Walsh and Shackell siblings produce milestone performances at U.S. Olympic trials

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Walsh sisters and the Shackell siblings cast aside any discussion of sibling rivalries at this week's U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Indianapolis.

Instead, they're just about the respect and mutual admiration for one another. And next month, it will be on full display for the entire world to see in Paris.

Two days after Alex Shackell qualified for her first Olympics, joining her older brother, Aaron, to become the first siblings on an American swim team since 2004, Alex Walsh made it a pair by joining her younger sister, Gretchen, on the U.S. roster.

In fact, the Americans had a perfect pair in 2004, too, with sisters Dana and Tara Kirk and the brother-sister combination of Klete and Kalyn Keller, in 2004. And now it's happened again.

“God I'm so happy, it's such a relief for my family now that we're going to Paris together,” Gretchen Walsh said. “It's a dream come true. I'm just so excited.”

The younger Walsh locked up her spot one day after breaking the world record in the 100-meter butterfly in the semifinals last weekend and then backed up that performance by winning the event in 55.31 seconds, just 0.13 seconds off her record pace.

For Alex Walsh, the silver medalist in the 200 individual medley at the Tokyo Olympics, there was much more angst. She waited until Saturday's second-to-last event when she finished behind only Kate Douglass and more than two seconds ahead of third-place finisher Isabel Ivey.

“I'm really happy to have booked my ticket, and going with Gretchen was just a dream come true.” Alex Walsh said after being clocked in 2 minutes, 7.86 seconds. “When she did that the second night, I knew I just had to uphold my goal and, obviously, waiting several days was not ideal, but really I'm just happy.”

For the Shackells, who both competed at local prep powerhouse Carmel High School, just a short drive from the temporary pool at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, it was more of a home-grown party.

Like the Walshes, Aaron Shackell wasted no time taking care of his part of the deal.

He won the men's 400-meter freestyle last weekend to become the first 2024 Olympic qualifier in swimming and then thanked his younger sister for helping to teach him the nuances of swimming.

Then, like the Walshes, Alex Shackell spent an anxious week praying she could make it a family affair in Paris next month. She finally came through Thursday night by finishing second in the women’s 200 butterfly.

“We worked so hard to practice the week and every single practice is hard,” Alex Shackell said. “We all know it's going to be hard and that's why we're so good at these big meets.”

Now, just one big question remains for the siblings — what the living arrangements might look like in Paris.

“Gretchen and I did room at last year's world championships, and we definitely, you know, we're siblings, we had our moments,” Alex Walsh said. “But we know how to take our breaks and just like hit pause. I've been living with her now for really the past eight days and it's been a very enjoyable experience.”


AP Summer Olympics:

Michael Marot, The Associated Press