5 men’s events to watch at the 2021 US Olympic trials
5 men’s events to watch at the 2021 US Olympic trials
After more than a year of uncertainty, the United States Olympic Trials are scheduled to take place next month. With Wave II around three weeks away, most top swimmers have completed their final preparation and have their eyes on Omaha. The show promises fast swimming and intriguing storylines across the board, as swimmers look to hit their tickets for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
With that in mind, here are five men’s events (in no particular order) that promise fireworks at the CHI Health Center.
Swimming enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting the 100 freestyle since the American men’s dazzling 2019 sprint. That year, six Americans dived under 48 seconds, with five making it to the top ten in the world. American record holder Caeleb Dressel is Team USA’s best sprint freestyler since 2017 and should be a lock to victory in Omaha.
As for the other individual spot and the four relay spots, the competition is extremely tight. the Olympic champion 2012, Nathan Adrian, will aim to crown its comeback from the fight against testicular cancer with a third Games participation in the event. Meanwhile, aafter winning gold in the 400 freestyle relay in Rio, Ryan held is looking for an individual spot this time around. The former NC State star was two years below par after Rio, but rebounded impressively in 2019, winning gold and breaking the US Open record (47.39) at national championships.
Other members of the under-48 club, Blake pieroni, Apple Zach, Tate jackson, and Maxime Rooney, have all looked impressive this year and are vying for seats on the plane to Tokyo. With guys like Dean farris, Brooks Curry, and Drew kibler also trying to compete in the olympics it would take maybe less than 48 years to qualify for the final at the Trials.
The 2009 world championship final is the only swimming competition in history to have been so fast, and this event also took place at the height of the super-suit era.
American men dominated this event at the Olympics. The US team have medaled in the 100 backstroke at every Games (except the 1980 boycott) since 1936 and are expected to extend the streak in Tokyo. As usual, the United States has several men who could win a medal once they make the squad.
World record holder Ryan murphy is swimming as fast as he did in preparation for Rio as he aims for a second trip to the Olympics. The former Cal Bear aims to bounce back from a disappointing 2019 by successfully defending his Trial and Olympic titles.
After painfully missing the team in 2016, 2012 Olympic champion Matt Grevers rebounded with silver at the World Championships the following year. He hasn’t been particularly impressive over the past year, but will be looking to peak at the right time, in what could quite possibly be his last test run.
Three-time NCAA champion Shaine Casas turned heads when he lost a 52.72 to win at the 2019 national championships. This time, placed fifth in the world this season and second among the Americans. Since that performance, he has continued to produce mind-blowing swims at the college level, being the NCAA’s top scorer last season. With his improvement curve in yards over the past two years, he’s bound to do great things in Omaha.
Former NC State Star Justin Ress followed an impressive ISL season with a 53.00 swim in North Carolina recently. With this time, the national champion 2017 in the back 50 is firmly in contention for a Toyko place.
Considering the talent and depth of the United States in the event, the American team will almost certainly leave a potential contender for the medal.
Gianluca Urlando instantly became the favorite to win at the Trials when he broke Michael phelpsNational record for the 16-year-old age group in 2019. The 1: 53.84 in Orlando made him the third-fastest American ever and the fastest since 2016. A shoulder injury in January 2020 threatened to deny him an Olympic spot, but with the Games postponed for a year, it gave the junior world champion time to fully recover. A successful freshman season with Georgia proved he is back in great shape and made him a favorite ahead of Omaha.
Behind a superb collegiate season, Trenton Julian set a huge personal best at the Atlanta Classic. With his 1: 55.77, Julian is the highest ranked American this year. He hopes to continue this momentum in the trials and follow his mother, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist. Kristine quance, representing Team USA at the highest level.
Zach Harting followed a 2018 breakout with a final appearance at the World Championships in Gwangju. He’s been consistently one of the best Americans at the event for the past three years, and we shouldn’t expect any difference in Omaha. Tom shields has made a commendable comeback since going public about his post-Rio mental health issues. It lit ISL Season 2 and looks to be gaining momentum as it approaches Trials.
Rio medalists Jack Conger (800 free relays), Gunnar Bentz (800 free relays) and Chase Kalisz (400 IM) all narrowly missed the team at the event in 2016. Expect them feature again in the finale this time around.
The 2021 US Olympic Trials will mark the first time Michael Phelps has not competed in the event since 1996. Who will take over the legendary butterfly coat?
200 individual mix
Can Ryan lochte to make a fifth Olympic team?
After his incident at the gas station in Rio which cost him several sponsorships and a 10-month ban, Lochte appeared to be making a comeback in 2018. That was until he got a 14-month suspension for receiving intravenous infusion prohibited. He marked his second comeback in style, winning the national championships with a 1: 57.76. Under Gregg Troy’s Intensive training schedule in season, he’s only been 1: 59.7 this year, but should lose a good deal of time once tapered. But does the world record holder have the speed to beat Chase kalisz, Michael andrew, Carson favor, and others?
Prior to the pandemic, Kalisz has been the dominant force for the United States in the event since Phelps’ retirement and is entering the trials with a slight advantage over his competition. Andrew may think differently. He made his credentials known just over a week ago, beating a 1: 56.84 in Indianapolis. Swimming ranks him number one among Americans this season. He clocked the best times in the 100 fly and chest in the same meet and seems to be getting back in shape at the right time.
Foster has been one of Team USA’s top IMers over the past three seasons. While the Texas star player probably has a better chance of making the squad in the 400 IM, with a personal best 1: 57.5 of 200, he can’t be counted.
National team members Sam stewart, Abrahm devine, and Andrew Seliskar have been in the 1: 57-high / 1: 58-low range for the last few years, so expect them to turn up a challenge as well.
A battle between medium and long distance swimmers: who will emerge victorious? What makes the event exciting is that Tokyo 2021 marks its first inclusion in the men’s Olympic program. Since this was not an Olympic event before, we haven’t seen swimmers pay so much attention to it in recent years.
Zane Grothe, Bobby finke, and Jordan wilimovsky have dominated the event throughout the Olympic cycle and most expect them to fight for the top two spots. Grothe got within two-tenths of the US record in 2018. Look for him to take it back in Omaha. Finke and Wilimovsky are better in the 1500 but have successfully come down to 800 in the past, and it shouldn’t be any different in practice.
On the other hand, we got to see 400 guys take the leap and surprise the distance aces.
The free US record holder of 500 Kieran smith turned heads when he kept it shot for blow with Grothe in a narrow loss at the TYR Pro Series in San Antonio in January. He is a candidate for an Olympic team in several events, including the 200 IM, where the semi-final collides with the 800 final. Smith may choose not to compete in the 800 to focus on the 200 IM, but given his Freestyle’s rapid rise over the past few seasons, neutral swimming fans would love to see what he could produce in the 16-lap event.
Another 200/400 swimmer targeting the 800 is a freshman in Georgia Jake magahey. The NCAA 500 champion posted his credentials with a 7:58 at the Atlanta Classic earlier this month. Given its reach, the 800 might be the perfect event for the SEC Freshman of the Year to make his first Olympic team.
All comments are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine or its staff.