Five-time Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian placed third in the men's 50-meter freestyle final at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials on Wednesday night, missing out on qualifying for his fourth Olympic Games.
Adrian, 32, went 21.73. Caeleb Dressel won the event by matching his American record time at 21.04 and Michael Andrew was second in 21.48.
"Those two guys just beat me. That's how this sport works," Adrian told NBC's Michele Tafoya after the race. "They're going to be good -- they're going to give Team USA our best shot at winning the most medals possible. I'm now their biggest fan."
Adrian missed out on the 100-meter freestyle final earlier in the meet, finishing 13th in the semifinals.
The Berkeley, California-based veteran is one of the most consistent, accomplished sprinters in swimming history. He competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics, winning gold individually in the 100 free in 2012, and taking bronze in the 50 and 100 in 2016.
In January 2019, Adrian announced he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer, underwent two surgeries, and returned to competition that May.
After each surgery, Adrian spent two weeks out of the water, he told The Athletic, and he wasn't allowed to lift more than 10 pounds for six weeks. He also said the surgeries impacted his muscle firing patterns, which required treatments like electrical stimulation.
But later in 2019, Adrian nabbed silver medals in the 50m and 100m freestyles at the Pan American Games. Prior to his diagnosis, he had failed to make the team for the 2019 World Championships in an individual race, ending a decade-long streak of racing individually at major international meets.
Adrian roared back, however, and ranked third among Americans in the 100 during the pandemic-impacted 2021 season before Trials. He was the No. 6 seed heading into the 50 free at Trials.