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Double swim-off steals spotlight at U.S. trials

At an event where everyone aims for a top-two finish and a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, a pair of swimmers battling for eighth place stole the show at the U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials in Indianapolis on Thursday.

In the men’s 50-meter freestyle semifinals, Adam Chaney and Jonny Kulow (each racing in a different semifinal) touched the wall in 21.89 seconds. That was good enough for a tie for the eighth — and final — spot in the final on Friday. Because nine swimmers cannot advance, Chaney and Kulow were forced to a swim-off, a match race for that final spot, held at the completion of the night’s scheduled events.

The only problem? When the swim-off was over, the scoreboard showed a time of 21.79 seconds for Chaney. And 21.79 for Kulow. So the two had to do a second swim-off. Chaney’s 21.81 was nearly two-tenths of a second better than Kulow’s 21.99, sending the University of Florida senior to the 50 final.

“Probably the most nervous I’ve ever been, I can feel it,” Chaney said after advancing. “… You’ve just got to experience it to understand. I don’t know if anybody else has ever done that. I’m glad (the fans stayed to) watch. It definitely helped.”

Chaney finished fifth in the 50 at the 2021 trials.

Earlier Thursday, Regan Smith — who broke the women’s 100 backstroke world record to earn a trip to Paris on Tuesday — won her second event at the trials with a 2:05.70 in the women’s 200 butterfly.

Her time was 0.99 seconds better than runner-up and fellow Paris qualifier Alex Shackell, a 17-year-old whose 19-year-old brother Aaron Shackell won the men’s 400 free on Saturday.

In the women’s 200 breaststroke, Kate Douglass held off Lilly King by 2.47 seconds to win in 2:19.46. It was Douglass’ second victory in as many nights as she took first in the 100 freestyle on Wednesday. The runner-up finish meant King is swimming multiple events in Paris, as well, as she won the 100 breaststroke on Monday.

Ryan Murphy won the men’s 200 backstroke in 1:54.33 to become the first swimmer in history to win both the men’s 100 and 200 backstroke final in three consecutive U.S. trials.

“There are a lot of guys who (came) before me. I have posters of them on my wall,” Murphy told NBC Sports after the event. “To be in a different conversation as them — I’m never gonna view myself as better than them. There’s definitely more work to do. I’ll take this one and be happy about it.”

Keaton Jones will join Murphy in Paris after finishing second in 1:54.61.

–Field Level Media

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