The nation’s top swimmers, including several Olympians, are coming to Atlanta.
They will compete in the Toyota U.S. Open at the McAuley Aquatic Center at the Georgia Tech Campus Recreation Center in Midtown Dec. 4 through 7. It’s considered a top meet as American swimmers prepare for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, in June and then the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in July and August.
“Every meet kind of along the way with my coach and my training regiment, we use (them) as check marks,” said Caeleb Dressel, who won gold medals in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay and 4x100 medley relay and placed sixth in the 100 freestyle. “That’s the way the U.S. Open is. This is not a qualifying meet like the Olympic Trials or the Olympics, but we need those checkpoints along the way to see where we are with our training.
“It allows us to make adjustments, whether it’s race strategy, race plan, race technique. It’s a whole array of things. It’s a last opportunity to have one meet with all the American swimmers together before the trials.”
Dressel, who was named Male Athlete of the Year at USA Swimming’s Golden Goggle Awards ceremony Nov. 24 in Los Angeles, won the honor in part for his performance at the 2019 World Championships in South Korea in July. There he became the first swimmer in history to earn eight medals at a single world championships meet while taking down a world record set by Michael Phelps two years earlier.
“I was definitely happy with the meet,” Dressel said. “I think it went about as smooth as it could have gone. There was room for improvement in all of my swims, relay performances included. I was happy with the meet, but there is always a way to go back to the drawing board and improve.”
Dressel is one of 59 national team swimmers and 1,007 athletes overall competing in the U.S. Open, the second largest number of swimmers overall to compete in one meet in December in the past decade. Athletes qualify by tying or beating the qualifying time in each event in a USA Swimming-sanctioned meet from the past year.
“I think the important thing is we’re six months out (from the Olympic Trials), but this is the last meet of the year and the first meet to see how they’re going to start 2020, what do they need to fix, what they need to do (otherwise),” USA Swimming spokeswoman Isabelle McLemore said. “This is what I need to work on for the next six months. That’s why we’re seeing so many people go to this meet because it’s a benchmark and very critical in their training and their planning to them for the next six months. Ironically enough, the last event (this large) was in Atlanta as well, in 2011.”
Including Dressel, the meet boasts a long list of swimming stars starting with Simone Manuel, USA Swimming’s Female Athlete of the Year. She won four gold medals in the World Championships (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 400 medley and 400 mixed freestyle) and three silver medals. In the 2016 Olympics she won gold in the 4x100 medley relay and 100 freestyle and silver in the 4x100 freestyle relay and 50 freestyle.
The met also features Lilly King, who won gold medals in the 100 breaststroke and the 4x100 medley relay in Rio; Regan Smith, who won the 200 backstroke at the 2019 World Championships in 2 minutes, 3.35 seconds, breaking Missy Franklin’s 2012 world record; Ashley Twichell, who has already qualified for the 2020 Olympics in the open water competition; Kelsi Dahlia, won gold in Rio in the 4x100 medley relay.
Two top male swimmers – Cody Miller (gold in the 2016 Olympics in the 4x100 IM relay and bronze in the 100 breaststroke) and Jacob Pebley (fifth in the 200 backstroke at the 2016 Olympics) will also compete at the U.S. Open.
McLemore said the meet will have 152 international swimmers, and having athletes from all over the world come to events like this one only makes them better.
“Especially for swimmers, they are constantly honing their crafts, constantly trying to get faster, and they need to compete to make adjustments,” she said. “To have very highly competitive events on U.S. soil is very important to them so they don’t have to travel far for it.
“We have a number of international athletes who comes to the U.S. to swim in these events. The U.S. is the number one swimming nation in the world. When you get more than one country’s top swimmers come to an event, it just makes it so much better. That draws even more international athletes. The talent folks will see is as close as you can get on domestic soil as you will be at the games.”
Dressel, a former University of Florida star who still lives in Gainesville, Florida, said he hopes to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in at least three individual events and at least three relays. The Green Cove Springs, Florida, native said he’s been competing in meets at Georgia Tech since he was 11 or 12.
“I think it’s great,” he said of the facility. “…We’ve had midseason (college) meets there, and NCAA Championships there. I’ve probably been there a dozen times. It’s treated me well and it’s kind of a home turf since it’s not far from home for me at all.”
Tickets to the U.S. Open range from $3 for a single-session pass for Georgia Tech students to $60 for an all-session pass for adults.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://bit.ly/2KRoWbq.