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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Gators will send four swimmers to the Tokyo Olympics

Kieran Smith, Bobby Finke, Caeleb Dressel and Natalie Hinds head to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Former UF swimmer Caeleb Dressel was among four Gators to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics at the US Olympic Trials.
Former UF swimmer Caeleb Dressel was among four Gators to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics at the US Olympic Trials.

Kieran Smith launched off the diving board, out-raced out seven other Division I swimmers and clinched the No. 1 spot to qualify for the US Olympic Team — all in the matter of 3:48.86 minutes.

The Gators swimming team competed in the US Olympic Trials June 13-20 in Omaha, Nebraska and saw four athletes punch their tickets to Tokyo for this summer’s Olympics: Smith, Bobby Finke and former Florida swimmers Caeleb Dressel and Natalie Hinds.

Smith took the advantage from the opening buzzer in the 400-meter freestyle, racing .33 seconds ahead of his closest competitor by the 50-meter mark. Smith hit the halfway mark after 1:50.32 and turned towards the final 50 meters after 3:17.2. He touched the wall with a final time of 3:44.86, a second and a half under the qualifying cut.

The swimmer set a new personal best in the race and secured his spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the prestigious competition now set to take place in late July 2021.

The senior wasn’t done either. Smith finished in first once again Tuesday, this time in the 200-meter freestyle with a time of 1:45.29 to qualify for the US Olympic Team a second time.

"He came prepared and executed that race perfectly,” said Florida head coach Anthony Nesty. 

“It was a fantastic performance.”

Former Florida swimmer Caeleb Dressel swooped in for a first place win in the 100-meter freestyle at 47.39 seconds, matching the national record. He fought a quick and stressful battle with Zach Apple, who sat a lane over. 

Dressel also won the 100-meter butterfly with a staggering 49.87 time to outrace runner-up Tom Shields by over a second. Dressel held the lead from the opening dive and never surrendered his advantage the entire race. 

Dressel drowned the competition again in the 50-meter freestyle June 20 when he again tied a United States record, this time his own, with a time of 21.04 seconds.

Dressel is guaranteed a spot on the US Olympic Team in all three events.

Bobby Finke reigned victorious in the 800-meter freestyle, slashing the competition with a time of 7:48.22, a full second ahead of second-place swimmer Michael Brinegar. 

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The junior took control briefly at the 50-meter mark but he fell behind Ross Dant around two minutes into the race. Ultimately, Finke kept up the pace and pushed his way past his opponent twenty seconds later. .

“He swam that race perfectly,” Nesty said.

Taking the board atop an envious accolade from two nights prior, Finke went on to win the 1500 free with a time of 14:46.06 Sunday. He was fourteen seconds ahead of second place swimmer Michael Brinegar. 

Another former Gator Natalie Hinds carved out success of her own and finished fifth in the 100-meter freestyle finals on Friday. She qualified for her first US Olympic Team with a time of 53.84.

“I’ve just really been trying to focus on myself and my own race,” she said after her tied win with Olivia Smoliga in the semifinals.

The four Gators worked their way onto the United States national team and will represent the stars and stripes in Japan, the competition taking place from July 23 to August 8. 

Contact Faith Buckley at Follow her on Twitter @_faithbuckley

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Faith Buckley

Faith is a third-year journalism student specializing in sports media. She hopes to one day work as a play-by-play announcer for the National Hockey League. 

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