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Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel enter first top-level swim meet in one year

Michael Holley and Michael Smith talk to two-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel about her preparation for the Olympics and how she has inspired kids.

Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel will swim in a top-level meet for the first time in one year at the Tyr Pro Series stop in San Antonio next week.

Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs live finals coverage from March 4-6 at 8 p.m. ET.

Ledecky and Manuel, the world’s best distance and sprint freestylers, respectively, are on a loaded entry list that also includes backstroke world-record holder Regan Smith.

The men’s lineup features top Americans Caeleb Dressel, Ryan Murphy, Chase Kalisz and 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte, bidding to make one more Games at age 36.

Swimmers are preparing for the Olympic Trials from June 13-20 in Omaha, where the top two per individual event are in line to qualify for Tokyo.

Many Olympic hopefuls returned to competition last fall or earlier this winter. Ledecky and Manuel, who share a training group, stayed home at Stanford to practice rather than risk having to quarantine upon returning from a meet to California.

“We’re kind of in crunch time now,” Ledecky said. “I don’t feel like coming into this meet next week that I’m behind or I’ve missed out on something major to get me ready, but I think, if you start looking at not racing in March, then it’s one or two meets -- April, May -- it gets a little tight [ahead of Olympic Trials].”

MORE: Manuel surprises students with laptops, internet

The last time Ledecky and Manuel swam in a televised meet was the first weekend of March in 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports. Neither has seen her parents in person since.

After Stanford’s facilities closed, they trained for three months in at least one area family’s backyard pool.

The Stanford group returned to training on campus in June. It has been smooth since missing some days in late summer due to area wildfires affecting the air quality, Ledecky said.

“I told myself that I wasn’t going to put too many expectations on myself this year,” Manuel told On Her Turf. “I know that I’ve worked really hard. And so I know that that hard work will pay off. So I’m just excited to go out there and compete.”

In January, while other Olympic hopefuls competed at the year’s first Pro Series event, the Stanford group held its own meet at the same time.

Ledecky, who keeps her goals private, said she didn’t modify any of them for the Olympic year from 2020 to 2021.

“I was building momentum towards them last year at this time,” she said. “I feel like I’ve carried that momentum through this year.”

Manuel also expressed confidence after adapting last year.

“I feel good about my training,” she said. “I feel good about where I am and the improvements that I’ve made over the past year.”

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