2016 Trials Throwback: Abbey Weitzeil, Simone Manuel Repeat in 50

Abbey Weitzeil and Simone Manuel at the 2016 Trials 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.

A wide open 50 freestyle wouldn’t exactly be news. But the splash and dash at the 2016 Trials carried an unusual albatross into Omaha.

The Americans had missed out on medals in both sprint events in London, with Kara Lynn Joyce not even making semis in the 50 after a swim-off. The last American medalist in the 50, Dara Torres, had retired. Jessica Hardy had finished seventh in the 50 and eighth in the 100 in London. Earlier in the 2016 Trials, she finished sixth in the 100 breaststroke, an event in which she held the American and U.S. Open records, and 59th in the 100 free. Natalie Coughlin, chasing a fourth Olympics at age 33, was the fourth seed in the 50 free entering 2016 Trials. But the top seed in the 100 backstroke finished eighth in finals, then didn’t escape the semifinals of the 100 free, leading to her scratching the 50.

It left the path clear for new blood to take over the sprint game.

The Race

Not all of the old guard went quietly in prelims of 2016 Trials. The top seed belonged to 28-year-old Madison Kennedy. Fifth was new mom Dana Vollmer, also 28, who’d gotten to Rio via the 100 butterfly. The ageless Amanda Weir was ninth in prelims. But the surge didn’t apply for Hardy, who finished 24th, ending her Olympic chase.

The three vets created a wide age range in finals, the eight finalists separated by 11 years. On the young end was Katrina Konopka, who was fourth in semis at age 17. The top seed was Abbey Weitzeil in 24.34, .05 ahead of Kennedy. Third was Weitzeil’s fellow 19-year-old Simone Manuel, who had entered as the race as the second seed.

The final was a repeat of the 100 free final. Weitzeil took the lead from the get-go and led the way into the wall in 24.28 seconds, duplicating her 100 free title. Second was Manuel in 24.33, denying Kennedy (24.48) her first Olympic berth.


  1. Abbey Weitzeil 24.28
  2. Simone Manuel 24.33
  3. Madison Kennedy 24.48
  4. Olivia Smoliga 24.70
  5. Katrina Konopka 24.84
  6. Dana Vollmer 24.96
  7. Lia Neal 25.00
  8. Amanda Weir 25.13

On to Rio

Manuel didn’t have the Olympic start she wanted, leading off the 400 free relay that settled for silver behind an Australian world record. But she created a 100 free for the ages, turning in an Olympic record 52.70 seconds to tie for gold with Canadian Penny Oleksiak. Weitzeil, who swam well on the relay, was seventh in the individual event. Both would end up with gold medals on the medley relay.

In the 50, Manuel was only 11th fastest from prelims and advanced into finals with the fourth-fastest time. Weitzeil was a victim of the speedy second semifinal, finishing sixth in the heat and 12th overall, joining the likes of Inge Dekker, Jeanette Ottesen and Sarah Sjostrom in missing the final.

Manuel drew lane 7 in the final, which included the reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists (Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands and Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Belarus, respectively) plus Cate Campbell and Bronte Campbell of Australia.

Kromowidjojo appeared to have an edge off the block in the Rio final but faded. When the wakes subsided, just .12 seconds separated the top six swimmers, the top five evenly spaced every two-hundredths. First was a shocked Pernille Blume of Denmark in 24.07. Manuel went 24.09 for silver. Bringing the outside smoke next to Manuel was Herasimenia for bronze with Britain’s Francesca Halsall fourth, Cate Campbell fifth and Kromowidjojo sixth.

2016 Trials Throwbacks:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

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Day 5:

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Day 7:

Day 8: