U.S. swimmers show strong finish at Olympic preliminary heats

U.S. swimmers showed their strength on Friday afternoon, the last day of preliminary heats at the Rio Olympics. Though there are two more night sessions, preliminary heats have now concluded.

Newly-minted 100m freestyle co-gold medalist Simone Manuel had approximately 14 hours to get re-focused for her 50m freestyle. She successfully advanced to the finals with a time of 24.71 seconds, good enough for 11th place overall. Teammate Abbey Weitzeil tied for fifth place with her time of 24.48.

Denmark’s Pernille Blume leads the field at 24.23 seconds. Australian sprinting sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell also both advanced to the 16-woman semifinals Friday evening.

The mile, or 1500m freestyle, was more turbulent. China’s Sun Yang, the 2012 Olympic  gold medalist in the event, was a non-factor; he finished seventh in his heat, more than 30 seconds off his world record, and did not advance to Saturday’s eight-man final. In distances such as the 1500m, there is no semifinal and the top eight swimmers advance directly to the final from the preliminary heats.

South Korea’s Park Tae Hwan, who fought hard for the right to compete at the Rio Games, was a no-show in his heat of the 1500m.

Instead, World and European champion Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy led the field with a time of 14:44.51.  

The U.S.’ Connor Jaeger and Jordan Wilimovsky finished second and third, respectively, to also advance to the final.

Later Friday afternoon, four Olympic rookies earned the U.S. 4x100m medley relay squad the top seed in Saturday night’s final. Olivia Smoliga, Kelsi Worrell, Katie Meili (bronze medalist in the 100m breaststroke), Abbey Weitzeil raced to 3:54.67, more than two seconds ahead of any of the other teams.

David Plummer (bronze medalist in the 100m backstroke), Kevin Cordes, Tom Shields and Caeleb Dressel (gold medalist in the 4x100m freestyle relay) earned a spot for the U.S. in Saturday’s final, racing to 3:31.83. The team from Great Britain advances to the final in first place, a second and a half over the U.S. team.

While none of the U.S. men or women on the morning quartets are expected in the evening lineup, they are still eligible to collect a medal, should the finals team earn one.