WATCH: Trials Is First Tapered Meet in 2 Years for Ledecky and Manuel

2021 U.S. OLYMPIC SWIMMING TRIALS

2016 gold medalists Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky sat down for a press conference ahead of Wave II of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials that are set to begin on Sunday, June 13. They were joined by their coach Greg Meehan to answer a series of questions on various topics. Lily King, Caeleb Dressel, Ryan Murphy, and Ryan Lochte have also had press conferences, which SwimSwam covered here.

The Stanford teammates answered a series of questions about their expectations going into this weekend, their training strategy leading up to trials, and diversity and inclusion in the sport of swimming.

The press conference began with general questions about how both swimmers envision their Trials meet to go.

Q. Katie, obviously the last five years a lot of talk about you and the 2020, now the 2021 Olympics and expectations and I’m just curious if you can really put into perspective where your mind is right now, how you feel you’re doing, and what your own expectations are presumably lofty expectations for Tokyo.

KATIE LEDECKY: Yeah, I’m excited. I’m excited to be here action back in Omaha. I’m sure a lot of you that have been here before are as well. I mean, it’s such a fast meet, such a fun meet, and I am really looking forward to this summer. I think I feel very confident in the work that I’ve put in and feel like Greg has prepared me super well and I have great teammates like Simone who have pushed me along these past five years. So I think I have big goals for myself and those goals are the ones that matter, so I stay focused on those, and I don’t let any outside kind of expectations really enter my mind.

Stanford coach Greg Meehan gave his thoughts on the matter.

Q. A lot of people are kind of wondering what this trials is going to be like. Do you expect faster times than normal? Do you expect slower times than normal? Do you expect the veterans to come through or do you expect a lot of upsets? What do you think is going to happen at this trials?

GREG MEEHAN: Well, I don’t have a crystal ball in my hotel room, so I’m just going to focus on what’s, kind of session by session what we’re doing. My primary responsibility for the next eight days is helping Katie and Simone and their Stanford teammates have a great successful Olympic trials. Then along the way, also kind of thinking about the pieces as they’re coming together for Team USA.

But if USA Swimming is proving anything over the years is that the folks when they come to this meet they’re ready to go. And whether it’s faster by a lot or slower by a little, it doesn’t really matter, this is our USA Olympic team qualifying meet and this is the first step in sort of the process of going and competing at the Olympic games this summer. So we’re just, we’re going to take that as it comes. That’s the beauty of what Olympic trials is. Nobody remembers — I could probably ask this whole room and how many times they remember from Michael Phelps’ performance at the U.S. Olympic trials from 2000 to 2016, but what they’re going to remember is his places and that’s how you make the Olympic team.

So when you’re in that final, it doesn’t really matter. You’re just trying to get your hand on the wall so that then you have the opportunity to represent the stars and stripes abroad.

Simone Manuel was asked about the discussion of diversity in swimming given the conversations that have been taking place in the last year.

Q. Simone, with all that’s happened over the past year in this country in terms of racial issues, I know it seems you’ve become a little more out spoken about that. Do you feel a greater responsibility to maybe try to lend your voice to these issues that I’m sure you’ve felt your whole life, but how important has that been for you and do you — how important just to diversify the sport of swimming more. It’s still obviously a sport largely of white people and just what, you know, what kind of — what would you like to see done there or just how important is that issue for you moving forward?

SIMONE MANUEL: I think my responsibility is to be authentically me, and I think a part of that is openly sharing my story or my experiences with others to help others. So that’s one reason why I felt the need to be more outspoken about some of the things that I’ve experienced, because I do know that a little Black girl or little Black boy possibly will have the same experiences that I have growing up in the sport. And there was a time where I wanted to give up this sport and to know that I’m sitting here being in a press conference at my third Olympic trials, I want to inspire others to not hang up the cap and goggles at the same time that I would have.

I believe that representation is extremely important. I think in whatever area of life that you’re in, whether you’re a minority in the sport of swimming or you’re trying to be successful in a business venture. So I hope my experience extends across not just the Black community, but all people to embrace differences of all of us because we all can be successful in whatever we put our mind to when we have the opportunity.

I think that I was given the opportunity through this sport. I was lucky enough to come and be a part of National Diversity Select Camp and that was an amazing experience for me. That really transformed the way that I looked at the sport. And that’s what I want to bring to the sport. I want to be that representation. I want to be that inspiration. And I also want to open up more avenues to bring swimming into those minority communities.

As a follow-up, Meehan was asked about the future looks like for opportunity in swimming.

Q. Greg, how can collegiately there be more avenues open to, particularly Black swimmers, but all swimmers of color?

GREG MEEHAN: That’s a great question. It starts really at the grassroots level, right? The reality is Simone worked her way to a place like Stanford because she’s someone who really prioritized school and swimming. That was a great fit for us at Stanford. And the other side of that, the reality is there aren’t many Blacks in the sport at that level who are — that have the opportunities really to swim and to advance in the sport and to work up to the collegiate level. There are certainly some, but that, it doesn’t just happen magically at the collegiate level, right? And I think that’s the point, is it happens at the grassroots level. And getting more minorities in the sport, giving them opportunities. The camps is an amazing example. You have someone here, sitting here, who is an Olympic gold medalist, American record holder who almost, you know, retired from the sport or walked away from the sport and because of that program didn’t. There just has to be more of that. I don’t have all the answers and, but to me, that’s where really it just continues to grow.

That takes time, right? That’s not an overnight process, as you all know, and the ripple affect from that is going to be felt 10, 15 years down the road, and then I think you’ll start to see that change at the collegiate level.

Both swimmers were then questioned on their training leading up to Trials.

Q. I’m not even sure how much you guys tapered in 2019, but what is it like to go two years without a full taper and how has it felt to finally get one?

SIMONE MANUEL: I think my body was ready for it. I think above all else we’re just excited to be racing. Obviously if the Olympics would have happened last year, we would have tapered last year, and then we would be tapering for World Championships, but we’re just excited to go out there and race. I think Katie, I don’t want to speak for Katie, but I think that we both improved a lot over the past year in a lot of ways, our whole team, actually, and so that extra year we’re hoping warrants some faster swims than maybe we would have had last year. So we’re just really ready to go race.

Coach Meehan followed up to share a bit of insight as to how the training was tailored to each’s of the women’s needs.

GREG MEEHAN: The only thing to really add on to that is, to the earlier question is, yeah, they haven’t tapered in two years and sometimes it takes a little bit longer to come out of that. And so just kind of starting that process slowly to allow for that to kind of kick in a little bit, and knowing that there is a lot of volume this week. And even for someone like Simone, whose back end of the meet is very busy and there’s a lot of volume there, we’re always kind of thoughtful about that. And then coming out of this week and into what’s next, I feel like we have a good plan for that and we have a good sort of recipe for that, as we have done in the past.

Ledecky emphasized that she is focusing solely on her swims this weekend, even though Australian Trials will be happening simultaneously.

Q. How much, if at all, will the Australian Olympic trials going on concurrently pierce your performance bubbles?

KATIE LEDECKY: I haven’t really thought about it. I actually didn’t even realize that they were at the exact same time as ours or I guess a day earlier than us until maybe yesterday. So, honestly, I mean, I’m not going to be checking results every couple hours or anything. I mean, I’m sure we’ll hear about certain things because I’m sure we’ll be asked about certain things, but I think, my focus is on Omaha. It’s not on anything else. I mean, the medals aren’t given this week, so I don’t think we have to get too caught up in what times people are going here versus anywhere else in the world right now.

To watch the full press conference with Manuel, Ledecky, and Meehan, check out the following video on SwimSwam’s YouYube channel:

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Hswimmer
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
1 month ago

She stated “a little rest” so surely she’s not fully tapered as she has a heavy schedule like she said, she can’t go down in volume as much as others.

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  Hswimmer
1 month ago

The meaning of “a little rest” is what 10%? 20%?

Bobo Gigi
1 month ago

KL is the only American who can allow to swim at these trials with just a little rest and not with a big taper. It will pay off at olympic games.
Simone had that luxury in 2016 but it’s not the case this year as she has much more adversity in the 50 free.
Lilly King has a huge margin in the 100 breast but not at all in the 200 breast.
Caeleb Dressel has a huge margin in the 100 fly and the 50 free but not at all in the 100 free (for the individual spot) and the 200 free (for the relay spot).

Pez
1 month ago

Do people think maybe they are tapering because of all the talk about Japan and the Olympic Games? Sure the Olympic games probably iwll happen, but we said the same last year, they probably dont want to take any chances at it and just give it their all. Theyve trained for 2 years for this, I am sure a double taper will not ruin them.

Coach Mike 1952
1 month ago

Thanks for the article – a point, this is potentially KL’s third Olympic appearance (London 2012 800 Free), so the kicker below the picture on the splash page (“Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel speak in a press conference ahead of Wave II of the Olympic Trials. They are hoping to make their second Olympic appearance“) is factually inaccurate. Might want to correct that.

Last edited 1 month ago by Coach Mike 1952