18 Jun 2024, 08:55

King, Murphy punch tickets to Paris as Ledecky wins again  

LOS ANGELES, June 18, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Lilly King and Ryan Murphy are bound for their third straight Olympics after victories Monday at the US Olympic swimming trials, where Katie Ledecky expanded her options for her fourth consecutive Games in Paris.

World record-holder King led all the way to win the 100m breaststroke in 1min 05.43sec and line up a chance to regain the Olympic title she won in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

She was followed home by Emma Weber in 1:06.10 while Tokyo gold medallist Lydia Jacoby finished third -- shut out of a chance to defend her title in the pressure-cooker trials that see only the top two finishers qualify for individual Olympic swims.

Murphy, who won double backstroke gold in Rio in 2016, but settled for silver and bronze in Tokyo, won the men's 100m backstroke in 52.22sec, with rising star Hunter Armstrong second in 52.72.

"I think I enjoy it a little bit more than I used to," Murphy, 28, said after easing to the victory before the massive crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts.

"I used to feel like I was going to throw up before every race, where now I can take it in a little bit more."

Katie Grimes held off a furious challenge from Emma Weyant to claim the top spot in the women's 400m individual medley and secure a second berth at the Paris Olympics, having already qualified in open water.

Grimes, 18, used her strong butterfly and backstroke to build a big lead but Weyant had inched ahead at the end of the breaststroke leg with Lilla Bognar also thrusting herself into contention.

Grimes bore down on the closing freestyle to win in 4:35.00 with Tokyo silver medallist Weyant second in 4:35.56 and Bognar shut out of the Paris places in third.

"I knew my backstroke was fine and I turned the wall for the breaststroke and I just said don't look back, don't look to the side," Grimes said. "I knew as long as I touched the wall at the same time as Emma I would be able to stick in there with her. So I was just trying to finish."

In Paris, Grimes and Weyant will be chasing Summer McIntosh, who lowered the world record with a time of 4:24.38 at the Canadian trials in May. Grimes is a two-time world championships silver medallist behind McIntosh.

Freestyle great Ledecky, whose seven Olympic gold medals include six in individual events, clocked 1:55.22 to add the 200m free title to the 400m free she won on Saturday -- although it's possible she could opt out of the individual 200 in Paris, where she's expected to swim the 400m, 800m and 1,500m free.

Claire Weinstein was second in 1:56.18 and Paige Madden, second to Ledecky in the 400m free, was third.

- Smith sizzles in semis -

Luke Hobson won the men's 200m freestyle, breaking loose in a tight field on the penultimate lap to triumph in 1:44.89 and book his first trip to the Olympics.

Chris Guiliano, swimming in lane one, overhauled Drew Kibler on the final lap to set himself up for an individual swim in Paris with a personal best of 1:45.38.

In semi-final action, Regan Smith took a run at Australian Kaylee McKeown's 100m backstroke world record, improving her own American record with a time of 57.47.

Former world record-holder Smith tied McKeown's fourth-fastest time ever -- the Australian also owns the three fastest performances in the event starting with her world record of 57.33 set in 2023 and a blistering 57.41 at the Australian trials this month.

Tuesday's final promises fireworks after Katharine Berkoff joined Smith in the sub-58 club with a time of 57.83 to win her semi-final.