U.S. Olympic Trials: Chris Guiliano Seeking to Join a Legend in Elite Company


U.S. Olympic Trials: Chris Guiliano Seeking to Join a Legend in Elite Company

As the United States Olympic Trials neared, Chris Guiliano was viewed as a leading contender to secure a ticket to the Olympic Games in Paris. Guiliano, though, has vastly exceeded expectations in Indianapolis – and is now on the cusp of history, and placing his name alongside that of a legend.

The Notre Dame standout’s opening act at Lucas Oil Stadium was a runnerup finish in the 200-meter freestyle on the third night of competition. That effort landed Guiliano an individual bid to the Olympics and guaranteed his presence on the American 800 freestyle relay, which will battle Great Britain – among others – for gold.

Two days later, the 20-year-old defeated a loaded field in the final of the 100 freestyle, as his mark of 47.25 powered Guiliano to victory over sprint stalwarts Jack Alexy and Caeleb Dressel. That performance also ensured Guiliano will lead the Team USA charge in the 400 freestyle relay, which the Americans have won in three of the past four Games.

More work could be on the way.

On Thursday night, Guiliano registered the fastest time in the semifinals of the 50 freestyle, going 21.59 to grab the top seed for the final. If Guiliano can place among the top two in the sprint event, he’ll become just the second American in Olympic history to qualify for the 50-100-200 triple. Only the legendary Matt Biondi has accomplished the feat, doing so at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

“In (2021), I swam in Wave I, so this is my first time doing this,” Guiliano said of competing with the elite athletes in the country. “It’s been a blast…My confidence is through the roof. Next month, we got to keep it moving.”

The 1988 Games marked the first time the 50 freestyle was included on the Olympic program, and Biondi took advantage. While the Cal star was best known as a pure sprinter, he possessed the endurance – and guts – to extend to the 200 freestyle. In Seoul, Biondi claimed gold in the 50 and 100 distances, and added a bronze medal in the 200 free. He was also the silver medalist in the 100 butterfly and powered three U.S. relays to gold.

Whether Guiliano matches Biondi’s schedule will be determined on Friday night, but just to be in the same conversation as a Hall of Famer is a testament to the excellence he has displayed this week. More, the fact that 36 years have elapsed without anyone joining Biondi is proof of the task’s difficulty.

Specialization is the norm in the freestyle races, with athletes primarily focusing on two-event combinations: 50-100; 100-200; 200-400; 800-1500. Obviously, there are exceptions, and witnessing triples in midseason meets isn’t unusual. But Guiliano is seeking to pull off the feat at the most-challenging Olympic Trials in the world.

A legend may get company.

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