2016 Trials Throwback: Nathan Adrian, Anthony Ervin Sprint Their Way to Rio

Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian. 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: Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin in the 50 free.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Four years ago, the sprints still went through a group Nathan Adrian called “the old guys” — especially the 50 freestyle.

Adrian, Anthony Ervin and Cullen Jones were all in their 30s, but still at the top of the sprinting world. The problem was with two spots in the 100 free and two spots in the 50 free, one of them would be left out of swimming each event individually.

All three had won individual Olympic medals in either the 50 or 100 free in the past.

Inserted into the mix in 2016 was a still-on-the-rise Caeleb Dressel, who was just starting to become the force that has followed. He was out to prove that he was ready to join this elite group.

As Nathan Adrian put it four years ago: “the old guys” were ready to fend off the young upstart one more time.

The Race

Caeleb Dressel

Caeleb Dressel – Photo Courtesy: Patrick ~B. Kraemer

It looked like a four-man race from the start as Adrian, Ervin, Jones and Dressel slightly edged the rest of the pack.

On the stretch, however, Adrian and Ervin pulled enough ahead to earn a clear 1-2 finish. The only question was who touched first? Adrian edged Ervin by a hundredth of a second to finish in 21.51 as the duo qualified for Rio in the event.

Jones, who won the silver medal in London in 2012 in the event, took third in 21.75, just ahead of Dressel’s 21.80.

The “old guys” prevailed — at least two of the three.

The Results

  1. Nathan Adrian, 21.51
    2. Anthony Ervin, 21.52
    3. Cullen Jones, 21.75
    4. Caeleb Dressel, 21.80
    5. Josh Schneider, 21.95
    6. Michael Chadwick, 21.96
    7. Jimmy Feigen, 21.99
    8. Dillon Virva, 22.40

On to Rio


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

The “old guys” weren’t finished. In Rio, Ervin surged to his second gold medal in the event in 21.40, edging France’s Florent Manaudou by a hundredth of a second. The title came 16 years after his first gold in the event, which he shared with Gary Hall Jr. at the 2000 Games in Sydney.

Nathan Adrian, who won gold in London in the 100 free, won the bronze in Rio in the 50 in 21.49 to hold off Great Britain’s Ben Proud (21.68).

Meanwhile, Cullen Jones retired and Dressel became a force to be unleashed at the NCAA championships and World Championships, and just about every pool he has entered since Rio.


2016 Trials Throwbacks:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Day 5:

Day 6:

Day 7:

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