Tickets to Tokyo: An Event-By Event Preview of the United States Olympic Trials

Swimming World June 2021 - Olympic Trials Preview

Tickets to Tokyo: An Event-By Event Preview of the United States Olympic Trials

The latest issue of Swimming World Magazine
is now available for download in the Swimming World Vault!

Non-Subscribers Can Download This Issue Here

The U.S. Olympic Trials Preview

By David Rieder

Sponsored By
S.R. Smith logo

The fastest swimmers in the United States will be putting their hopes and dreams on the line at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials-Swimming, June 13-20, in Omaha, Neb. If realized, they’ll have the opportunity to perform next month on the world’s grandest stage: the Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

DAY 1 – Sunday, June 13

The 2021 Olympic Trials might be kicking off a year late and with a reduced capacity, but as with the previous three editions of the meet held inside the arena now known as the CHI Health Center Omaha, the first evening session of the meet will begin with the men’s 400 IM final. But unlike previous years, the men’s 400 IM will be full of uncertainty.

Chase Kalisz is the 2016 Olympic silver medalist, 2017 world champion and third-fastest performer in history in the event (best time 4:05.90), but he struggled badly in 2019 and missed the World Championships final.

In his absence, fellow 2016 Olympian Jay Litherland swam a remarkable race to earn the silver medal, his first on the international stage. Litherland ranks 11th all-time in 4:09.22. The only other swimmer in the field with a best time under 4:13 is 2019 Pan American Games gold medalist Charlie Swanson at 4:11.46.

Favorites: Chase Kalisz, Jay Litherland
Contenders: Bobby Finke, Carson Foster
Potential Surprises: Charlie Swanson, Sean Grieshop, Jake Foster
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Chase Kalisz 4:09.54, Jay Litherland 4:11.02
World Record/Splits: 4:03.84 Michael Phelps, USA (Beijing 8-10-08) 25.73 54.92 (29.19) 1:26.29 (31.37) 1:56.49 (30.20)
2:31.26 (34.77) 3:07.05 (35.79) 3:35.99 (28.94) 4:03.84 (27.85)

This event has been a weak spot for the U.S. since the now-retired pair of Conor Dwyer and Connor Jaeger finished fourth and fifth, respectively, at the Rio Olympics. The favorite should be Zane Grothe, who was fourth at Olympic Trials in 2016 and has been a finalist in the event at the last two World Championships.

Grothe has the quickest lifetime best in the field by three seconds, but a new crop of talent has emerged on the NCAA level that could quickly make the jump to excellent swimming long course. Specifically, watch out for 500 free short course American record holder Kieran Smith and NCAA champion Jake Magahey.

Favorite: Zane Grothe
Contenders: Kieran Smith, Jake Magahey
Potential Surprises: Zach Yeadon, Trenton Julian, Trey Freeman, Patrick Callan
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Connor Jaeger 3:43.79, Conor Dwyer 3:44.66
World Record/Splits: 3:40.07 Paul Biedermann, GER (Rome 7-26-09) 26.29 54.42 (28.13) 1:22.43 (28.01) 1:51.02 (28.59)
2:18.78 (27.76) 2:47.17 (28.39) 3:14.30 (27.13) 3:40.07 (25.77)

In the first women’s final of the meet, the favorite will be a swimmer who has competed at one Olympics and three World Championships—but never in the 400 IM. Melanie Margalis has only embraced this event in recent years, and her best time of 4:32.53 (from right before the COVID pandemic) is the fastest in this field by more than a second.

But behind Margalis, the field has a lot of possibilities with swimmers who have swum in the 4:34-high through 4:37-range. Leah Smith, best known as a freestyler, was the 2017 national champion in this race, and her best time of 4:33.86 ranks second in the field, but she has not swum close to that time in four years.

Favorites: Melanie Margalis
Contenders: Ally McHugh, Brooke Forde, Emma Weyant, Madisyn Cox
Potential Surprises: Hali Flickinger, Leah Smith
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Maya DiRado 4:33.73, Elizabeth Beisel 4:36.81
World Record/Splits: 4:26.36 Katinka Hosszu, HUN (Rio 8-6-16) 28.33 1:00.91 (32.58) 1:35.01 (34.10) 2:08.39 (33.38)
2:45.62 (37.23) 3:24.50 (38.88) 3:55.68 (31.18) 4:26.36 (30.68)

DAY 2 –
Monday, June 14

While most events at Olympic Trials will feature similar contenders to those who would have contended for Olympic spots in 2020, the women’s 100 fly is a profound exception. That’s because two teenagers have vaulted up the rankings in recent months.

2016 Olympian Kelsi Dahlia has been the top U.S. performer in this event since 2017. She won bronze in the event at the 2017 World Championships and silver at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. But recently, 16-year-old Claire Curzan and 18-year-old Torri Huske have emerged onto the scene with resounding force.

Curzan swam a 56.61 in the 100 fly in November, and then the two teenagers raced in April, with Curzan swimming a 56.20 and Huske a 56.69. Curzan then swam a 56.43 in May. Dahlia, meanwhile, has not broken 57 since 2017. A great race between the veteran and the two teenagers is in store for Trials, and Dana Vollmer’s American record of 55.98 could come under fire. The field should also produce numerous swims in the 57-range.

Only two women broke 58 at the 2016 Trials.

A great race between the veteran and the two teenagers is in store for Trials, and Dana Vollmer’s American record of 55.98 could come under fire. The field should also produce numerous swims in the 57-range. Only two women broke 58 at the 2016 Trials.

Favorites: Claire Curzan, Torri Huske, Kelsi Dahlia
Contenders: Katie McLaughlin, Regan Smith
Potential Surprise: Kate Douglass
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Kelsi Worrell 56.48, Dana Vollmer 57.21
World Record/Splits: 55.48 Sarah Sjostrom, SWE (Rio 8-6-16) 26.01 55.48 (29.47)

This is another event with a lot of contenders and little certainty as to how they stack up. Cody Miller won bronze in the 100 breast at the 2016 Olympics, and Kevin Cordes finished fourth in Rio, but neither has swum close to their best times in recent years.

Andrew Wilson and Michael Andrew competed for the U.S. at the 2019 World Championships, with Wilson finishing sixth in the final and later splitting 58.65 on the U.S. men’s 400 medley relay. Andrew nearly broke the American record in May, when he swam a 58.67 in the 100 breast at the Indianapolis Pro Series, improving to 11th all-time in the event.

Nic Fink, who has been as quick as 58.57 on a relay split, is the only other American under 1:00 so far in 2021.

Favorites: Michael Andrew, Andrew Wilson, Nic Fink, Cody Miller
Contenders: Kevin Cordes, Reece Whitley
Potential Surprises: Max McHugh, Josh Matheny
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Kevin Cordes 59.18, Cody Miller 59.26
World Record/Splits: 56.88 Adam Peaty, GBR (Gwangju 7-21-19) 26.63 56.88 (30.25)

No mystery as to the favorite in the women’s 400 free, where Katie Ledecky has not lost to an American since finishing a close third at the 2012 Trials, when she was 15.

Ledecky won world titles in 2013, 2015 and 2017 along with a dominant Olympic gold medal-winning performance in 2016, and her only loss came to Australia’s Ariarne Titmus at the 2019 World Championships when Ledecky was ill.

During Ledecky’s reign of dominance, Leah Smith has been her frequent compatriot in the 400 free. Smith took silver in the event at the 2017 World Championships and bronze at both the 2016 Olympics and 2019 World Championships.

Favorites: Katie Ledecky, Leah Smith
Contenders: Emma Nordin, Kaersten Meitz, Hali Flickinger, Erica Sullivan
Potential Surprises: Ally McHugh, Haley Anderson
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Katie Ledecky 3:58.98, Leah Smith 4:00.65
World Record/Splits: 3:56.46 Katie Ledecky, USA (Rio 8-6-16) 27.73 57.05 (29.32) 1:26.99 (29.94) 1:57.11 (30.12) 2:27.41 (30.30) 2:57.62 (30.21) 3:27.54 (29.92) 3:56.46 (28.92)

DAY 3 – Tuesday, June 15

The first of the relay selection events for Trials will see the Americans attempting to put together a fifth-straight gold-medal squad in the 800 free relay, but the 200 free has been a weak event for the U.S. men since 2016. Townley Haas, the Trials winner the last time around, took fourth in Rio and then took silver in the event at the 2017 World Championships, and he hasn’t swum close to his best time (1:45.03) since.

Andrew Seliskar made the transition to freestyle around 2018 and has consistently swum in the 1:45-range, and Kieran Smith will be hoping to translate his short course form into improved long course swimming. Blake Pieroni and Zach Apple have been solid relay pieces for the U.S., and the game-changer here could be Caeleb Dressel. Should the 13-time World Championships gold medalist swim this event through to the final, he will be expected to challenge for an 800 free relay spot at least.

Favorites: Townley Haas, Andrew Seliskar, Kieran Smith Contenders: Caeleb Dressel, Blake Pieroni, Zach Apple
Relay Contenders: Jake Magahey, Grant House, Dean Farris, Luca Urlando, Maxime Rooney, Drew Kibler, Carson Foster, Julian Hill
Top 6 at 2016 Trials: Townley Haas 1:45.66, Conor Dwyer 1:45.67, Jack Conger 1:45.77, Ryan Lochte 1:46.62, Gunnar Bentz 1:47.33, Clark Smith 1:47.53
World Record/Splits: 1:42.00 Paul Biedermann, GER (Rome 7-28-09)
24.23 50.12 (25.89) 1:16.30 (26.18) 1:42.00 (25.70)

No event may be more anticipated than the women’s 100 back, which features the current world record holder and the previous world record holder as the top two seeds. So competitive is the event that Regan Smith missed a chance to swim the 100 back at the 2019 World Championships, but after she broke the world record and won gold in the 200 back, the U.S. coaches placed her onto the leadoff leg of the 400 medley relay—and Smith responded by crushing Kathleen Baker’s world record, blasting a 57.57.

Baker, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 back, remains the third-fastest performer ever, and Olivia Smoliga, also an Olympic finalist in 2016, won bronze in the 100 back at the World Championships and took gold in the 50 back. This race should be one of the most competitive of the Olympic Trials with the likes of Rhyan White, Phoebe Bacon and Claire Curzan in the mix, and all having swum under 59 in the past. Four other swimmers in the field have swum faster than 59.7 within the past two years.

And then Phoebe Bacon, a freshman at Wisconsin and the Pan American Games gold medalist, actually owns a faster lifetime best than Smoliga with her 58.63. And on top of that quartet, five other swimmers in the field have swum faster than 59.7 in the past two years.

Favorite: Regan Smith
Contenders: Kathleen Baker, Olivia Smoliga, Phoebe Bacon
Potential Surprises: Rhyan White, Katharine Berkoff, Claire Curzan, Amy Bilquist, Isabelle Stadden
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Olivia Smoliga 59.02, Kathleen Baker 59.29
World Record/Splits: 57.57r Regan Smith, USA (Gwangju 7-28-19) 27.74 57.57 (29.83)

Ryan Murphy swept the backstroke events at the Rio Olympics and broke the 100 back world record leading off the Olympic 400 medley relay, and then he almost broke the world record at the 2018 Pan Pacs. But Murphy has never hit his stride at the World Championships, as he settled for bronze in the 100 back in 2017 and missed the podium entirely in 2019. Still, he will be the heavy favorite for Trials.

Shaine Casas has challenged Murphy’s American records in short course and seems primed for a long course breakout, while 2012 gold medalist Matt Grevers, now 36, will aim to get back on the team after narrowly missing in 2016.

Favorites: Ryan Murphy, Shaine Casas
Contenders: Matt Grevers, Justin Ress
Potential Surprises: Michael Andrew, Daniel Carr, Coleman Stewart
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Ryan Murphy 52.26, David Plummer 52.28
World Record/Splits: 51.85r Ryan Murphy, USA (Rio 8-13-16) 25.13 51.85 (26.72)

Lilly King, then 19, was the surprise of the 2016 Trials as she stormed to victories in the 100 and 200 breast and then to Olympic gold in the 100 breast, but now she enters as the undisputed favorite. King holds the 100 breast world record at 1:04.13 and has not lost the race since 2015. No one else in the field has swum under 1:05.

Annie Lazor, who trains with King at Indiana University, looks like the strongest contender for the No. 2 spot behind King, and 2016 Olympian Molly Hannis has her focus squarely on the 100-meter distance this time around. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Alaska native Lydia Jacoby has dropped more than a second from her best time this year to move into contention.

Favorites: Lilly King
Contenders: Annie Lazor, Molly Hannis, Lydia Jacoby
Potential Surprises: Kaitlyn Dobler, Emily Escobedo, Micah Sumrall
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Lilly King 1:05.20, Katie Meili 1:06.07
World Record/Splits: 1:04.13 Lilly King, USA (Budapest 7-25-17) 29.80 1:04.13 (34.33)

DAY 4 – Wednesday, June 16

This event holds extra significance because of six swimmers qualifying for the 800 free relay in Tokyo, but the only swimmer here with a legitimate individual medal chance is Katie Ledecky, the defending Olympic gold medalist and the third-fastest performer in history. Her 1:54.40 from the Mission Viejo TYR Pro Swim Series in April was her second-fastest effort ever, and she likely has a 1:53 swim in the cards sometime this year.

Allison Schmitt, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and American record holder, is likely the favorite for the second individual spot. Schmitt will be looking to join Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson as the only women to qualify for four U.S. Olympic teams.

Meanwhile, the American women had a long winning streak in the 800 free relay snapped at the 2019 World Championships in a narrow loss to Australia, so they will be looking to assemble a strong squad in Omaha, with 1:55 and 1:56-low swims a must.

Favorite: Katie Ledecky
Contenders: Allison Schmitt, Simone Manuel, Leah Smith, Katie McLaughlin
Relay Contenders: Melanie Margalis, Paige Madden, Olivia Smoliga, Gabby DeLoof, Emma Nordin, Hali Flickinger, Mallory Comerford, Justina Kozan
Top 6 at 2016 Trials: Katie Ledecky 1:54.88, Missy Franklin 1:56.18, Leah Smith 1:56.63, Allison Schmitt 1:56.72, Cierra Runge 1:57.16, Melanie Margalis 1:57.65
World Record/Splits: 1:52.98 Federica Pellegrini, ITA (Rome 7-29-09) 27.34 55.60 (28.26) 1:24.38 (28.78) 1:52.98 (28.60)

In a relatively weak event for the United States since the retirement of Michael Phelps, by far the best hope is Luca Urlando. The University of Georgia sophomore-to-be has been as quick as 1:53.84, which makes him the 12th-fastest performer in history. If he can repeat that effort, he will vault into Olympic medal contention for Tokyo.

The event will otherwise be wide open, with 2019 World Championships finalist Zach Harting and 2016 Olympian Tom Shields in contention.

Favorites: Luca Urlando
Contenders: Zach Harting, Tom Shields, Nicolas Albiero, Miles Smachlo, Trenton Julian
Potential Surprises: Jack Conger, Justin Wright, Gabriel Jett, Aiden Hayes
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Michael Phelps 1:54.84, Tom Shields 1:55.81
World Record/Splits: 1:50.73 Kristof Milak, HUN (Gwangju 7-24-19) 24.66 52.88 (28.22) 1:21.57 (28.69) 1:50.73 (29.13)

This projects as an excellent showdown between talented swimmers of very different racing strategies. Kathleen Baker, who has the best time in the field at 2:08.32, is sure to be out to a significant lead over the first 100 as she utilizes her strength in butterfly and backstroke, but the field will track her down after that.

Melanie Margalis also has swum in the 2:08-range on multiple occasions, and both 2017 World Championships medalist Madisyn Cox and NCAA champion Alex Walsh have been 2:09-low.

Favorites: Kathleen Baker, Melanie Margalis, Madisyn Cox
Contenders: Alex Walsh, Kate Douglass
Potential Surprise: Torri Huske
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Maya DiRado 2:09.54, Melanie Margalis 2:10.11
World Record/Splits: 2:06.12 Katinka Hosszu, HUN (Kazan 8-3-15) 27.30 58.94 (31.64) 1:35.64 (36.70) 2:06.12 (30.48)

Katie Ledecky is an enormous favorite to win the inaugural Olympic gold medal in what is probably her best event. She had to withdraw from the 2019 World Championships final because of illness, but the winning time was still 20 seconds off her world record. Even though she will swim the 200 free on the same night as the 1500, she should have almost an hour’s rest, and her dominance in the event will spare her any real competition at Trials and probably at the Olympics.

Meanwhile, Ashley Twichell finished fourth in the 1500 at the World Championships, and she and Haley Anderson will both look to add Olympic swims in the pool to go along with the 10K marathon race for which they have already qualified.

Favorite: Katie Ledecky
Contenders: Haley Anderson, Ashley Twichell, Erica Sullivan, Emma Nordin
Potential Surprises: Leah Smith, Ally McHugh, Kensey McMahon, Sierra Schmidt
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: N/A
World Record/Splits: 15:20.48 Katie Ledecky, USA (Indianapolis 5-16-18) 28.90 58.50 (30.41) 1:29.26 (30.76) 2:00.25 (30.99) 2:31.11 (30.86) 3:02.50 (31.39) 3:33.71 (31.21) 4:04.88 (31.77) 4:35.86 (30.98) 5:06.82 (30.96) 5:37.52 (30.70) 6:08.29 (30.77) 6:39.28 (30.99) 7:10.13 (30.85) 7:40.88 (30.75) 8:11.70 (30.82) 8:42.52 (30.82) 9:13.20 (30.68) 9:43.96 (30.76) 10:14.83 (30.87) 10:45.43 (30.60) 11:16.15 (30.72) 11:47.05 (30.90) 12:17.94 (30.89) 12:48.62 (30.68) 13:19.43 (30.81) 13:50.27 (30.84) 14:20.71 (30.44) 14:51.26 (30.55) 15:20.48 (29.22)

DAY 5 – Thursday, June 17

This event is a new addition to the Olympic program in 2021, and the battle is expected to come between three swimmers. Zane Grothe and Jordan Wilimovsky finished 1-2 at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, and the duo ranks 16th and 22nd all-time in the event, respectively, but neither qualified for the final at the 2019 World Championships.

Meanwhile, Bobby Finke has been the best distance swimmer in the United States over the past several years. No one else in the field has ever cracked 7:50 in the event.

Favorites: Bobby Finke, Jordan Wilimovsky, Zane Grothe
Contender: Jake Magahey
Potential Surprises: Ross Dant, Andrew Abruzzo, Kieran Smith
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: N/A
World Record/Splits: 7:32.12 Zhang Lin, CHN (Rome 7-29-09) 26.94 55.20 (28.26) 1:24.04 (28.84) 1:52.55 (28.51)
2:21.16 (28.61) 2:49.87 (28.71) 3:18.58 (28.71) 3:46.79 (28.21) 4:15.02 (28.23) 4:43.28 (28.26) 5:11.79 (28.51) 5:40.36 (28.57)
6:09.26 (28.90) 6:38.03 (28.77) 7:06.13 (28.10) 7:32.12 (25.99)

The men’s 200 breast at Olympic Trials has produced some wacky finishes over the years. In 2008, underdog Scott Spann came from nowhere to shock favorites Brendan Hansen and Eric Shanteau and win the event, and in 2012, Scott Weltz and Clark Burckle pulled off the same accomplishment. And then, in 2016, Josh Prenot used a scintillating last 50 to overtake Kevin Cordes and nearly break the world record, while Cordes held off Will Licon for second by 14-hundredths.

In 2021, the field still includes 2016 qualifiers Prenot and Cordes, although neither has swum close to their 2016 form in recent years. Licon and Nic Fink finished 1-2 at the Pan American Games in 2019, while Andrew Wilson finished sixth and Prenot 13th at the World Championships.

The field is wide open, but the top time by an American during the qualifying period, Licon’s 2:07.62, is nowhere close to the 2:06s that will undoubtedly be required to challenge for the Olympic podium.

Favorites: Will Licon, Andrew Wilson, Nic Fink, Josh Prenot
Contenders: Cody Miller, Daniel Roy, Reece Whitley
Potential Surprises: Josh Matheny, Kevin Cordes
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Josh Prenot 2:07.17, Kevin Cordes 2:08.00
World Record/Splits: 2:06.12 Anton Chupkov, RUS (Gwangju 7-26-19)
29.73 1:02.22 (32.49) 1:34.23 (32.01) 2:06.12 (31.89)

The American women have not won an Olympic medal in the women’s 200 fly since Misty Hyman’s stunning gold medal at the 2000 Games, but they are positioned to snap that streak in 2020. Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot took silver and bronze, respectively, at the 2019 World Championships, but each recorded semifinal times quicker than Boglarka Kapas’ eventual gold medal-winning time.

Flickinger is the favorite as the only swimmer in the U.S. to swim under 2:06 since 2012, but watch out for Regan Smith, the backstroke star who has been as quick as 2:06.39 and could certainly break into the Olympic mix in this event.

Favorite: Hali Flickinger
Contenders: Regan Smith, Katie Drabot, Charlotte Hook
Potential Surprises: Lillie Nordmann, Dakota Luther, Olivia Carter, Kelly Pash
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Cammile Adams 2:06.80, Hali Flickinger 2:07.50
World Record/Splits: 2:01.81 Liu Zige, CHN (Jinan 10-21-09) 27.19 58.08 (30.89) 1:30.20 (32.12) 2:01.81 (31.61)

While the Americans have struggled to find great talent in the other men’s relay event, the 200 free, there is more depth in the 100 free than in a long time.

The undisputed favorite is Caeleb Dressel, the two-time world champion in the 100 and American record holder. His best time of 46.96 makes him the second-fastest man ever. He will likely take another run at Cesar Cielo’s world record of 46.91 this year, but that might wait until his showdown with 2016 gold medalist Kyle Chalmers in Tokyo.

Behind Dressel, five other Americans broke 48 in 2019, the most in any year. Ryan Held is the slight favorite for the second individual spot, but he will have numerous challenges, including World Championships fourth-place finisher Blake Pieroni.

2012 Olympic champion Nathan Adrian will also be in the field, as he guns for a spot in his fourth Games, and the top six finishers could be very unpredictable. Look for a super quick semifinals to determine who gets to take a shot at the Olympics in the final.

Favorite: Caeleb Dressel
Contenders: Ryan Held, Blake Pieroni, Maxime Rooney, Zach Apple, Nathan Adrian
Relay Contenders: Tate Jackson, Dean Farris, Robert Howard, Jack Conger, Daniel Kreuger, Michael Chadwick, Townley Haas
Top 6 at 2016 Trials: Nathan Adrian 47.72, Caeleb Dressel 48.23, Ryan Held 48.26, Anthony Ervin 48.54, Jimmy Feigen 48.57, Blake Pieroni 48.78
World Record/Splits: 46.91 Cesar Cielo, BRA (Rome 7-30-09) 22.17 46.91 (24.74)

DAY 6 – Friday, June 18

No one broke 2:24 in this event at the 2016 Olympic Trials, and no American swimmer qualified for the Olympic final in Rio, but this year, the event figures to produce two strong medal contenders for Tokyo.

100 breast Olympic gold medalist Lilly King has improved her skills in the four-lap breaststroke event, and she has a best time of 2:21.39. Annie Lazor, who also trains at Indiana, has been even quicker at 2:20.77. Emily Escobedo has been as fast as 2:22.00 and has raced well recently. While Bethany Galat has multiple 2:21 swims to her name, the 2017 World Championships silver medalist and 2019 Pan American Games champion has struggled recently.

Favorites: Annie Lazor, Lilly King
Contenders: Emily Escobedo, Bethany Galat
Potential Surprises: Micah Sumrall, Madisyn Cox
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Lilly King 2:24.08, Molly Hannis 2:24.39
World Record/Splits: 2:19.11sf Rikke Moller Pedersen, DEN (Barcelona 8-1-13) 31.80 1:07.27 (35.47) 1:42.89 (35.62) 2:19.11 (36.22)

Defending Olympic champion Ryan Murphy is the clear favorite in the longer backstroke event, and his task will be to try to challenge the 1:53.23 that Russia’s Evgeny Rylov, the two-time defending world champion, swam at Russia’s Olympic Trials in April. No other American besides Murphy has cracked 1:55 since 2016.

The intriguing battle for second will include a new crop of NCAA talent led by Shaine Casas, who came close to breaking Murphy’s 200 yard back American record this year.

Favorites: Ryan Murphy
Contenders: Shaine Casas, Austin Katz
Potential Surprises: Destin Lasco, Bryce Mefford
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Ryan Murphy 1:53.95, Jacob Pebley 1:54.77
World Record/Splits: 1:51.92 Aaron Peirsol, USA (Rome 7-31-09)
26.52 54.90 (28.38) 1:23.30 (28.40) 1:51.92 (28.62)

Chase Kalisz is the sixth-fastest performer all-time in the 200 IM at 1:55.40, and he won the world title in the event in 2017 before fading to third at the 2019 World Championships. However, Kalisz remains the favorite in this intriguing event.

Michael Andrew has swum in the 1:56-range and has the ability in all four strokes, but his endurance over 200 meters is a question. Shaine Casas and Carson Foster each have substantial potential in this event, but will face a decision if they want to attempt both the 200 back and 200 IM finals in the same session.

Finally, can 36-year-old Ryan Lochte overcome the odds and qualify for his fifth Olympic team, which would match Michael Phelps and Dara Torres for the most of any U.S. swimmer? Lochte remains the world record holder in the event, but his fastest time since the Rio Olympics was his 1:57.76 from the 2019 U.S. Nationals, and he would need to be much quicker to qualify for Tokyo. This event is by far his strongest shot of making the team.

Favorite: Chase Kalisz
Contenders: Michael Andrew, Shaine Casas, Carson Foster, Abrahm DeVine, Ryan Lochte
Potential Surprises: Andrew Seliskar, Sam Stewart, Kieran Smith
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Michael Phelps 1:55.91, Ryan Lochte 1:56.22
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)

Simone Manuel shocked the world when she tied for Olympic gold in the 100 free in 2016, and then she shocked the world again in 2017 to win the world title, then yet again in 2019 to win another world championship. No one would be surprised to see Manuel earn Olympic gold in 2021. She is the third-fastest performer ever in 52.04, more than a half-second quicker than anyone else in the field has ever swum. The only other American to break 53 is Mallory Comerford, while 2016 Trials winner Abbey Weitzeil has been as fast as 53.18.

The Americans have built some strong depth in this event, including high schoolers Torri Huske and Gretchen Walsh both in the 53-range, and it would not be surprising to see a 53-second swim required just to qualify for the final.

However, in order to challenge Australia for Olympic gold, the Americans will need more swimmers to jump into 52 territory. Katie Ledecky could be in the mix for a relay spot, but she has not put up any great 100 free swims since splitting 52.79 to anchor the silver medal-winning 400 free relay in 2016.

Favorite: Simone Manuel
Contenders: Mallory Comerford, Abbey Weitzeil, Erika Brown, Torri Huske
Relay Contenders: Gretchen Walsh, Allison Schmitt, Katie McLaughlin, Natalie Hinds, Claire Curzan, Olivia Smoliga, Katie Ledecky, Linnea Mack
Top 6 at 2016 Trials: Abbey Weitzeil 53.28, Simone Manuel 53.52, Amanda Weir 53.75, Lia Neal 53.77, Allison Schmitt 53.87, Dana Vollmer 53.92
World Record/Splits: 51.71 Sarah Sjostrom, SWE (Budapest 7-23-17)
24.83 51.71 (26.88)

DAY 7 – Saturday, June 19

In the five years since the Rio Olympics, Caeleb Dressel has become the world’s most dominant sprint butterflyer. He nearly took down the world record at the 2017 World Championships and then clobbered Michael Phelps’ mark at the 2019 global meet. His best time of 49.50 is almost a second faster than any other active swimmer, and he will be the heavy favorite for Olympic gold.

The favorites for the second spot behind Dressel are Maxime Rooney, who swam a 50.68 in 2019, and Michael Andrew, who recorded a 50.80 earlier this year. Rooney and Andrew are the only Americans besides Dressel who have swum under 51 since 2016.

Meanwhile, Tom Shields and Jack Conger will each have their best chance to qualify for their second Olympic team in this event.

Favorite: Caeleb Dressel
Contenders: Maxime Rooney, Michael Andrew
Potential Surprises: Tom Shields, Andrew Seliskar, Shaine Casas, Miles Smachlo, Jack Conger
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Michael Phelps 51.00, Tom Shields 51.20
World Record/Splits: 49.50 Caeleb Dressel, USA (Gwangju, 7-26-19) 22.83 49.50 (26.67)

The overwhelming favorite both at Trials and at the Olympics is 19-year-old Regan Smith, who burst onto the scene as a 2017 World Championship finalist when she was 15 and completed her stunning rise by setting the world record and winning gold at the 2019 World Championships. She swam a 2:03.35 to break Missy Franklin’s previous world record, and the only swimmer remotely close to that is Australia’s Kaylee McKeown at 2:04.46.

Meanwhile, in the last four years, no other American has broken 2:06.

Kathleen Baker will be in contention for the second spot as she has been in the 2:06-range on a number of occasions, but Phoebe Bacon recently dropped two seconds from her lifetime best and swam a 2:06.84, beating Smith in the final tune-up before Olympic Trials. Rhyan White and Isabelle Stadden have also posted impressive performances recently that suggest 2:06s could be in the cards.

Favorites: Regan Smith, Kathleen Baker, Phoebe Bacon
Contenders: Rhyan White, Isabelle Stadden
Potential Surprises: Lisa Bratton, Alex Walsh
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Maya DiRado 2:06.90, Missy Franklin 2:07.89
World Record/Splits: 2:03.35 Regan Smith, USA (Gwangju, 7-26-19)
29.06 1:00.37 (31.31) 1:31.84 (31.47) 2:03.35 (31.51)

Katie Ledecky faced her toughest contest yet in an 800 free at the 2019 World Championships. Battling illness all week, she gutted out a win over Italy’s Simona Quadarella, her final time almost nine seconds off her world record. She now has two Olympic golds and four straight world titles in the event, and that was the only occasion she has won by less than two seconds. She probably won’t challenge her incredible world record of 8:04.79, but no other American has ever swum within 11 seconds of that mark.

Leah Smith, meanwhile, has been the second American swimmer in the 800 free at every international meet since 2016, and it’s unlikely anyone else can catch her in Omaha.

Favorites: Katie Ledecky, Leah Smith
Contenders: Ashley Twichell, Erica Sullivan, Haley Anderson, Emma Nordin
Potential Surprises: Bella Sims, Sierra Schmidt
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Katie Ledecky 8:10.32, Leah Smith 8:20.18
World Record/Splits: 8:04.79 Katie Ledecky, USA (Rio 8-12-16) 28.03 57.98 (29.25) 1:28.71 (30.73) 1:59.42 (30.71)
2:30.06 (30.64) 3:00.76 (30.70) 3:31.13 (30.37) 4:01.98 (30.85) 4:32.20 (30.22) 5:02.94 (30.74) 5:33.54 (30.60) 6:04.30 (30.76)
6:35.07 (30.77) 7:05.44 (30.37) 7:35.80 (30.36) 8:04.79 (28.99)

DAY 8 – Sunday, June 20

Just like the 100 free, Caeleb Dressel is on the verge of the world record, Cesar Cielo’s 20.91 mark that has lasted since the supersuit era. At 21.04, he is the third-fastest performer in history, and if Dressel brings his top form to Olympic Trials, no one will be able to catch him.

However, Michael Andrew did defeat Dressel at the 2018 U.S. Nationals and Pan Pacific Championships, and Andrew could be desperate by the meet’s final day if he has not qualified for the Olympic team in another event.

Ryan Held has been as quick as 21.62 this year, while 2016 bronze medalist Nathan Adrian has not been as strong in the 50 free as the 100 free in recent years.

Favorite: Caeleb Dressel
Contenders: Michael Andrew, Ryan Held
Potential Surprises: Nathan Adrian, Zach Apple, David Curtiss
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Nathan Adrian 21.51, Anthony Ervin 21.52
World Record: 20.91 Cesar Cielo, BRA (Sao Paolo, 12-18-09)

Simone Manuel and Abbey Weitzeil have been the two American representatives in the 50 free at every international meet going back to 2016, and Manuel won a surprising world title in the splash-and-dash in 2019. Manuel also owns the American record at 23.97.

But Claire Curzan recently broke the world junior record and became the third-fastest American ever in the event at 24.17, and fellow teenager Torri Huske has been as quick as 24.44 this year.

We should expect to see a lot of swimmers in the 24.5-or-better range this time, and the battle for Olympic spots could come down to the finish. Swimmers such as Gretchen Walsh and Erika Brown will also be in the mix.

Favorites: Simone Manuel, Claire Curzan, Abbey Weitzeil
Contenders: Torri Huske, Gretchen Walsh, Erika Brown
Potential Surprise: Kate Douglass
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Abbey Weitzeil 24.28, Simone Manuel 24.33
World Record: 23.67 Sarah Sjostrom, SWE (Budapest, 7-29-17)

In the last race of the meet, the American men will again try to produce their first 1500 free medal contender at a major meet since Connor Jaeger’s retirement. The best hopes in this race are Bobby Finke, who has swum the three fastest performances ever in the 1650 yard free, and Jordan Wilimovsky, who has the best time in the field with the 14:45.03 he swam to finish fourth at the Rio Olympics.

Zane Grothe also has swum sub-14:50 in his career, but he isn’t quite as good at the 30-lap race as he is in the 400 and 800. Wilimovsky and Grothe finished 1-2 in the event at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, but neither qualified for the final at the World Championships in 2019. No other active American swimmers have ever swum under 15:00.

Favorites: Bobby Finke, Jordan Wilimovsky
Contender: Zane Grothe
Potential Surprises: Jake Magahey, Ross Dant, Andrew Abruzzo, Michael Brinegar, Brooks Fail
Top 2 at 2016 Trials: Connor Jaeger 14:47.61, Jordan Wilimovsky 14:49.19
World Record/Splits: 14:31.02 Sun Yang, CHN (London 8-4-12) 27.09 55.80 (28.71) 1:25.26 (29.46) 1:54.31 (29.95)
2:23.66 (29.35) 2:52.63 (28.97) 3:22.16 (29.53) 3:51.50 (29.34) 4:20.73 (29.23) 4:49.62 (28.89) 5:18.88 (29.26) 5:48.15 (29.27)
6:17.40 (29.25) 6:46.74 (29.34) 7:16.15 (29.41) 7:45.45 (29.30) 8:14.94 (29.49) 8:44.32 (29.38) 9:13.78 (29.46) 9:43.10 (29.32)
10:12.52 (29.42) 10:41.73 (29.21) 11:11.27 (29.54) 11:40.64 (29.37) 12:09.81 (29.17) 12:39.00 (29.19) 13:08.39 (29.39) 13:37.53 (29.14) 14:05.34 (27.81) 14:31.02 (25.68)


Click here to download the full June 2021 Issue of Swimming World, available now!

Swimming World June 2021 - Nathan Adrian - A Natural Leader - COVER

Get Swimming World Magazine and Swimming World Biweekly FREE When You

Become A Member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame

New! 30 Day Membership to ISHOF AND Digital Swimming World Subscription for just $10 a month!

Want more? Get a 1 Year ISHOF Family Membership With Swimming World Print AND Digital Subscription Order Now!

Non-Subscribers can click here to download this issue for only $5.94

Swimming World June 2021 Issue


by David Rieder
The fastest swimmers in the United States will be putting their hopes and dreams on the line at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials-Swimming, June 13-20, in Omaha, Neb. If realized, they’ll have the opportunity to perform next month on the world’s grandest stage: the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

by John Lohn
Still producing elite-level performances, Nathan Adrian, now 32 and pursuing his fourth Olympic Games, has the opportunity to further his already lofty reputation. And whenever his days in the sport come to an end, Adrian will be viewed for his excellence in the sport as an athlete, teammate and ambassador.

by Andy Ross
That’s the same winning formula that Indian River’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams have been using for nearly a half-century at the NJCAA Championships. The Pioneer men now have won 47 straight team titles; the women, 39—and 43 of the past 47.

by John Lohn
By all measures, Don Schollander is a legend in the sport, a Hall of Fame talent who was unrivaled in his heyday. Yet, his impact has been lost to a combination of unfortunate timing and modern-day fascination.

by Dan D’Addona
While the U.S. women have dominated international water polo since 2015—winning their second straight Olympics in 2016 plus three World Championships in 2015-17-19—a different men’s champion has emerged at each of the last three major international competitions—Serbia (2016 Olympics), Croatia (2017 Worlds) and Italy (2019 Worlds).

by Bruce Wigo
As kids who preferred to dive for coins rather than race in a swimming pool, brothers Maiola and Manuella Kalili from Hawaii would eventually become national champions and Olympic silver medalists in 1932.

by Dawn Weatherwax
As long course, Olympics and endurance events get underway, a common question is: “How much do I need to eat?” This is a loaded question—one in which the author will try to simplify.

by Shoshanna Rutemiller


by Rod Havriluk
Swimmers typically decrease non-propulsive time to decrease stroke time, increase stroke rate and swim faster. Research shows that a further decrease in the non-propulsive time is possible and should produce further performance improvement.

by Michael J. Stott
In the first of two parts, Swimming World explores the concept of energy systems and how coaches can use them to maximize athlete development and performance.

by Michael J. Stott
With this month’s Olympic Swimming Trials now upon us, Swimming World takes a back-to-the-future approach to revisit some training done by superstar Katie Ledecky prior to the 2016 U.S. team qualifying meet.

by Michael J. Stott

by Michael J. Stott


by J.R. Rosania


by Shoshanna Rutemiller







Swimming World is now partnered with the International Swimming Hall of Fame. To find out more, visit us at