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Paris Olympics: Regan Smith books berth with 100m backstroke world record

Regan Smith set a new world record of 57.13 seconds in the 100m backstroke at the US Olympic swimming trials on Tuesday, challenging Australia’s Kaylee McKeown ahead of the Paris Games in six weeks.

Smith surpassed McKeown’s previous world record of 57.33 set in Budapest in October 2023.

“I had planned for this,” Smith commented on reclaiming the record she held in 2019.

She had hinted at her intentions by lowering her American record to 57.47 in the semi-finals. With Katharine Berkoff pushing her all the way, Smith made a strong finish to shave two-tenths of a second off McKeown’s mark.

“I’m incredibly proud of myself,” said Smith, who won two silvers and a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics. “Backstroke is a challenge for me at times, so to come back like this and reclaim that record means a lot.”

Berkoff finished second with 57.91 seconds, setting up a formidable one-two punch for the US in the event in Paris, where McKeown remains a strong competitor after posting 57.41 seconds at the Australian trials last week.

Smith narrowly missed qualifying for Paris in the 100m butterfly behind world record-holder Gretchen Walsh and Torri Huske. She has two more events scheduled this week at Lukas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the venue hosting the trials for the first time.

“We’ll take a moment to be really proud of what I’ve achieved, and then it’s back to work,” Smith added. “I have more goals to accomplish this week.”

In other events, double distance freestyle gold medalist Bobby Finke secured his 800m title defense with a time of 7 minutes 44.22 seconds, ahead of teenager Luke Whitlock in second with 7:45.19.

Caeleb Dressel, a star of the Tokyo Games, safely advanced to the men’s 100m freestyle final with the third-fastest time in the semifinals. Dressel’s performances in Tokyo included five gold medals, encompassing the 50m and 100m freestyle and the 100m butterfly.

After a break following the 2022 world championships, Dressel’s form was uncertain when he returned, and he failed to qualify for the 2023 worlds.

Chris Guiliano, already bound for Paris after finishing second in the 200m free, topped the semifinals of the men’s 100m freestyle in 47.25 seconds. In the second semifinal, 21-year-old Jack Alexy held off Dressel with a winning time of 47.33 seconds, Dressel touching in 47.53 seconds. It was Dressel’s fastest time in two years, and he showed excitement as he checked the scoreboard and congratulated Alexy.

Simone Manuel, who won gold in the women’s 100m free at Rio de Janeiro in 2016 but missed the Tokyo trials final due to over-training syndrome, won her semifinal in 53.16 seconds. She goes into Wednesday’s final as the second-fastest qualifier behind Huske, who set a personal best of 52.90 seconds in her pursuit of a second Paris ticket.

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