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Caeleb Dressel's hunt for Olympic 100m free gold is on, but Simone Manuel won't defend the 100m free title she won in 2016 after stunningly crashing out of the semi-finals at the US Olympic swimming trials.
Manuel's semi-final exit was the biggest surprise so far of a trials that has produced an array of first-time Olympians.
Manuel made history in Rio de Janeiro when she became the first African American woman to win an individual Olympic swimming gold -- tying for first with Canadian Penny Oleksiak in the prestigious 100m free.
World titles followed in 2017 and 2019 but she was shut out of Friday's final with the ninth-fastest time of the semis.
Natalie Hinds and Olivia Smoliga finished in a dead-heat in their semi-final to lead the times in 53.55sec. Manuel was fourth in the same semi in 54.17.
Abbey Weitzeil, a 4x100m free relay gold medallist in Rio, won the second semi in the third-fastest time of the night of 53.66 and Erika Brown emerged from that heat to claim the No. 8 berth ahead of Manuel in 54.15.
Manuel, fighting back tears in a post-race press conference, revealed that after struggling in her training early this year she had been diagnosed in March with over-training syndrome, her symptoms ranging from physical fatigue and lack of progress in her training to depression.
After reducing her training schedule she eventually took three weeks out of the water, returning to the pool on April 17.
It was a massive chunk of time to miss so close to the Olympics, and Manuel said she knew she had done everything in her power to get herself ready for trials and a bid to defend her title.
"I know I did everything I possibly could to even be here, and that makes me proud," said Manuel, adding that she would still try to qualify in the 50m free.
"I'm gonna go for it," she said.
There were no surprises for Dressel, who admitted he'd been itching to get going with his first final coming on the fifth day of the eight-day meet.
"It's a weight off my shoulders," he said after winning in 47.39sec, making him the second-fastest in the world this year behind Russian Kliment Kolesnikov's 47.31.
It augurs well for his chances of adding a first 100m free Olympic gold to his 2017 and 2019 world titles.
It's one of three individual events in which Dressel is the two-time defending world champion, along with the 50m free and 100m butterfly.
His success since his first Olympic foray in Rio, where he earned two relay golds but finished sixth in his only individual event, the 100m free, has made him the face of a US team that will be without Michael Phelps at the Olympics for the first time since 1996.
"It's great all the fluff that comes with it, my name on the building, but it adds a little different pressure to it, so I'm excited to get the job done and go forward," Dressel said. "You can't win five, six, however many medals if you don't qualify for the events, so I'm just focused on trials now."
Zach Apple, sixth at the 50m mark, stormed home to finish second in 47.72 and earn the expected second Tokyo berth.
Blake Pieroni (48.16) and Brooks Curry (48.16) were third and fourth to put themselves in line for relay consideration in Tokyo.
- Fink finally -
Nic Fink, swimming in his third Olympic trials, finally booked his first career Games berth with a 200m breaststroke victory in 2min 07.55sec.
The win comes three days after Fink just missed out in the 100m breaststroke, in which he finished third.
Fink's club teammate Andrew Wilson, finished second in 2:08.32, matching his runner-up finish in the 100m breaststroke to build his Tokyo programme.
In other finals, Hali Flickinger, Tokyo-bound in the 400m individual medley, won the 200m butterfly in 2:05.85. Regan Smith, winner of the 100m backstroke on Tuesday, finished second in 2:06.69 to earn the expected second berth in the event.
Bobby Finke won the men's 800m freestyle in 7min 48.22sec, earning a Tokyo berth in an event that is returning to the Olympic programme for the first time since 1904. Michael Brinegar was second in 7:49.94.
And 36-year-old Ryan Lochte kept his bid to become the oldest American man to make a US Olympic swimming team alive with the sixth-fastest time in the semi-finals of the 200m individual medley.