Tom Shields Sets Lifetime Best in 200 Yard Butterfly

Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

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Tom Shields’ quest to return to the Olympics got a big boost Friday with a lifetime best in the 200-yard butterfly.

Shields, swimming exhibition with the University of California at the UC-San Diego Invitational, laid down a 1:38.80 in the 200 fly, his fastest time over that course and distance.

The 2016 Olympian, who trains at Cal, had only been under 1:40 twice in the 200-yard fly, per USA Swimming’s database of times. His previous best came at NCAA’s in 2013 at 1:39.65.

It’s been a long journey for the 28-year-old to return to the top of the sport. Earlier this year, he opened up about a suicide attempt and mental health issues that contributed to a difficult 2019 in and out of the pool. Shield did finish second at nationals last year in the 200 fly in 1:55.25 to earn a trip to the Pan Am Games. He won Pan Ams gold in the 100 fly (51.59) and medley relay but finished a distant eighth in the 200 fly.

Shields just missed qualifying for the 2012 Olympics games but represented the U.S. in both the 100 and 200 fly in Rio in 2016. He missed the semifinals of the 200 fly in 20th place but finished seventh over the shorter distance. He garnered a gold medal for swimming in prelims of the medley relay in Rio.

Shields has long been better over short-course than long. He’s got one relay medal in the long-course World championships compared to 15 in short-course worlds, including five individual silvers. He holds American records in short-course meters for the 100 (48.63 seconds) and 200 fly (1:49.05).

But both of those date to the 2015 Duel in the Pool. Swimming for the L.A. Current in the ISL last fall, he got close to the 200 fly SCM mark with a 1:50.25. His quickest recent 100 fly SCM time is 49.39, also from the ISL meet.

Shields also swam the 100 backstroke Friday, clocking in at 45.67. It’s about a second shy of his best time in that event (44.86, set at NCAAs in 2012). Both times were USCD Natatorium records, the 200 fly mark by more than eight seconds.