3 Bold Predictions for U.S. Olympic Trials: Day Seven

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By David Rieder

Day seven. The Olympic Trials will have been going for a full week at that point, and new Olympians will have qualified in 20 different events. So, yeah, the finish line is near.

But this thing is not over—not by a long shot. The four finals on Saturday, July 2, will come one after another with no breaks for semifinal action. The first three will each include the Olympic gold medalist—each of whom also holds the world record in their respective event. (In the fourth race, you will have to settle for the silver medalists from both the 2012 Olympics and last year’s World Championships.)

Some of the greatest swimmers in history will wrap up their Trials, so you won’t want to miss this night. How will they do? Let’s consult our bold predictions.

1. Missy Franklin makes a statement with a 2:05-mid in the 200 back.

Franklin had a chance to redeem what had to that point been a lackluster 2015 World Championships when she swam the 200 back. Going for her third-straight World title in the event, Franklin led by almost a second at the 150 but faded badly down the stretch as Emily Seebohm unleashed a 31.14 closing split to win the gold. For the first time in her career, Franklin finished a major international meet without an individual gold.

Franklin has not shown great form this year either, so we don’t really know what to expect from her at Trials. She is almost certain to have already made the team by this point, at least on relays, but the 100 back and the 100 and 200 free are so deep that nothing is guaranteed.

But Franklin is undoubtedly the class of the field in the 200 back. She enters seeded almost two seconds ahead of anybody else, and she will not have to be at her best in order to win this race. The real battle will be against the clock.

Australia’s Belinda Hocking holds the top time in the world right now at 2:06.49, with Seebohm just behind at 2:06.59. But you can bet that Franklin will have on her mind the 2:05.81 that Seebohm swam to win the World title in Kazan. The 200 back will be her best shot at another individual gold, and a swim like that would send her to Rio as the favorite.

Seebohm and Hocking might be sleeping in on Sunday morning when Franklin swims the 200 back in Omaha, but you can be sure anything in the 2:05-range would get them out of bed very quickly.

2. Michael Phelps gets under Ian Crocker’s textile best in the 100 fly.

Last August, Chad le Clos won the World title in the 100 fly in 50.56 and promptly informed reporters that since Phelps had not swum so fast in years, “he can keep quiet now.” Phelps, of course, was scheduled to swim the 100 fly just eight hours later at U.S. Nationals in San Antonio. That day I wrote Phelps had so many times in his career channeled trash talk as motivation for his greatest swims, and now he had an opportunity to do so again.

Phelps proceeded to swim a 50.45 and then pound the water in raw emotion.

The time was the best Phelps had ever swum other than in 2009, when with the aid of the now-banned high tech suits, he became the first man under 50 seconds in an epic duel with Milorad Cavic at the World Championships.

Still standing, then, is Crocker’s 50.40 from all the way back in 2005. It’s a mark Phelps knows and remembers well—mostly because he remembers getting beat that night in Montreal by 1.25 seconds. Safe to say that besting that time would mean a lot for the greatest of all time.

Phelps has a chance in both the 200 IM and 100 fly to become the first man to ever win four straight Olympic titles in one event—already, he is the only man to ever win three straight in one event. But with both le Clos and Laszlo Cseh looming as threats to Phelps at the Olympics, so like Franklin, Phelps will surely be hoping to be on his game just one month out from Rio. At this point, can we really bet against him?

3. Katie Ledecky wins big in the 800—but finishes the meet without a world record.

Ledecky will be the third straight Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder in action on the night, but she has much less to prove than either Franklin or Phelps. She won last year’s World title in the 800 free by a mere 10 seconds. She holds the top time in the world this year by almost 12 seconds with her 8:06.68 from the Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Austin, Texas. That time, of course, was a world record.

As long as she finishes in the top-two in Omaha, she will be the favorite to win gold in Rio. But Ledecky swam an 8:13.20 in her most recent 800 free in April—and no American enters Trials seeded within eight seconds of that time. She seems rather certain to finish first in Omaha.

But Ledecky’s utter dominance in this event (and to a lesser extent, the 400 free) allows her some freedoms with regard to approaching the race. She is perhaps the only swimmer at the meet who could make the Olympic team in all of her desired events without the benefit of a full rest or near-full rest.

Will she and coach Bruce Gemmell go that route? Tough to say, especially since Ledecky also has her sights set on a spot on the 400 free relay in Rio. But after a long week of racing at Trials, don’t be too concerned if she doesn’t quite meet her own high standard in the 800. Four years of utter dominance have earned Ledecky the benefit of the doubt—and she will be just fine come Rio.

Race Picks:

Women’s 200 Back
1. Missy Franklin
2. Elizabeth Beisel

Men’s 100 Fly
1. Michael Phelps
2. Tom Shields

Women’s 800 Free
1. Katie Ledecky
2. Becca Mann

Men’s 50 Free
1. Caeleb Dressel
2. Nathan Adrian

Check out our 3 Bold Predictions for each day of U.S. Olympic Trials:
Day One
Day Two

Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six

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7 years ago

Very soundly reasoned, David, and for the most part I can go along with your calls.

Not going to go there re M100fly. Agree with your picks with M50free, order … who knows. Its certainly time for Dressel to “walk the walk”.

Certainly concur with regards to Ledecky & the 800. 2nd money …… looks pretty open to me; Mann certainly in the picture but I certainly have Smith very much a factor. It will be VERY interesting, actually, to see what times the 2nd swimmer does post and how it fits in with the likely “rugby scum” battling for the minors mirroring the scenario in the 400.

Franklin & the 200back …. very interesting as it certainly looks her one assured route to individual selection and her most likely avenue to individual honours. 2.05mid WOULD, most certainly, send a message “I’m still around, ladies” to her competitors but they already know this. A time like that would rightly earn her favouritism but probably doesn’t quite stamp “ownership” as its still potentially in range for the likes of Seebohm, maybe Hocking & potentially Hosszu. 2.05low or better …. now THAT would probably spell “game over.