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Hunter Armstrong breaks world record at swimming trials

Hunter Armstrong earned a spot on the U.S. Swimming world championships team in style, winning and breaking the world record in the 50m backstroke.

U.S. Olympian Hunter Armstrong broke the world record in the 50m backstroke at the world championships trials in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday night.

Armstrong, who tied for ninth in the 100m back in Tokyo, clocked 23.71 seconds, taking nine hundredths off Russian Kliment Kolesnikov‘s record from last year in an event that’s not on the Olympic program.

It marked the first men’s world record broken at a U.S. trials meet since the super-suit era in 2009 (Michael Phelps, Aaron Peirsol).

U.S. SWIMMING TRIALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

“It’s a complete shock,” said Armstrong, an Ohio State junior whose personal best before Thursday was 25.45 in the rarely contested event. “It’s something I’ve always wanted. I’m over the moon.”

Armstrong was one of the surprise Olympic qualifiers last year. He was 13th at the March 2021 NCAA Championships, then at Olympic Trials lowered his 100m back personal best by 1.21 seconds to make the team. He was .73 slower in the Olympic semifinals to miss the final by one hundredth.

The world record marked validation.

“Show that making the Olympics wasn’t a mistake,” said Armstrong, who is 6 feet, 7 inches, with size 16 shoes and a left bicep tattoo that reads “Invictus maneo,” which translates to “I remain unvanquished.” “That was my biggest worry going into this meet is I had to prove to myself and to others that I deserved to be on that team. And hopefully I’m able to back this up at worlds.”

In other events Thursday, Caeleb Dressel won for the third time in as many races, taking the 100m butterfly in 50.20 seconds after posting the fastest time in the world this year in the morning prelims. Dressel has one event left, Saturday’s 50m freestyle, to set up a potential slate of eight events, including relays, at worlds in Budapest in June.

Chase Kalisz was nearly caught by Bobby Finke for the second and final spot in the 400m individual medley, which Kalisz won at the Olympics. Carson Foster, 20, won in 4:09.33. Kalisz, who took Olympic gold in 4:09.42, held off the Olympic 800m and 1500m free champ Finke by .07 in 4:10.50.

Olympic silver medalist Jay Litherland was sixth.

Katie Grimes, who was fourth in the Tokyo Olympic 800m free at age 15, won the women’s 400m IM in 4:36.17, a personal best by 4.85 seconds. Emma Weyant, the Olympic silver medalist, grabbed the other world team spot, while Olympic bronze medalist Hali Flickinger was third to miss the team in the event. Flickinger previously made the team in the 200m fly and the 4x200m free relay.

Torri Huske and Claire Curzan went one-two in the women’s 100m fly, just as they did at the Olympic Trials and in the 100m freestyle on Tuesday. They rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year.

In non-Olympic events, Katharine Berkhoff broke the American record in the women’s 50m back (27.12) and Michael Andrew did so in the 50m breaststroke (26.52).

Trials continue Friday with Katie Ledecky in the 400m free and a deep women’s 100m breast with Olympic gold medalists Lilly King and Lydia Jacoby and bronze medalist Annie Lazor.

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