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

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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By David Rieder

Most likely, something crazy will have happened on night one of Olympic Trials. Could have been a World or American record. Someone (Ryan Lochte) might have qualified for his fourth Olympic team or someone else (Elizabeth Beisel) her third. Or maybe the fireworks alongside the pool just got your adrenaline up a little bit.

Well, not to worry, sports fans. There will be plenty of exciting races on night two*, with finals scheduled in the women’s 100 fly, men’s 100 breast and women’s 400 free.

*Yes, I realize there are also six more days after that, but let’s focus on day two here.

Here are my three bold predictions for day two.

1. No one will come close to Sarah Sjostrom territory in the 100 fly.

Defending Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer is just a year into her comeback after giving birth to a son, Arlen, and already she looked like one of the favorites to make the Olympic Team in the event, having swum a 56.94 in April. The other favorite is Kelsi Worrell, the Pan American champion and the fastest 100 flyer ever short course.

So it’s perfectly reasonable to assume both have potential to crack some strong times in Omaha, and both could surpass the No. 2 time in the world so far this year, Xinyi Chen’s 56.82.

But Sjostrom has been 55.68 already this year, just off her world record of 55.64. That mark, of course, was set in last summer’s World Championships final where Sjostrom was victorious by a mere 1.41 seconds.

Vollmer, of course, was the previous owner of the world record, but even getting down to her own best time of 55.98—which would be an incredible swim—would not threaten Sjostrom in the least. The Swede should be one of the safer picks for Olympic gold, and nothing that happens at Olympic Trials will change that.

2. Kevin Cordes and Nic Fink will finish among the top-four in the 100 breast.

This one seems pretty reasonable, no? After all, Fink has swum the event at each of the past two World Championships, and Cordes has become a staple on the American 400 medley relay teams. Yes, these two have very good shots at going to Rio in the 100 breast.

So how is this a bold prediction? Because I made it four years ago.

A Swimming World writer recent perused our Trials coverage from 2012 and found this article written by none other than yours truly in which I named the swimmers who had college eligibility remaining that placed highest at Trials. On the men’s side, the only members of our “Junior Olympic Team” who made the actual Olympic team were Andrew Gemmell and Connor Jaeger, both in the 1500 free.

In terms of predicting the 2016 team, this did not work out quite so nicely in certain other events—for instance, neither of the selections for the women’s 100 fly are still competing. And maybe I won’t even pick them to make the Olympic team (hint: keep reading to see my top-two picks). But in a sport where few manage to consistently improve year after year, it is cool to see two men really do just that over the past four years.

3. Chaos will ensue in the semifinals of the men’s 200 free.

Admit it, you probably thought I was going to say something here about how Katie Ledecky would win the women’s 400 free and Leah Smith would get second. But check the current world rankings—Ledecky ranks No. 1 in the world this year and Smith No. 2. Picking Ledecky to challenge her world record? She always does that.

So instead, we’re talking about one of the day’s semifinals, the men’s 200 free. And oh boy, it’ll be good. The Americans lost that relay at last summer’s World Championships to end an 11-year undefeated streak, and they will be counting on a resurgent Conor Dwyer to lead them back to the top of the podium in Rio, likely with help from Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps, who both have been part of three straight American gold medal-winning 800 free relays at the Olympics.

Phelps talked of skipping the event at Trials, but he still needs to prove he belongs on the 800 free relay in Rio with his best time on the year a 1:48.21 from the Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., in April. And the top 12 entrants into the event—a list that does not include Phelps—are all seeded under 1:48.

The real battle will be not making top six in the final—just got to beat two people—but getting top eight in the semis. Someone prominent—likely more than one someone—will not make the final. Could it be NCAA champion Townley Haas or defending national champion Maxime Rooney or a member of that silver medal-winning team from Kazan, Reed Malone or Michael Weiss? Could somebody like Connor Jaeger or Jay Litherland or even Tyler Clary steal a spot?

In 2008, Erik Vendt—more typically a distance swimmer—broke 1:47 for the first time to get into the 200 free final, and then all he had to do was beat two people—which he did. Four years later, 800 free relay stalwart Peter Vanderkaay finished ninth in the 200, three one-hundredths behind Michael Klueh, his chances for a top-six finish washed away. At the end of the night, there will be one really happy eighth-place finisher and one devastated ninth-place man.

Race Picks:

Women’s 100 Fly:
1. Dana Vollmer
2. Kelsi Worrell

Men’s 100 Breast:
1. Kevin Cordes
2. Cody Miller

Women’s 400 Free:
1. Katie Ledecky
2. Leah Smith

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Bill Bell
Bill Bell
7 years ago

Sorry, David, but gotta go w/Michael Andrew in 100 1breas, Townley Haas in 200 free and Vollmer to go 54.26 — unshaven, untalented and definitely unrestored! ( w/a year- old son she probably has ‘t slept a wink in 366 days) in 100 fly.

Oh and I figure Ledecjy ought to be good for a 3:55-plus 400.

Good thing I don’t have to submit to testing.

7 years ago

The men’s 100 breast is not one of the stronger events for the US team.

No current American has swum under 59.0.

The world record is 57.94.

7 years ago

It doesn’t move him into the 2016 top 8, but Phelps best this year is 1:48.21 from the consol. heat in the PSS stop in Mesa, faster than his 1:48.73 from the recent Longhorn Elite meet.

7 years ago

As long as Michael Phelps makes the Olympic team, Bob Bowman will give him the spot on the relays.

The fix is in.

Alex Muni
Alex Muni
7 years ago

In response to all the comments above: There is no way Ledecky will go under 3:57. no way ANYONE goes under 55 in the women’s 100 fly. In my opinion, Michael Andrew is too inexperienced to be able to swim strong at trials to get a spot on the Olympic team. Let alone in the 100 breast. With Cordes, Fink, Wilson, AND Miller all going under a minute and Andrew going a 1:00 mid at his best, I can imagine he’ll finish top six let alone top two.. In addition, the 100m Breaststroke world record is 57.92. With Phelps going back to a focus on freestyle, I honestly can’t imagine him not being the fastest leg on that relay. If you look at 2011-2012 results, Phelps didn’t put too much attention on his freestyle races (but mainly IM and Butterfly) – with all of this, he still split a 1:44.1 (second fastest split in the world). Whether or not he goes under 1:46 and gets top 6 at trials, he’s still the guy for the job on the final relay. Period. He will without a doubt have one of the fastest 200 Freestyle splits of all 800 relays.

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