U.S. Olympic Trials: Abbey Weitzeil Sets Best Time, Simone Manuel Moves on in 50 Free

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Olympic Trials: Abbey Weitzeil Sets Best Time, Simone Manuel Moves on in 50 Free

The women’s 100 freestyle threw down surprises Thursday night, in the sprint event that is usually a surer gauge than the splash and dash. Saturday night, for Simone Manuel at least, it proved a clearer guide.

Manuel made it back easily in the 50 free preliminaries Saturday morning, then went quicker in the evening at 24.50 seconds to win the first semifinal heat. She’s the third overall seed in Sunday night’s final.

With one day left in Olympic Trials, it gives the sprinting star of Rio and the leader of the U.S. sprint program through his Olympic cycle one last chance at getting to Tokyo.

“The mentality I had is I don’t quit,” Manuel said. “I am the person that fights to the end. Even though the 100 didn’t go the way I wanted, I wanted to give myself a chance in the 50. I want to be able to walk away with my head held high. Hopefully it gets me to Tokyo but if it doesn’t then I’m proud of myself.”

Manuel had an emotional press conference after not making the semifinals of the 100 free, where she opened up about feeling burnt out and having to pause her workouts due to overtraining. She said that discussing that publicly “took a little weight off my shoulders” and has allowed her to have a little more fun in the 50.

‘I tried to swim loose and light hearted in the 50, but sharing my story allowed me to prove myself and go out and fight for my spot on the team,” she said. “I am trying to be a better Simone than I was the day before.”

The top seed is Manuel’s running mate in both events in Rio, Abbey Weitzeil. The 100 free champ turned in another strong swim by going 24.27 to win the second semifinal and nab the top seed. It’s a personal best for the Cal swimmer, who was enthused by the time. It slots in 12th in the world this season.

“I am super excited,” she said. “I haven’t gone a best time in that event since 2016. I am pretty pumped and I wasn’t expecting that tonight.”

Behind her in the heat and in a lane next to her Sunday night is Torri Huske in 24.45. Huske has continued an outstanding meet and looks refreshed for the sprint.

“I feel like especially after my 100 fly final, it was really hard mentally to race the next day just because it was such a high and you have to swim two more races, 200 IM and 200 free, which is a tough double for me,” Huske said. “I feel like it was tough to bounce back after that, but I had a day of rest yesterday so I’m fine now.”

Behind Huske in 24.54 was Linnea Mack, who was originally disqualified in prelims but reinstated, leading to a 17-swimmer semifinal. She made the most of her second life to get to finals in fourth.

Erika Brown, a day removed from qualifying in the 100 free, was second in the first heat at 24.57. The University of Tennessee swimmer is fifth in the final, looking to build on the runner-up finish in the 100.

“Anytime I get a chance to race, it gives me more and more confidence, especially after this past year,” she said. “I haven’t had a done of opportunity to race, so that 100 definitely gave me what I need to come into the 50 free.”

Gretchen Walsh, Kate Douglass and Catie Deloof round out the final four. That means Natalie Hinds, who qualified for the 400 free relay in fourth, is out, finishing in 11th. Also missing out, in her last chance to make it to Tokyo, is Kelsi Dahlia. She was 10th. Claire Curzan missed out in ninth with a time of 24.76.

Women’s 50 Free Finalists

  1. Abbey Weitzeil, 24.27
  2. Torri Huske, 24.45
  3. Simone Manuel, 24.50
  4. Linnea Mack, 24.54
  5. Erika Brown, 24.57
  6. Gretchen Walsh, 24.64
  7. Kate Douglass, 24.67
  8. Catie DeLoof, 24.68