2016 Trials Throwback: Abbey Weitzeil Sets U.S. Open Record in 100 Free; Qualifies With Simone Manuel

Abbey Weitzeil and Simone Manuel. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Each day during the pre-scheduled days of the 2020 US Olympic Trials, Swimming World will take its readers back four years to the 2016 Trials in Omaha to recap each event, and will offer some insight into what the events will look like in 2021. Today: Abbey Weitzeil and Simone Manuel qualify in the 100 free.

Four years ago, the women’s 100 free was the start of one of the top individual rivalries in American women’s swimming.

Of course, it wasn’t the first time that Abbey Weitzeil and Simone Manuel competed against each other, but it was the first time with an Olympic spot on the line — and the whole country watching the friendly rivalry take shape.

Since that race, the two sprinters have gone back in forth in the 100 and 50 freestyles, even the 200 freestyle at times.

Both Weitzeil and Manuel each took an Olympic training redshirt year, deferring their enrollments to Cal and Stanford, respectively, to train for this moment.

They didn’t disappoint.

The Race

Weitzeil was out a touch faster, leading Manuel and the rest of the field by seven hundredths of a second at the turn. But she didn’t let up, touching the wall in 52.38 to break the U.S. Open record in the event.


Abbey Weitzeil and Simone Manuel at the 2016 Trials; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Manuel was never far behind and touched second in 53.52 to earn her first Olympic spot.

The rest of the field finished extremely close together as six more swimmers vied for four relay spots, and they were all Olympic veterans.

Olympian Amanda Weir, who is a full decade older than Weitzeil and Manuel, finished third, while Lia Neal made her second Olympic team with a fourth-place finish.

Two more Olympic veterans followed as Allison Schmitt and Dana Vollmer qualified for the relay, edging Katie Ledecky and Kelsi (Worrell) Dahlia.

The Results

  1. Abbey Weitzeil, 53.38
  2. Simone Manuel, 53.52
  3. Amanda Weir, 53.75
  4. Lia Neal, 53.77
  5. Allison Schmitt, 53.87
  6. Dana Vollmer, 53.92
  7. Katie Ledecky, 53.99
  8. Kelsi (Worrell) Dahlia, 54.06

On to Rio

While it was Weitzeil who touched first at the Trials, it was Manuel who stunned in Rio, tying Canada’s Penny Oleksiak for the gold medal at 52.70.


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Manuel became the first African-American woman to win an individual gold in swimming and her time broke the Olympic and American record in the event. She also became the first American since 1984 to win the 100 freestyle, breaking the longest single gold medal drought for the US at the Olympics.

It was perhaps the most star-studded women’s Olympic event in history.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom won the bronze at 52.99, followed by Australia’s Bronte Campbell, Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands, Australia’s Cate Campbell and Weitzeil, who finished seventh in 53.30 — still faster than her trials time.

But for Simone Manuel and Abbey Weitzeil, it was just the beginning. They both made Rio in the 50 freestyle as well and every major sprint in the U.S. has gone through them since.

2016 Trials Throwbacks:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Day 5:

Day 6: