of the field and continuously built her lead on the way to a mark of 4:01.87. Schmitt earned her second runnerup finish of the night as she touched behind Ledecky in 4:10.52.

Ledecky is coming off a disappointing World Championships in which illness deprived the five-time Olympic champion of showing her true talent, and led to her dominance in the 400 freestyle being stopped by Australia’s Ariarne Titmus. It figures, then, that Ledecky has big moments in mind for the 2020 campaign and Tokyo, where she will seek a third consecutive Olympic gold in the 800 freestyle, repeats in the 200 and 400 freestyles and an inaugural triumph in the 1500 freestyle, which will be on the women’s program for the first time.

“Just getting our first long-course swims under our belt for the season,” Ledecky said. “Just getting back into racing and getting back into the racing swing of things. Just looking to apply the different things I’ve been working on this fall and get a base line for the year.”

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Having shifted her training grounds from the University of Georgia to work with Bob Bowman at Arizona State, Hali Flickinger had no trouble besting the field in her prime event, the 200 butterfly. The silver medalist at Worlds in the 200 fly, Flickinger led wire to wire and posted a time of 2:07.65, more than two seconds clear of runnerup Charlotte Hook (2:10.10). Earlier in the day, Flickinger confirmed the move from her longtime training base to the desert, telling Swimming World’s Dan D’Addona that she “needed a change.”

It will be interesting to see what Flickinger and Bowman can manage during their time together. Bowman, of course, guided the greatest performer in the history of the 200 butterfly in Michael Phelps, he of three Olympic golds in the event and an 18-year reign as the world-record holder.

 “Obviously a lot of change,” Flickinger said. “I’ve moved across the country. Right now it’s a bit stressful, but I’m super happy and change is always good. I’m really looking forward to this year and what’s to come.”

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Luca Urlando; Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

One of the rising stars in the American arsenal, Luca Urlando was unchallenged in the men’s 200 fly, the 17-year-old earning the victory in 1:56.00, well ahead of the 1:58.15 of Matthew Fenlon. Urlando heads into the Olympic year as one of the most-watched teenagers in the United States, alongside Carson Foster, who was third in Greensboro in 1:58.61. Although Hungarian Kristof Milak will be the overwhelming favorite for gold in Tokyo in the 200 fly, given his world-record outing at the World Champs, Urlando has the makeup to not only qualify for the Games, but contend for the podium. Urlando ranked third this year in the 200 fly with a personal best of 1:53.84.

Sweden’s Sophie Hansson, who competes collegiately for North Caroline State, reeled in Molly Hannis in the 100 breaststroke. Hansson turned a .27 deficit at the turn into a .06 triumph as she stopped the clock in 1:07.89, with Hannis just behind in 1:07.95. For the men, the 100 breast was won by Andrew Wilson in 1:00.76, an effort clearly reflecting heavy training for the member of Team USA at last summer’s World Championships.

In the final of the men’s 100 freestyle, only two athletes cracked the 50-second barrier, with Dean Farris prevailing in 49.74, ahead of the 49.90 of the Netherlands’ Nyls Korstanje. The fastest time in the event actually came from the B Final, where Michael Chadwick recorded an effort of 49.69. Zane Grothe won the final event of the night, covering the 400 freestyle in 3:48.80.

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