2021 Trials Vision: Hali Flickinger Leads Intriguing Pack in 200 Butterfly

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Hali Flickinger. 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 at the 2021 Trials.

Four years ago the women’s 200 butterfly was among the most talked about events at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials. It wasn’t because it was the closest race, or because it had the biggest names. It was because during prelims, the top swimmer in the country in the event was disqualified.

Cammile Adams was disqualified in the event with an official saying she turned on her back. Adams appealed and it went to video review, where it was officially overturned. Adams went on to win the event and qualify for Rio, along with Hali Flickinger.

Four years later, Adams is retired and Flickinger is joined by a new crop of elite butterflyers, along with a few familiar faces — and a lot of question marks.

The Favorite

Hali Flickinger has transformed herself from someone capable of making the Olympic team four years ago, to someone capable of winning the gold medal in the event.

She won the silver at the 2019 FINA World Championships, though it was a disappointing silver because Flickinger’s prelims time was faster and would have won the gold medal, a 2:05.96.

Since the start of 2019, Flickinger, who has moved to train with Bob Bowman, has the top three U.S. times in the event, four of the top five and seven of the top 10. That makes her clearly the favorite going into the race, but with some upstarts looming, Flickinger will have to be at the top of her game.

The Contenders

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Katie Drabot. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The biggest wildcard in the 2021 Trials is Regan Smith. The backstroke world record holder and teen phenom could be a contender in a lot of events, but will she swim the 200 fly at trials? If she does, she will be in the mix for an Olympic spot, but again that will be the case for her in a lot of events. She has been as fast as 2:06.39.

Katie Drabot was a top contender heading into 2020. She won the bronze at Worlds behind Flickinger and has been as fast as 2:06.59.

Perennial contenders Kelsi Dahlia, Ella Eastin and Katie McLaughlin could also use their elite experience to put together an elite race at the right time. McLaughlin has had strong races in a lot of events, as has Eastin. Dahlia’s best event is the 100 fly, but she has the ability to throw down an elite 200 fly as well.

The Longshots

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Lillie Nordmann; Photo Courtesy: FINA / Budapest 2019

There are other swimmers who could be poised to crash the party, especially younger swimmers. Lillie Nordmann, Dakota Luther, Justina Kozan and Charlotte Hook have a chance to put together an elite swim, as does Olivia Carter.

Looking Ahead to 2021

Another year means another year to get better for the contenders, but might be pivotal for some of the younger swimmers in this event.

If Smith swims this event, it could change the outcome, as well as the outcome in other events.

But Hali Flickinger continues to get stronger as she looks to hold off the upstarts at the 2021 Trials. The last American gold medalist in this event was Misty Hyman in 2000.

2021 Trials Vision

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