The U.S. Open Championships are being held across nine different cities, with officials compiling times for final results. It’s the first major U.S. swimming event since March.
Competing “side-by-side” across three different time zones and nine separate pools, swimmers – many of them racing for the first time in months – were back in action for day two of the U.S. Open Championships, a virtual event.
Organised by USA Swimming, it’s the first major domestic event in the States for the sport since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and Friday saw Olympic gold medallists Ryan Lochte, Kathleen Baker, (pictured) and Ryan Held, world champion Regan Smith and others in action.
The meet was originally planned for December in Atlanta.
The four-time Olympian Lochte, swimming in Sarasota, Fla., finished third overall in the men’s 200m individual medley (IM), clocking a 2:01.05. His Rio 2016 teammate Chase Kalisz, a silver medallist there in the 400m IM, won the event with a 1:59.72 in Greensboro, N.C.
Nineteen-year-old Carson Foster, the reigning world junior champion, was second with a time of 1:59.82.
It was a standout day for young swimmers looking to make their mark, as 18-year-old Emma Weyant, the reigning U.S. champ and junior world record holder in the 400m freestyle, won her signature event with a 4:10.38, out-touching Paige Madden at 4:10.42.
In the 200m IM, Madisyn Cox won with a 2:10.49 over Baker and Smith, two backstroke stars, while Victoria Huske was second at 2:11.18. Baker finished third (2:12.97) while Smith was ninth (2:15.20).
Smith, with eyes on Tokyo, has deferred the school year at Stanford and stayed at home in Minnesota to train for the upcoming Games, for which she is yet to qualify, but is the world-record holder in both the 100m and 200m backstroke.
Gretchen Walsh, just 17 years old, won the 50m freestyle with the 11th-fastest time in U.S. history, according to SwimSwam. She clocked a 24.65, while Katherine Douglass was second (24.99) and Farida Osman third (25.10).
Walsh's is the second-fastest time for an American age 17-18 all-time in that event: only Olympic champion Simone Manuel has swam it faster at that age (in 2014).
In the men’s 400m freestyle, it was 20-year-old Kieran Smith who won with a time of 3:48.78, just ahead of Marwan El Kamash at 3:48.87. El Kamash, of Egypt, is a 2016 Olympian, as well.
Earlier this year, Smith swam the fastest-ever 500m freestyle at 4:06.32. The U.S. national team member swims collegiately at the University of Florida.
And Ryan Held, a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. team in Rio in the 4x100m freestyle relay – along with Michael Phelps, Nathan Adrian and Caeleb Dressel – was second in the 50m freestyle with a 22.35. Held currently ranks No.1 in the U.S. in that race.
Santo Condorelli, who swims now for Italy (previously Canada), won with a 22.27.
The Championships are being held as a single combined meet with straight finals across nine different cities and states. The times from each of the nine host cities are compiled to determine the winners of each event.
Host cities include: Indianapolis; San Antonio; Irvine, Calif.; Beaverton, Ore.; Des Moines, Iowa; Greensboro, N.C.; Huntsville, Ala.; Richmond, Va.; and Sarasota, Fla.
While there are a number of U.S. national team swimmers taking part, many big names including Olympic champions Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel and Adrian – all of whom could have competed in Irvine, as they are based in California – chose not to take part.
Claire Curzan lit up the Friday night (U.S. time) session in the 100m fly swimming a 56.61.
The teenager is now the 3rd-fastest American of all time in this race behind only a pair of Olympic gold medalists, the North Carolina swimmer put herself in the conversation for the Tokyo Olympics next summer with that swim in Greensboro.
Another U.S. Open record fell in the men's 100m breaststroke Andrew Wilson resetting the mark at 59.58. Olympian Cody Miller, who won bronze in Rio in this event, clocked a 59.65.
Kathleen Baker was back in the pool too, winning the 100m backstroke in 59.82 time, 18-year-old double world champion Regan Smith took second in 59.95.
This U.S. Open is giving us a glimpse at some future stars of swimming and Germany's Anna Elendt (19) and Lydia Jacoby (16) took their opportunity in the 100m breastroke, Elendt won the race in 1:07.50 and Jacoby stood second on the podium stopping the clock at 1:07.57.
Guatemala's Luis Martinez won the men's 100m butterfly, swimming to a 51.50, a meet record.
Saturday, the swimmers will dive into the pool for a third and final day, this time for finals in the 1500m freestyle, 200m backstroke, 100m freestyle, 200m breaststroke and 200m butterfly.
In an interview published Friday morning before he competed, Lochte, who has 12 Olympic medals to his name and hopes to qualify for a fifth Games next year, told the Washington Post: “Any chance you can get on those blocks and just race, it’s a tremendous feeling.”
The 36-year-old continued: “The first couple races, I’ll definitely be shaking the cobwebs off. But it’s a steppingstone, just seeing where I’m at and seeing what I got to work on for the next couple of months.”
Lochte has not competed since March, and in August had minor appendicitis surgery. “We got to roll with the punches,” he said of the extended break due to COVID-19. “It’ll probably be odd for everyone, but we’re all in the same boat, and you just take what you can get.”
The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for swimming have been re-scheduled for Tokyo 2020, and will take place in June of 2021 in Omaha.