U.S. Olympic Trials Preview, Day Seven: Veterans to Challenge for Men’s 200 Individual Medley Win

Carson Foster of the United States of America competes in the 200m Individual Medley Men Heats during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 26th, 2023.
Carson Foster -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

U.S. Olympic Trials Preview, Day Seven: Veterans to Challenge for Men’s 200 Individual Medley Win

American swimmers, coaches, officials and hundreds of thousands of fans will make their way to Lucas Oil Stadium — home of the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts — for a unique U.S. Olympic Trials, complete with three temporary pools (two 50-meter and one 25-meter). The action takes place from June 15-23, with swimmers putting their hopes and dreams on the line for the opportunity to represent Team USA at the Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

These previews are part of a comprehensive Trials edition of Swimming World, which is set to be released this week.


Caeleb Dressel

Caeleb Dressel — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

If Caeleb Dressel can get close to his American-record time of 21.04, he will win the men’s splash-and-dash going away. Even after his long hiatus from the sport, he still has the best start-breakout combination of any swimmer, and that is tough to make up while swimming on top of the water.

However, Jack Alexy did win silver in this event at last year’s World Championships, and Michael Andrew captured silver in the meet before that. Andrew owns the second-quickest lifetime best in this field at 21.41, but he was well off his top form last year.

Ryan Held, meanwhile, was the 50 free champ at last year’s Nationals, and like Dressel, he gets off to an explosive start before trying to hold on. Chris Guiliano has made huge strides in the past year to put himself into contention.

Favorites: Caeleb Dressel, Jack Alexy
Contenders: Ryan Held, Michael Andrew, Chris Guiliano
Wild Cards: Matt King, Brooks Curry, David Curtiss, Jonny Kulow
Top 2 at 2021 Trials: Caeleb Dressel 21.04, Michael Andrew 21.48
World Record: 20.91 Cesar Cielo, BRA (São Paolo, 12-18-09)


The women’s 200 backstroke brought the biggest upset of the 2021 Trials, as Rhyan White and Phoebe Bacon ran down and passed Regan Smith down the stretch, denying the then-world record holder the chance to race the event at the Olympics. But over the past two years, Smith has re-established herself in the 200 back, and she’s in good position to battle for Olympic gold with defending gold medalist and current world record holder Kaylee McKeown.

Meanwhile, the battle for second place will be fierce, with whoever qualifies for Paris alongside Smith a likely medal favorite come Paris. White and Bacon have both won international medals in the 200 back in the past, and following a down year in 2023, Bacon won the NCAA title in the 200-yard race earlier this year. Meanwhile, Claire Curzan has become a star in this event, winning the world title in February, while Kennedy Noble won gold at the Pan American Games.

Favorite: Regan Smith
Contenders: Claire Curzan, Phoebe Bacon, Rhyan White, Kennedy Noble, Isabelle Stadden
Wild Cards: Teagan O’Dell, Leah Shackley
Top 2 at 2021 Trials: Rhyan White 2:05.73, Phoebe Bacon 2:06.46
World Record/Splits: 2:03.14 Kaylee McKeown, AUS (Sydney 3-10-23)
29.34          1:00.73 (31.39)          1:31.84 (31.11)          2:03.14 (31.30)


At different points in their careers, the trio of Carson Foster, Chase Kalisz and Shaine Casas have all gone 1:55 in the 200 IM. Kalisz achieved his best mark in winning the world title in the event in 2017, while Foster and Casas both were at their best in 2022, with Foster winning World Championships silver that year. We’ll see who is closest to top form at Trials, with a return to 1:55-territory likely required to be a serious medal contender for Paris.

Meanwhile, this could be the best chance for teenager Maximus Williamson to make the leap to the Olympic level. Williamson won gold in this event at last year’s World Junior Championships in 1:57.29, so another jump could be imminent for the 17-year-old.

If the favorites do not approach their best times, someone like NCAA champion Destin Lasco or the versatile Kieran Smith could take advantage of the opportunity to qualify in this event.

Favorites: Carson Foster, Chase Kalisz, Shaine Casas
Contender: Maximus Williamson
Wild Cards: Destin Lasco, Kieran Smith, Trenton Julian, Grant House, Arsenio Bustos
Top 2 at 2021 Trials: Michael Andrew 1:55.44, Chase Kalisz 1:56.97
World Record/Splits: 1:54.00 Ryan Lochte, USA (Shanghai 7-28-11)
24.89          53.48 (28.59)          1:26.51 (33.03)          1:54.00 (27.49)

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