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

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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By David Rieder

Day three of the Olympic Trials will be the first with four finals on the docket, and they should be four pretty good finals. There’s the 200 free, where the top six will qualify for the 800 free relay; the 100 backstrokes, where the Americans typically excel; and also the women’s 100 breast, which has over the past several months become one of the most anticipated of the Trials.

This will be the fourth straight Olympics with the same event schedule—the Trials schedule matches that of the Games—and in that span, the U.S. has won seven of a possible 12 gold medals and 14 medals total on day three. And expect the Americans to once again be sending eight individual medal contenders to Rio.

But before you read my event-by-event picks, how about checking out today’s bold predictions?

1. Maxime Rooney becomes the youngest U.S. male Olympian in 16 years.

Eight teenagers competed for the American men in Sydney in 2000: Erik Vendt, Anthony Ervin, Kyle Salyards, Klete Keller, Pat Calhoun, Ian Crocker, Aaron Peirsol and Michael Phelps. Members of that group formed the foundation for the future of a dominant squad as five of the eight competed in both Athens and Beijing, and Ervin returned to join Phelps in London.

But teenagers have not exactly populated the men’s Olympic swimming roster in years since. In 2004, Phelps was still only 19 as he won his first six Olympic gold medals, and he was joined by fellow 19-year-old Larsen Jensen. Four years later, 19-year-old Nathan Adrian was all by himself in Beijing, and there were a grand total of zero teens on the men’s roster in London.

But this year’s team could have some youthful presence on it. Caeleb Dressel and Townley Haas both opened eyes with wins and American records at NCAAs, but one guy even younger could book himself a spot in Rio with a big effort on day three—and I predict that he will.

Rooney won last year’s National title in the 200 free with a 1:47.10, and his 1:48.55 at the Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Santa Clara was an in-season personal best. He should not have to drop much time from last season to become the first man as young as 18 to make an Olympic Team since 2000.

2. The two qualifiers in the women’s 100 breast will both swim faster than the winning time at last summer’s World Championships.

Hear me out for a minute, but I promise that this prediction is not quite as unrealistic as it may sound. First and foremost, Yuliya Efimova’s top time from that final in Kazan last year was a relatively-slow 1:05.66—slower than both Efimova and Ruta Meilutyte had gone in the semifinals and nowhere close to Meilutyte’s 2013 world record of 1:04.35.

And then there’s the fact that, all the sudden, the Americans have made major strides in the event. The top finisher at Worlds last year was Jessica Hardy, who finished 10th in 1:07.22. Hardy could have redeemed herself with a big split on the 400 medley relay, but her 1:06.35 was not nearly good enough as the Americans ended up fourth.

But in the past year, four Americans, none with experience on the senior National team, have swum times below 1:06.5. Pan American champion Katie Meili and NCAA champion Lilly King look like the favorites on-paper as they are the only two entered under 1:06, and right behind them are Molly Hannis and Sarah Haase. And you can never count out someone with the experience of former world record-holder Hardy or 2012 Olympic finalist Breeja Larson.

Meili recently told Swimming World that to make the team in Omaha it will take a 1:04—no American has been that fast since 2009. While we’re not ready to go that far, it does seem likely that whoever makes it will have to swim 1:05.5 or better.

3. Aaron Peirsol’s 100 back world record is going down.

Don’t get me wrong—it will take an incredible effort to take down the 51.94 that Peirsol clocked at the World Championship Trial in Indianapolis seven years ago. At the height of the supersuit era and just a week after losing his mark to Spain’s Aschwin Wildeboer, the man widely-regarded as the greatest backstroker in history uncorked what may have been the one signature swim of his career.

Australian World Champion Mitch Larkin has been hot on the tails of that record, clocking a 52.11 last November, but it would stay in American hands if it goes down at U.S. Trials. Since David Berkoff became the first man under 55 in 1988, the record has belonged to a U.S. swimmer for 28 years except for that one week in 2009. Berkoff broke it three times, Jeff Rouse twice, Lenny Krayzelburg once and Peirsol six times.

Three men look like they have real shots at reaching that barrier in Omaha, beginning with defending Olympic champion Matt Grevers, who has the second-fastest time ever at 52.08 from the Trials four years ago. Then there’s Ryan Murphy and David Plummer, who rank 5th and 11th, respectively, on the all-time list in the event. Both have swum fast this year already—Plummer at 52.40 and Murphy at 52.57.

But there are three contenders and only two spots—just as was the case four years ago, when Plummer came in third at 52.98. His time from Trials would have placed fourth in London. The American men, of course, finished first and second in that race with Grevers and Nick Thoman, just as Peirsol and Grevers finished one-two four years before that. This race should be a scorcher, a nail-biter and, yes, a heartbreaker.

Race Picks:

Men’s 200 Free
1. Conor Dwyer
2. Ryan Lochte
3. Michael Phelps
4. Maxime Rooney
5. Townley Haas
6. Jack Conger

Women’s 100 Back
1. Missy Franklin
2. Natalie Coughlin

Men’s 100 Back
1. Ryan Murphy
2. Matt Grevers

Women’s 100 Breast
1. Lilly King
2. Katie Meili

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

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7 years ago

David Plummer, Matt Grevers, and Ryan Murphy will stage an incredible battle in the 100 back.

It will be one of the closest and most exciting races to watch.

7 years ago

Women’s 100 back should be a great race too! Not sure of your picks in that one is correct

Robert H.
Robert H.
7 years ago

Don’t rule out the national teamer Weiss from Wisconsin for the 200free

Alex Muni
Alex Muni
7 years ago

The only picks I myself am worried about concerns the 200 Free. I don’t necessarily disagree with the team of six, but I am skeptical of whether the college guys can be what we need for the relay to be successful. In addition, I think some important people to think of as we approach trials are Matt McLean and Reed Malone, both of which have more international experience as well as faster relay swims. I have however been impressed with Maxime Rooney, Jack Conger, and Townley Hass’ momentum this year so who knows.

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