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Tokyo Games Start With Softball; USA Eye Swimming ominance

Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky headline a new-look American swim crew in Tokyo bursting with younger expertise within the submit Michael Phelps-era as they give the impression of being to shore up their dominance over arch-rival Australia.

The mighty USA have lengthy owned the Olympic pool, gathering 33 medals, together with 16 golds, to comb the desk in Rio, far forward of Australia who got here a distant second with simply 10 in whole.

But with Phelps, who loomed giant on the final 4 Olympics, now retired and stalwarts Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian and Tony Ervin failing to qualify, they might battle to match that haul when the starter’s gun fires on the newly-built Tokyo Aquatics Center on Saturday.

Finals happen every morning, with heats within the evenings, to fulfill US broadcasters, a scheduling quirk that has not been tackled since Beijing in 2008.

While boasting some top-class athletes, the Americans even have a cohort untested on the world’s greatest stage with 35 newcomers, together with 11 youngsters — probably the most since 1996.

“I think everyone who is on the team, we’re going to have to pick up the pace because what they left behind is huge,” mentioned multi-event star Dressel, the inheritor obvious to Phelps.

Dressel received two Olympic relay golds in Rio, though no particular person title. But he has since develop into an enormous, profitable 13 crowns over the previous two world championships.

He will swim the 50m freestyle, and in addition go for gold within the 100m butterfly and 100m free, three occasions wherein he’s the defending world champion, with a doable 4 relays additionally on the playing cards.

American Rio gold medallists Ryan Murphy (100 and 200m backstroke) and Lilly King (100m breaststroke) additionally return, as does Simone Manuel, however solely within the 50m free and never the 100m free she received in Rio.

The embellished Ledecky, who received 4 gold and a silver in Brazil, has a gruelling programme — swimming the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle, a self-discipline added to the Olympics for girls this yr.

Her showdowns with Australian Ariarne Titmus, who upset her over 400m on the 2019 world championships, are shaping up as among the many most anticipated.

Known as “The Terminator”, Titmus clocked the second-fastest instances in historical past over 200m and 400m on the Australian trials, and set a brand new private greatest within the 800m. But she is aware of it received’t be straightforward to topple the American nice.

“In the races I’m in I think I’m going to have to be absolutely at my best form to win with Katie in the field,” mentioned Titmus. “She’s the reigning Olympic champion so it’s going to be a tough one to get my hand on the wall first.”

– Powerhouses –
Australian sensation Kaylee McKeown may additionally dazzle, having smashed American Regan Smith’s 100m backstroke world report in June, whereas boasting the quickest instances this yr within the 200m backstroke and 200m medley.

Australia’s Dolphins go well with up 21 debutants, but in addition boast Emily Seebohm and Cate Campbell at their fourth Olympics.

Emma McKeon shall be a favorite within the 100m freestyle, up towards team-mate Campbell and Swedish world report holder Sarah Sjostrom, who’s again after breaking her elbow in February.

While the dual powerhouses historically dominate, they face loads of stiff competitors.

Hungary, third within the Rio medal desk, are spearheaded by poster boy Kristof Milak, who shocked the world by shattering Phelps’ 200m super-suit backstroke report in 2019.

He has been in scintillating type and is a powerful medal prospect, though whether or not versatile compatriot, “Iron Lady” Katinka Hosszu, is ready to defend her Rio golds — she’s going to swim the medleys however has dropped the 100m backstroke — at her fifth Olympics stays to be seen.

Daiya Seto leads the Japanese cost and shall be a medal menace within the medleys, whereas world report holder Adam Peaty is in search of to develop into the primary British swimmer to efficiently defend an Olympic title within the 100m breaststroke.

Peaty despatched an ominous warning with a world-leading 57.39 seconds this yr and is undaunted by what lies forward.

“Pressure, for me, is more of a freedom than something that’s going to restrain me,” he mentioned.

China will even be in competition, however with out three-time Olympic champion Sun Yang who’s serving a ban for refusing to present a pattern to doping inspectors.

Their hopes relaxation with Zhang Yufei, hailed by Chinese media as their “new butterfly queen”.

Along with the ladies’s 1500m freestyle, the lads’s 800m shall be raced on the Olympics for the primary time since 1904, whereas a brand new blended 4×100 medley relay, with groups of two males and two ladies, add a novelty issue.

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