LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky will spearhead a powerful US assault when the swimming world championships begin Sunday, with the Americans looking to make a big statement before next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The event in Gwangju is the biggest meeting on the 2019 calendar, but for team USA it represents a stepping stone on the road to Tokyo –and one they expect to negotiate in characteristically confident fashion.
“While we understand that the worlds is an important competition, the most important competition for us is the Olympic Games,” said national team managing director Lindsay Mintenko.
There have been no cut-throat trials to produce the US squad, which was selected based on performances in the 2018 national championships and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships.
That allows top swimmers to keep their training geared toward Tokyo and, as a result, few Americans feature at the top of the 2019 rankings.
Those that do include superstar Ledecky, who boasts leading times this year in the 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle and Lilly King, who is fastest in the 50m and 100m breaststroke as she prepares to renew her rivalry with Russian Yuliya Efimova.
Dressel, who two years ago in Budapest joined Michael Phelps as the only swimmer to win seven titles at a single world championships, tops the 100m butterfly rankings at 50.36sec — faster than Singapore’s Joseph Schooling clocked to win gold at the Rio Olympics.
Dressel’s performance in Mission Viejo, California, last month fired a warning to rivals that by the time they complete their training camp in Shanghai the Americans will be a force to be reckoned with in South Korea.