2021 Trials Vision: Simone Manuel, Abbey Weitzeil, Mallory Comerford Lead 100 Free Contenders

abbey-weitzeil-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. Tonight: How Simone Manuel, Abbey Weitzeil and Mallory Comerford are the favorites.

Four years ago, the road to the Olympics in women’s sprinting went through Simone Manuel and Abbey Weitzeil. Four years later, the road still goes through the pair, although plenty of contenders are waiting for their chance to unseat them.

Mallory Comerford earned a spot in the event at the 2019 World Championships along with Manuel, one of the few times Manuel and Weitzeil weren’t on the biggest stage together, making the lead up to 2020 more interesting.

Are the defending Trials champs poised to repeat?

The Favorites

weir-schmitt-vollmer-weitzeil-neal-manuel-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Again, the road will run through Simone Manuel and Abbey Weitzeil … and Mallory Comerford.

Manuel went a 52.04 at the 2019 World Championships, while Comerford was at 52.98.

Manuel is the defending Olympic champion, tying Canada’s Penny Oleksiak, and becoming the first African-American woman to win an individual swimming gold medal at the Olympics.

Weitzeil, who has been dealing with injuries the past couple of years, has still managed to up her speed. She set the NCAA record in the SCY 50 free in December, and has anchored some major Cal relays to championships, despite an arm injury.

Comerford has elevated her 100 free race to match her 200 free, possibly even exceed it. She qualified for worlds in the event and has been building her shorter races. She closed her NCAA career in 2019 by winning the 100 free as well as the 200 free.

Two will swim the event individually, but with relay spots also available, these three are the favorites, especially since the trio combines for the top nine U.S. swims in the event since the start of 2019.

The Contenders

erika-brown-

Erika Brown; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The sprinting events will bring all sorts of contenders into the fold. With just a fraction of a second being the difference between first and eighth — or between making the finals and missing out — it just takes one perfect swim at the right time to get on that relay.

Tennessee’s Erika Brown has been one of the top NCAA sprinters, once holding SCY NCAA and American records, and has been as fast as 53.42 in long course since the start of 2019. She has been waiting for that perfect swim at the right time.

Allison Schmitt and Lia Neal were on the relay four years ago and are poised be a contender to do so again, while Margo Geer has been a Team USA veteran and member of some big relays.

Olivia Smoliga has become a threat in the sprints as well as the backstroke event and might have again been an explosion ready to happen, just like she was at 2019 worlds. Katie McLaughlin is so versatile that she sometimes is forgotten in the 100 free, but that under-the-radar poise would have been a factor.

Meanwhile Gretchen Walsh has been a 53.74 and looked poised to shake up the veteran group a bit.

The Longshots

isl-natalie-hinds

Natalie Hinds; Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

Perfect swims don’t always come from the contenders, either. There are plenty of sprinters that have put together elite races over the years.

Natalie Hinds has continued her elite comeback and has been as fast as 54.34 since 2019 began, making her someone to watch in the event, along with Kelsi Dahlia, who has been at 54.56 or Linnea Mack at 54.78.

Former Michigan swimmer Catie DeLoof, now swimming for Team Elite, has become an elite force, like her sisters Ali and Gabby, and this could be her time to throw down a best race. Gabby DeLoof also could make it a sister act in the 100 free.

ky-lee-perry-

Ky-lee Perry; Photo Courtesy: NC State Athletics

Same goes for N.C. State All-American Ky-lee Perry, who we have not yet seen at full strength after injuries kept her from her full potential for the Wolfpack, and former Auburn star Aly Tetzloff.

Meanwhile, more young guns like Torri Huske could become a factor depending on the events they choose.

Looking Ahead to 2021

Again, one more year does nothing but help the younger swimmers. Having one more year to train could be pivotal for Huske or Gretchen Walsh.

But if Manuel and Weitzeil are healthy, they will be the favorites, along with Comerford. Those next three spots could be taken by more than a dozen contenders.

Then in Tokyo, the gauntlet of Canada’s Penny Oleksiak and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, The Campbell sisters of Australia, Denmark’s Pernille Blume, and Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands will likely be waiting.

Nothing new for Simone Manuel and Abbey Weitzeil.

2021 Trials Vision