Gretchen Walsh breaks 100m butterfly world record at US swimming trials, Paris Olympics

The Paris Olympics may be more than a month away, but things are reaching boiling point in the Australia-America pool.

After the Australian swim tests were over, it was America’s turn to hit the lanes and they responded almost instantly.

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Gretchen Walsh broke the world record in the 100m butterfly in the semi-finals at the US Olympics, where freestyle great Katie Ledecky punched her ticket to a fourth Olympics.

Walsh, who is coming off a record-breaking collegiate season for the University of Virginia, clocked 55.18 seconds to eclipse the previous record of 55.48 seconds set by Sweden’s Sara Sjostroem at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The 21-year-old is trying to make her first Olympic team after winning gold in the medley relay, along with silver in the freestyle relay and bronze in the 50m fly at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka.

She electrified a crowd of more than 20,000 at Lucas Oil Arena, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, in the first event to open the final session at the nine-day meet – where only the top two finishers in each event can qualify for the Paris Games.

American record holder Tori Huske ran at Sjoestroem’s mark in the first semifinal, reaching 50 meters under the world record before finishing in 55.79 seconds.

Walsh, who had never broken 56 seconds until she clocked 55.94 in the heats on Saturday morning, then stormed through the second semifinal, staring at the scoreboard in disbelief as the weather flashed by.

“It’s such a surreal experience,” said Walsh, who emphatically rejected her reputation as a short-course specialist.

“I don’t know when I’ll think I’ve done just that.” I’m trying to convince myself that it just happened – I’m just in awe.

“I’m ready for tomorrow night,” added Walsh, who will try to secure a spot on the team for Paris in the final when Tokyo Olympic medalist Regan Smith, who was third fastest in the semifinals in 55.92, will also be in the field. sec.

Meanwhile, seven-time Olympic gold medalist Ledecky, who burst onto the international scene as a 15-year-old by winning the 800m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, is in Paris after winning the 400m freestyle in 3min 58.35 seconds.

Paige Madden, a finalist in Tokyo, was second in 4:02.08.

Ledecky’s time was her fastest since 2022. Although she remains a dominant world force in the 800m and 1500m freestyle, the 27-year-old will arrive in Paris chasing Australian world record holder Ariarne Titmus and Canadian teenager Summer McIntosh in the 400m freestyle. .

Titmus dethroned Ledecky in the 400 meters at the Tokyo Olympics and broke Ledecky’s long-standing world record in the event in 2022.

McIntosh broke the record last year before Titmus regained the mark, and Titmus signaled her intentions for Paris with the second-fastest time ever – a blistering 3:55.44 – at the Australian trials.

Ledecky, who is also scheduled to swim the 200m in the grandstands, counts six individual victories among her seven Olympic golds – more than any other swimmer.

With two more golds she can surpass compatriot Jenny Thompson for most Olympic gold medals, including relays.

Aaron Sheckel, a 19-year-old local favorite, was the first swimmer to secure a place in Paris, winning the men’s 400m freestyle in 3:45.46.

Shackell held off a late charge from Tokyo bronze medalist Kieran Smith, who finished second in 3:45.76.

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