2024 U.S. Olympic swimming trials: Key names and storylines to watch

Katie Ledecky, a seven-time Olympic gold medalist and 21-time world championship gold medalist, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in May. MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Olympic swim trials get underway on Saturday in Indianapolis as the country's best and fastest in the pool battle it out with tickets to Paris on the line.

Held at Lucas Oil Stadium -- yes, there will be a pool in the middle of a football stadium -- the competition will last for nine days and by the end of the final race on June 23, up to 26 women and 26 men will have cemented their spots on the American team. Provided they have achieved the Olympic qualifying time, the top two finishers in every race will make the squad. Remaining relay spots are also determined by results.

With a listed capacity of 30,000 for the event, tournament officials are expecting to shatter the attendance record for an indoor swim meet on opening night.

So what else do you need to know about the trials? Here are the key storylines and swimmers to watch.

The golden girl

Even the most casual of swim fans need little introduction to Katie Ledecky but as a brief refresher, the 27-year-old already has 10 Olympic medals, including seven golds, and owns just about every record and accolade possible. She is indeed that girl.

Now looking to make her fourth Olympic team, Ledecky is expected to be competing in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle races -- and owns the top times of 2024 in the field for all of them. The world record holder in both the 800m and 1500m, Ledecky has shown she isn't totally unbeatable in the shorter distances.

During the 2023 nationals, Ledecky came in second place behind Claire Weinstein in the 200m. It was the first time Ledecky had been defeated in the race by a fellow countrywoman in nine years. Despite making the team in the event for worlds, Ledecky ultimately opted out of competing the race and it remains to be seen if she would race the distance in Paris if she were to qualify.

Ledecky, who has been training during the lead-up with some of the top men's distance swimmers, told "Today" earlier this week that her previous experience will help her find even more success in Indianapolis and ultimately in Paris.

"I really know what to expect when I walk into a big national or international meet," Ledecky said. "There's just a level of comfortability that I have now that I think translates over to when I race."

Dressel's comeback continues

After taking home five gold medals in Tokyo and becoming just the third man in history to win three individual swimming golds in a single Games, Caeleb Dressel withdrew from competition in the middle of the 2022 world championships for undisclosed medical reasons. He spent eight months out of the pool as he prioritized his mental health.

Dressel, now 27, made his return to competition in 2023 and owns the top time of the season among the Americans in the 100m butterfly, in addition to having times currently in the top four in the 50m freestyle and 100m freestyle. In an April interview with Forbes, Dressel said his goal was to make his third Olympic roster for all three events -- and he sounded optimistic about his chances to do so.

"I have been tracking very well this whole season," Dressel said. "I have been really excited about where I am at, some of the fastest times I have gone, so yeah, I hope to carry the momentum up until the end."

Manuel's return

Dressel isn't the only big name on the comeback trail. Simone Manuel, a four-time medalist at the 2016 Olympics and the first Black woman to win an individual swimming gold medal, is back after overtraining syndrome derailed her Tokyo dreams. The 27-year-old struggled at trials in 2021 and she only qualified for the 50m freestyle. She didn't advance to the finals at the Games and claimed her only medal in Tokyo as part of the 4x100m freestyle relay team, which earned bronze.

Once she returned home, Manuel was forced to spend seven months away from physical activity as she recovered. After what she called "the most boring months of my life" in an interview this week with the Associated Press and wondering if she would ever be able to return to the sport, Manuel resumed training and now has her sights set on Paris. In May, she notched her fastest time in the 100m freestyle since 2019 and has the third-best time coming into trials. She also has top-five times in the 50m freestyle and 200m freestyle.

Now healthy and with a rejuvenated attitude, Manuel said she's approaching the trials slightly differently this time around.

"I've always been a person who likes to dream big, who has very aggressive goals," Manuel told the AP. "It would be unfair of me to lower my standards. But at the same time, I do have to give myself grace because this journey is like no other that I've ever had in this sport."

Star power

The Olympic trials field is loaded with experience and, in addition to those mentioned above, there are numerous swimmers looking to chase Olympic glory yet again. Among the most notable include:

Kate Douglass, the 2020 bronze medalist in the 200m medley, could be one of the country's brightest rising stars -- across sports -- in Paris. She has won 14 world championship medals since Tokyo and is the reigning 200m medley world champion. The 22-year-old arrives in Indianapolis holding the best times in the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 200m breaststroke and 200m medley.

Torri Huske is just 21 and looking to make her second team. One of the youngest swimmers on the squad in Tokyo, Huske came close to winning a medal in the 100m butterfly, but won silver as part of the 4x100m medley team. She has been collecting hardware around the globe ever since. Huske earned six medals at the 2022 world championships and four more in 2023. She has the fastest time in the 100m butterfly, and top-four times in the 100m freestyle, 200m medley and 50m freestyle.

Two-time Olympian Ryan Murphy, 28, has medaled in the 100m backstroke and 200m backstroke in both of his previous Olympic appearances. He won the 2023 world championship title in the 100m and currently has the second-best time in each of the races.

Regan Smith, also a 100m backstroke medalist in Tokyo, will be looking to build from her first Olympic appearance. She won the world championships in the race in 2022, and finished in second in 2023, as well as in the 200m backstroke. Smith, 22, is the American record holder in both races and in the 200m butterfly.

Five-time Olympic medalist Lilly King, who currently owns the world record in the 100m breaststroke, will be looking to make her third Olympic team. She won gold in the event in 2016 and bronze in 2020. King, 27, also has the third-best time this year in the 200m breaststroke. Fellow breaststroke standout Nic Fink, 30, made his Olympic debut in Tokyo but will be looking to earn his first medal. He is the reigning 100m breaststroke world champion and has the third-best time in the 200m breaststroke among the Americans.

Katie Grimes, who at just 18 is in search of her second Olympic appearance, and Bobby Finke are two to watch in the longer distances. Grimes has the second-best times in the 800m freestyle and the 1500m freestyle -- behind only Ledecky in both -- and she's won four world championship medals since Tokyo. Finke, 24, took home gold in the 800m freestyle and 1500m freestyle in his Olympic debut and he medaled in both events at the 2022 and 2023 world championships.

The newcomers

While clearly there are several previous Olympians to watch in Indianapolis, there are also quite a few swimmers who have already achieved global success but are looking to make their first Olympic team.

Carson Foster, 22, narrowly missed out on making the team for Tokyo but since then has been on a résumé-building mission to cement his spot for Paris. Foster won silver medals in both individual medley races at the 2022 world championships and took home the U.S. titles in both during 2023 nationals. He enters trials with the fastest times in the 200m IM and the 400m IM.

With 18 NCAA titles to her name and the reigning CSCAA Women's Swimmer of the Year, University of Virginia star Gretchen Walsh, 21, will be looking to take her skyrocketing career to the next level. She currently has the second-fastest time in the 100m butterfly and is top four in the 50m freestyle and 100m freestyle. Her older sister Alexandra, 22, won silver in the 200m individual medley in Tokyo and she will also be hoping to cement her spot on the 2024 team.

The bronze medalist in the 100m butterfly at the world championships in 2023, 21-year-old Dare Rose brings the fourth-best time in his signature race to trials. Rose also helped the Americans win medals in the 4x100m medley and 4x100 mixed medley during last year's world championships, as well as lead California to NCAA team titles in 2022 and 2023. Rose's Cal teammate Jack Alexy is also seeking his first Olympic bid. He owns the third-fastest time in the 100m freestyle this year.