Manuel and Finke book their tickets to Paris 2024 on the final day of the US Olympic Trials. GETTY IMAGES

The nine days of competition in Indianapolis ended with a triumph for Simone Manuel, who will be seeking redemption in the 50m freestyle after winning gold in Rio 2016 and missing out on Tokyo 2020, and Bobby Finke defending his titles in the 800m and 1,500m.

The 2024 US Trials will be remembered for the records, the athletes and the venue. It will be hard to forget that they were held at Lucas Oil Stadium. The home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, it was transformed into a swimming pool. The spectacle was electrifying. The competition lasted nine days, from 15 June to 23 June. On the final day, two victories crowned the event. The first was Simone Manuel's victory in the 50m freestyle, earning her a place at her third Olympic Games. Manuel won by just two hundredths of a second.

She became the first African-American woman to win an Olympic medal in swimming. She won two medals in Rio: gold in the 100m freestyle and silver in the 50m freestyle. However, the following Olympic Games were not as successful for her. At Tokyo 2020, she struggled with overtraining syndrome and missed out on the medals.

Last Sunday, she clocked 24.13 seconds to beat Gretchen Walsh, who had set a world record in the 100m butterfly earlier in the trials. As she checked the scoreboard, Manuel shook her head and smiled as the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd erupted in cheers.

"Yes and no," she said when asked if she was surprised. "I've worked very hard to get to this point, but I didn't have a lot of confidence after last night," she said. Manuel had only finished fourth in Saturday's semi-final. "I spent a lot of time watching races that I had won. I really wanted to channel that Simone because I know I'm a winner and that's what I did tonight," she said. Now, after the ordeal of Tokyo and the months that followed, she wants to enjoy herself.

On the final day at Lucas Oil Stadium, Bobby Finke secured a second gold medal defence with victory in the 1,500m freestyle in 14:40.28, the second fastest time in the world this year. Behind him, David Johnston held off Luke Whitlock to secure his first Olympic appearance. Johnston finished second in 14:52.74.

Finke, who burst onto the international scene with surprise victories in the 800m and 1,500m freestyle in Tokyo, will defend both titles in Paris. He said he was looking forward to returning to the sport's biggest stage. And while his status as defending 800m and 1,500m freestyle champion adds pressure, it won't change his mindset.
"I always try to compete and do my best," he said.

Bobby Finke will defend his Olympic titles in the 800m and 1500m freestyle. GETTY IMAGES
Bobby Finke will defend his Olympic titles in the 800m and 1500m freestyle. GETTY IMAGES

This year's trials have provided memorable moments, such as the return of Caeleb Dressel after a break. He seized the opportunity and will defend his Olympic 50m freestyle title at Paris 2024. He won the US Olympic trials on Friday. He had fallen short in the 100m freestyle earlier in the week, finishing third, but he regained his form in the shorter event to win the trials with a time of 21.41, the fourth-best time of the year in the event led by Cameron McEvoy.

The trials also saw Chris Guiliano win the 100m Freestyle and finish second in the 200m Freestyle this week. Dressel was again the fastest in the 100m butterfly semi-final with a time of 50.79. Another highlight this week was Regan Smith's world record in the 100m backstroke final, followed by a start-to-finish victory in the 200m backstroke in 2:05.16. Phoebe Bacon overtook reigning world champion Claire Curzan in the final metres to finish second in 2:06.27. She booked her ticket to Paris in a thrilling finish for the two spots.

The pressure of the US Olympic Trials is so intense that even the best can falter. Caeleb Dressel did earlier in the week in the 100m freestyle, but he recovered and didn't falter. On Saturday, he secured his place for Paris 2024 in the 100m butterfly with a performance reminiscent of his best. He will be competing in the 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly at Paris 2024.

The Trials also produced moments like Katie Ledecky's in the 800m freestyle. She will be aiming for a historic fourth consecutive gold in the event. No woman has ever won four consecutive Olympic gold medals in the same event. For Ledecky, it all began with her first triumph at London 2012 at the age of 15. Then came Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020 and now Paris 2024.

Ledecky, the world record holder with 16 best times in the event, clocked 8 minutes 14.12 seconds. Paige Madden was the runner-up to Ledecky in the 400 m freestyle. Michael Phelps is the only swimmer to have been the winner of the same event at four consecutive Games, the 200m individual medley in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. The United States will go to Paris 2024 as the Olympic swimming powerhouse they always have been. They will be determined to retain their crown.