Refocused Hali Flickinger Wins 200 Butterfly in U.S. Open Record; Regan Smith Adds to Program

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Hali Flickinger started the Olympic trials strong, but it turns out, she was just getting started.

Flickinger won the 200 butterfly in a time of 2:05.85 — that was a U.S. Open record — and officially punched her ticket to Tokyo after getting second in the 400 IM earlier in the meet. Now that is official for Flickinger and she will swim both events.

“It means a lot. I worked really hard after 2019 with what happened in the final (at worlds),” Hali Flickinger said. “I’ve worked to make sure that hopefully never happens again, and I am glad the improvements I worked on are starting to show.”

It capped a rocky — and at times tumultuous — Olympic cycle for Flickinger after making the team in 2016 in the 200 butterfly.

After a disappointing silver medal at the 2019 World Championships when she was the gold-medal favorite, Flickinger continued to feel the pressure. It took a mental toll and she moved across the country for a new scene and a new outlook.

Moving to train with Bob Bowman at Arizona State changed everything for Flickinger.

“I had a little too much pressure on my shoulders in the 200 fly. I was carrying self doubt. I made sure Bob was aware of that and it was something I wanted to hit head on,” Flickinger said. “I think when I walked into Bob’s office, I made clear of my goal and I was open with what I was struggling with mentally — and things I needed to work on — and he took that and took the perfect balance to help with what was going on in my head. I didn’t overthink it and I was just swimming it, and I dropped time in it.”

It was Regan Smith took the early lead, pushing the pace on the first 50 and 100. Smith had a slight edge over Flickinger at the 100, but Flickinger passed Smith on the final turn and hung on for the win with Smith getting second.

Smith finished in 2:06.99, holding off a late-charging Charlotte Hook 2:07.92.

“My swim, I was really, really pleased with it. I was a little bit off my best, and I’ll take it. The finals are all about racing, and I did what I needed to do. I never thought I would make the team in the 200 butterfly, so it’s very special,” Smith said. “Butterfly has always been the fun one. Backstroke, I think I subconsciously put a lot more pressure on myself. Butterfly, I just go out and have a lot of fun and see what happens. I went out and enjoyed the race.”

Flickinger, like Smith, said that training in multiple events helped her take her mind off of a solitary focus.

“It helped a lot. When I go to practice every day, there is not just one focus,” Flickinger said. “He made sure that whatever we did, I was working hard and it just happened.”

It just happened, but it wasn’t surprising.

“It didn’t surprise me. Bob and I talked about it. I knew what I was doing in practice and knew what was possible,” Flickinger said. “I was hopeful, and I am glad it all came together.”

It was a relatively new field to the final, especially long course, as Dakota Luther (2017 Worlds) the only swimmer with major international experience with 2019 Worlds bronze medalist Katie Drabot not making the final, though Olivia Carter was the NCAA champion in the event in March. Regan Smith obviously has plenty of experience internationally, but not in the butterfly. She made 2019 worlds in both backstroke events and performed at world-record pace. This meet is her first on the big stage in the 200 butterfly.

Lindsay Looney finished fourth (2:08.40), followed by Kelly Pash (2:08.59), Luther (2:09.40), Carter (2:09.79) and Rachel Klinker (2:11.09).

But it was Flickinger, who had the top time through prelims and semifinals, that got to the wall first.

Women’s 200 Butterfly Top 8 Results

  1. Hali Flickinger, 2:05.85
  2. Regan Smith, 2:06.99
  3. Charlotte Hook, 2:07.92
  4. Lindsay Looney, 2:08.40
  5. Kelly Pash, 2:08.58
  6. Dakota Luther, 2:09.40
  7. Olivia Carter, 2:09.79
  8. Rachel Klinker, 2:11.09
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