Swimming-Smith sets backstroke world record at US Olympic Trials


  • Swimming
  • Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

Regan Smith waves to the crowd after her heat win in 100 meter backstroke prelims Monday, June 17, 2024, during U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Mandatory Credit: Mykal McEldowney-USA TODAY Sports/ File Photo

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) -Regan Smith set the 100m backstroke world record at the U.S. Olympic trials in Indianapolis on Tuesday, touching the wall first in 57.13 to shave 0.2 seconds off Australian Kaylee McKeown's previous mark.

With just over a month to go before the Games, Smith's win in the final sealed her place on the U.S. team and sets up a Paris showdown with McKeown, who swam 57.33 in Hungary last year.

"I'm so proud of myself," Smith said amid cheers from thousands of fans at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"Backstroke is hard for me sometimes but to fight back like this and get that back means a lot."

Katharine Berkoff was second with a time of 57.91.

Smith, a three-time Olympic medallist who took bronze in the event at the Tokyo Games, still has two more events to contest at the trials and said she would not get too carried away celebrating her world record.

"We're going to take a couple minutes here to be really proud of what we accomplished and then it's back to work," she said.

"I've got more things that I want to accomplish this week."

Smith previously set the mark at the 2019 world championships in South Korea but said she was not sure she would ever reach those heights again.

"There were many years that went by after 2019 where I thought that I would never do that ever again," the 22-year-old told reporters.

"That was a long time coming and it took a lot of practicing and improving my confidence."

With help from a sports psychologist, Smith is now brimming with confidence headed to Paris where she thinks the record could be broken again.

"I think 56 is a possibility for sure, whether it's me or whether it's one of my competitors, who knows.

"But I'm not going to sell myself short. That was an amazing race but it wasn't a perfect race."

Smith's world record was the second of the trials after Gretchen Walsh set a new mark in the women's 100m butterfly on Saturday, touching in 55.18.

FINKE CRUISES

Bobby Finke was a predictable winner in the 800m freestyle final, clocking 7:44.22 to book his ticket to Paris where he will defend his gold medal from Tokyo.

"I'm going to be able to take the experience from last time and all the world championships that we had leading up to this," Finke said at the stadium, which is home to the NFL's Indianapolis Colts.

"The crowd here is amazing, first time in a football stadium. I see people all around, which is really exciting, my family is here.

"To be able to harness all that energy and put it into the race, especially such a long one, is always fun."

Finke, a relative unknown before making his breakthrough in Tokyo, said getting onto the team a second time was harder than the first.

"All the pressure I was feeling coming into this race, to finally get my hand on the wall and see the Olympic rings next to my name was a relief," he said.

"I'm very excited I get to do it again."

Luke Whitlock finished second and will likely join two-time gold medallist Finke in the pool at Paris for his first Games.

Caeleb Dressel advanced to the final of the 100m freestyle, finishing in 47.82, behind Jack Alexy's time of 47.08.

The seven-time Olympic gold medallist abruptly pulled out of the world championships in Budapest in 2022 due to a health issue and failed to qualify for the world championships in Japan last year but has been on the comeback trail of late.

The 27-year-old will look to book his ticket to a third Games in the eight-man final on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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