2021 Trials Vision: Lilly King Shooting For History in 100 Breaststroke

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Each day during the pre-scheduled days of the 2020 U.S. 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.

Lilly King has been unstoppable in the 100 breaststroke the last four years. Since winning the gold medal in Rio, she has not lost this race at a major international meet and as we inch closer to next year’s Olympics, she has an opportunity to become the first woman to win back to back gold medals in this event at the Games. She was the winner of the last two World Championships, swept all four NCAA titles, and currently holds the world record in this event. If she doesn’t touch first or second in the 100 breaststroke at next year’s Trials, it will be a huge shock.

The Favorite

Lilly King had the fastest time in the world this season with a 1:05.65 – the only woman to break 1:06 before the COVID shutdown. She swam that time in December and has carried the mantle of being the best breaststroker in the country. King has been on the gold medal winning medley relay team at the last two World Championships, as the team broke the world record both times. She has been known to step up in the big moment, and it will be tough beating her at Trials.

The Contenders

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Annie Lazor. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The biggest contender that comes to mind is Pan American Games gold medalist Annie Lazor, who has emerged as one of the top 200 breaststrokers in the country. She initially retired after not making the team in 2016, but came back and revived her career as a postgrad training with King at Indiana. There is no better training partner than the best one in the world, and if there is anyone capable of pulling off the upset, it could be Lazor. This season, she was fourth in the world at 1:06.54 and was the third fastest American. Again, her best shot may come in the 200 but she will be equally tough in the 100.

Sitting just in front of Lazor in the world rankings was Tennessee’s Molly Hannis, who is third in the world at 1:06.43. Hannis made the team four years ago in the 200 breaststroke but has had more success in the shorter event the last couple years. Even though she swam in Rio, Hannis has been a bit of an underdog compared to Lazor, but has been consistently performing the last few years to be considered a contender here.

The Longshots

Outside of the top three ranked swimmers, there is a bit of a drop-off to the next group of breaststrokers in the United States. Most of the women’s breaststrokers in the U.S. are better at the 200, and they will be likely striving for a spot in that event – leaving the 100 to be sort of a warm-up swim. Nevertheless, 12 months is in a long time from now and there could be some swimmers that fly under the radar between now and then.

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Breeja Larson; Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

2012 Olympic finalist Breeja Larson finished fourth at Trials in 2016, but with a national title last summer, she has re-emerged as a contender for the second spot behind King. Larson was a 1:07.7 earlier this year in March and will be training with legendary coach Bob Bowman ahead of next year’s Trials, who was best known as the man that guided Michael Phelps throughout his entire career. Larson, although 28, is still in her prime and certainly capable of a top two finish, but with the presence of Lazor and Hannis, it could prove challenging.

Another fellow 2012 Olympian Micah Sumrall has also revived her career after missing the 2016 team. She swam this event at the 2019 World Championships, finishing 16th and out of the final. Although Sumrall’s best shot will come in the 200, but that doesn’t mean she will be completely out of it in the 100. Sumrall was ranked 23rd in the world this season with a 1:07.7, just behind Larson. Sumrall has been known to close really well in the 100 based on her 200 background, and if she is close she could run down the field to possibly steal second.

A swimmer that has been flying under the radar has been high school senior Kaitlyn Dobler out of Oregon, who will be at the University of Southern California next year. This season, she broke the national high school record in the 100 breaststroke in short course yards and also won the silver medal at last summer’s World Junior Championships. Dobler has been rapidly improving the last couple years since winning a junior national title in 2018. With an extra year to prepare for Trials and a change of scenery at USC, Dobler could very much fly under the radar to surprise some people.

2021 Trials Vision

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