Shaine Casas Has Opportunities to Seal Up Olympic Berth

shaine-casas-
Shaine Casas -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Shaine Casas Has Opportunities to Seal Up Olympic Berth

Three years ago, Shaine Casas entered the U.S. Olympic Trials as favorite to qualify for the Tokyo Games in the backstroke events, but Casas fell to third in the 100 back thanks to strong swims by Ryan Murphy (expected) and Hunter Armstrong (not expected), and then he faded badly to sixth in the 200 back. Since then, the 24-year-old originally from McAllen, Texas, has moved his training from Texas A&M University to the University of Texas under legendary coach Eddie Reese, and he has achieved significant international success.

But entering this year’s Olympic Trials, his place on the team bound for Paris is no lock. Casas is among the best in the country in multiple events but not a clear top-two swimmer in any.

His initial international successes came in the backstroke races: just six months after his Olympic near-miss, Casas won the short course world title in the 100 back as well as a silver medal in the 200 back, and in the ensuing long course season, he qualified for his first major international competition with the U.S. team in the 200 back, going on to win bronze at the World Championships in Budapest.

Then, later in 2022, Casas showed off the range of his talent at a non-selection U.S. Nationals in Irvine, Calif., where he clocked 50.40 in the 100 butterfly and 1:55.24. He swam a mark in the 100 freestyle that made him a 400 free relay candidate for Team USA. Suddenly, less than two years out from then next Olympic Games, Casas looked the part of a multi-event star — but his next chance at international selection turned into another rocky experience.

In 2023, not only did Casas only qualify for the World Championships in one event, he waited until the selection meet’s final day to secure his spot on the team. At U.S. Nationals, Casas had failed to qualify for the final  in either the 100 free or 200 back, and he finished third in the 100 fly, a full second off his best time. He then scratched the 100 back and put all his eggs into the 200 IM basket.

Casas then narrowly squeezed into the 200 IM A-final as the No. 8 qualifier, beating ninth-place finisher Baylor Nelson by just 17-hundredths, and then, with 400 IM Olympic champion Chase Kalisz out due to injury, Casas was able to go out fast and secure the second spot behind Carson Foster, albeit in a mark of 1:57.47 that was more than two seconds off his best time. Casas went on to finish fourth in the event in the World Championships final.

Now, with the pressures of Olympic Trials in full effect, can Casas get the job done and pick up a spot in Paris? The backstroke events, once his primary focus, look unlikely; Murphy and Armstrong have established themselves atop the 100-meter race while Casas has not raced the 200 back since January. Caeleb Dressel and Dare Rose are the 100 fly favorites. The 100 free features a multitude of swimmers with best times in the 48-low range battling for Olympic relay berths.

That leaves the 200 IM as Casas’ best chance, with speedy swimmers like Foster, Kalisz, Destin LascoKieran Smith and teenager Maximus Williamson among those in contention. Casas is perhaps the only swimmer in the field without a true weak stroke, and his best time from two years ago is by far the quickest in the field. We’ll find out if he can bring that sort of elite form next month in Indianapolis.

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Phil Nantle
Phil Nantle
25 days ago

I really hope he gets to swim in the Olympics individually. It is ridiculous when some people who are sixth best in their event get a berth for boring old relays.Individual prowess rules!

chet jones
chet jones
11 days ago
Reply to  Phil Nantle

Non-sense comment! 🙂 Relays are always one of the most entertaining events in any olympics, rules just as much as individual prowess.

chet jones
chet jones
11 days ago
Reply to  chet jones

oops, posted mid thought. the relay prowess motivation brings out individual performances that never would happen otherwise.

Swimfan
Swimfan
25 days ago

Americans so desperate to find some star power on the men’s side lol

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