Getty Images

U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials women’s event-by-event preview

Leave a comment

The top two finishers in all 26 events at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials will clinch Rio berths, which means Olympic and/or World champions will be left out of the exclusive team.

Michael PhelpsRyan LochteMissy Franklin and Katie Ledecky headline the meet in Omaha, Neb., beginning Sunday.

While they are favorites to make the Olympic team, they will be joined by many more Olympic medal threats.

For relays, the top six finishers in the 100m and 200m freestyles are in line to to make the Olympic team, too.

TRIALS: Broadcast ScheduleEntry Lists
PREVIEWS: Men | Women
FIVE KEY RACES: Men | Women

Here’s a glimpse at all 13 women’s events at the Olympic Trials:

50m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Jessica Hardy (seventh), Kara Lynn Joyce (16th)
2015 Worlds: Simone Manuel (eighth), Ivy Martin (26th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Madison Kennedy (24.45)
2. Simone Manuel (24.47)
3. Ivy Martin (24.62)
4. Natalie Coughlin (24.66)
5. Dana Vollmer (24.69)

Outlook: The fastest American woman right now is the 28-year-old Kennedy, who is vying for her Olympic debut. She’s never even competed at the World Championships, but won the 50 free national title last summer. The 19-year-old Manuel was the best American at the 2015 Worlds, where she was joined by Martin, 22.

100m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Missy Franklin (fifth), Jessica Hardy (eighth)
2015 Worlds: Simone Manuel (sixth), Missy Franklin (seventh)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Simone Manuel (53.25)
2. Missy Franklin (53.43)
3. Dana Vollmer (53.59)
4. Katie Ledecky (53.75)
5. Abbey Weitzeil (53.77)
6. Natalie Coughlin (53.85)
7. Margo Geer (53.95)
8. Lia Neal (54.01)

Outlook: There’s a serious youth movement taking place in the women’s 100m free. The top two seeds are 19 and 21 years old, respectively, and the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds are also 19. Manuel has the looks of being the next great American sprinter, but the new mother, 28-year-old Vollmer, boasts the fastest American time in the past year. Remember, the top six should make the team for the relay pool.

200m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Allison Schmitt (gold), Missy Franklin (fourth)
2015 Worlds: Katie Ledecky (gold), Missy Franklin (bronze)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Ledecky (1:54.43)
2. Missy Franklin (1:55.49)
3. Allison Schmitt (1:56.23)
4. Leah Smith (1:56.64)
5. Melanie Margalis (1:57.33)
6. Shannon Vreeland (1:57.38)
7. Katie McLaughlin (1:57.55)
8. Maya DiRado (1:57.70)

Outlook: It’s not often the reigning Olympic champ isn’t favored to even qualify for a chance to defend her title, but Schmitt will have to oust either the 2013 World champion (Franklin) or 2015 World champion (Ledecky) for an individual 200 free spot (top six likely for relay). Franklin would love a 200 free Olympic medal after finishing fourth in London, while Ledecky is a freestyle machine.

400m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Allison Schmitt (silver), Chloe Sutton (10th)
2015 Worlds: Katie Ledecky (gold), Cierra Runge (ninth)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Ledecky (3:58.37)
2. Leah Smith (4:03.33)
3. Cierra Runge (4:04.55)
4. Allison Schmitt (4:06.88)
5. Becca Mann (4:07.09)

Outlook: Here’s another event in which Schmitt may not even get a chance to return to the Olympics despite claiming a medal four years ago. The 400 is dominated by Ledecky, the reigning world champ with a top time nearly five seconds better than Smith. The battle will really be between Smith, Runge and Schmitt for that second berth.

800m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Katie Ledecky (gold), Kate Ziegler (21st)
2015 Worlds: Katie Ledecky (gold), Becca Mann (10th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Ledecky (8:06.68)
2. Becca Mann (8:21.77)
3. Cierra Runge (8:24.69)
4. Leah Smith (8:24.74)
5. Stephanie Peacock (8:25.89)

Outlook: This is Ledecky’s event and the others are just swimming in it. Again, the battle at Trials will be for second place because no one’s catching Ledecky. The 18-year-old Mann holds the second seed and will try to hold off Runge, Smith and Peacock.

100m Backstroke
2012 Olympians: Missy Franklin (gold), Rachel Bootsma (11th)
2015 Worlds: Missy Franklin (fifth), Kathleen Baker (eighth)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Natalie Coughlin (59.05)
2. Missy Franklin (59.38)
3. Olivia Smoliga (59.41)
4. Claire Adams (59.58)
5. Kathleen Baker (59.63)

Outlook: This is the 33-year-old Coughlin’s best shot at making a fourth Olympic team individually. Two of her 12 Olympic medals are golds from the 100 back (2004 and ’08), but she couldn’t advance past Trials in the event four years ago. Her toughest competition should come from Franklin, the reigning Olympic champion.

200m Backstroke
2012 Olympians: Missy Franklin (gold), Elizabeth Beisel (bronze)
2015 Worlds: Missy Franklin (silver), Elizabeth Beisel (13th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Missy Franklin (2:06.34)
2. Maya DiRado (2:08.19)
3. Elizabeth Beisel (2:08.33)
4. Lisa Bratton (2:09.31)
5. Elizabeth Pelton (2:09.36)

Outlook: Franklin’s best event – she holds the world record from her final race in London (2:04.06) – sees her with a top time nearly two seconds faster than DiRado, who’s looking for her first Olympic berth. She’ll have to beat Beisel, the Olympic bronze medalist from 2012.

100m Breaststroke
2012 Olympians: Rebecca Soni (silver), Breeja Larson (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Jessica Hardy (10th), Micah Lawrence (19th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Meili (1:05.64)
2. Lilly King (1:05.73)
3. Molly Hannis (1:06.16)
4. Sarah Haase (1:06.31)
5. Jessica Hardy (1:06.51)

Outlook: Meili is the reigning national champ, and her top time is third-best in the world since the end of 2014. King’s top mark in this event is the fourth-best over the same span. Less than a second back is Hardy, who seeks a second Olympic berth but first in a breaststroke event.

200m Breaststroke
2012 Olympians: Rebecca Soni (gold), Micah Lawrence (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Micah Lawrence (silver), Breeja Larson (19th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Micah Lawrence (2:22.04)
2. Laura Sogar (2:23.54)
3. Katie Meili (2:23.69)
4. Breeja Larson (2:24.16)
5. Lilly King (2:24.47)

Outlook: Lawrence has stepped in nicely to fill the void left by Soni, the retired 200 breast Olympic champion in 2008 and ’12. She’s moved from sixth at the London Games, to bronze at the 2013 Worlds and silver at last year’s worlds. Yet, Sogar is the defending national champ.

100m Butterfly
2012 Olympians: Dana Vollmer (gold), Claire Donahue (seventh)
2015 Worlds: Kendyl Stewart (10th), Claire Donahue (20th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Dana Vollmer (56.94)
2. Kelsi Worrell (57.24)
3. Kendyl Stewart (57.82)
4. Katie McLaughlin (57.87)
5. Claire Donahue (58.03)

Outlook: Vollmer followed up her Olympic title with a bronze in this event at the 2013 Worlds, but she didn’t compete in the 2015 Worlds after having a baby earlier that March. She’s back in form now, posting her U.S.-best time of 56.94 earlier this year. Worrell was a butterfly star in college, so much so that she was recently nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.

200m Butterfly
2012 Olympians: Kathleen Hersey (fourth), Cammile Adams (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Cammile Adams (silver), Katie McLaughlin (sixth)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Cammile Adams (2:06.33)
2. Katie McLaughlin (2:06.95)
3. Maya DiRado (2:07.42)
4. Hali Flickinger (2:07.59)
5. Cassidy Bayer (2:08.03)

Outlook: DiRado has become America’s best in the medley races, but she could steal another berth in butterfly. Adams, a 2012 Olympian, is the favorite after taking silver at the 2015 Worlds, but she’s pushed by the 18-year-old McLaughlin, who’s been hampered by a neck injury suffered earlier this year on a training trip with her college team, Cal.

200m Individual Medley
2012 Olympians: Caitlin Leverenz (bronze), Ariana Kukors (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Maya DiRado (fourth), Melanie Margalis (seventh)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Maya DiRado (2:08.99)
2. Melanie Margalis (2:10.20)
3. Caitlin Leverenz (2:10.35)
4. Ella Eastin (2:10.54)
5. Madisyn Cox (2:10.75)

Outlook: While DiRado is a strong contender for multiple Olympic berths, she’s separated herself from her compatriots the most in the 200 IM. She missed a medal at the 2015 Worlds by .22 of a second. Joining her in that final was Margalis in her Worlds debut. She hopes to fend off Leverenz, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist whose best shot at a return Olympic trip is through this event.

400m Individual Medley
2012 Olympians: Elizabeth Beisel (silver), Caitlin Leverenz (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Maya DiRado (silver), Elizabeth Beisel (12th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Maya DiRado (4:31.71)
2. Elizabeth Beisel (4:31.99)
3. Caitlin Leverenz (4:35.46)
4. Becca Mann (4:37.04)
5. Katie Ledecky (4:37.93)

Outlook: This is the 23-year-old Beisel’s best shot at getting to a third Olympics. DiRado is the same age but looking to make her Olympic debut. She’s come on strong in the medleys since placing fourth in both the 200 and 400 at the 2012 Trials. Beisel and DiRado’s best times are nearly four seconds faster than the rest of their compatriots.

MORE: Olympic Swimming Trials broadcast schedule

Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15 in 2000

Leave a comment

In the biggest race of his young life, a 15-year-old Michael Phelps turned for the last 50 meters in fourth place of the U.S. Olympic Trials 200m butterfly final on Aug. 12, 2000.

His mom, Debbie, couldn’t watch. She turned away from the Indianapolis Natatorium pool and stared at the scoreboard. Both Debbie and Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, mentally prepared their consolation speeches for the rising Towson High School sophomore outside Baltimore.

Then Phelps, fueled by nightly Adam’s Mark chicken sandwich-and-cheesecake room service and amped by pre-race DMX on his CD player, turned it on. He zoomed into second place, becoming the youngest U.S. male swimmer to qualify for an Olympics since 1932.

Phelps had “come out of nowhere in the last six months” to become an Olympic hopeful, NBC Sports swimming commentator Dan Hicks said on the broadcast. True, Phelps chopped five and a half seconds off his personal best that March.

“He doesn’t know what it means to go to the Olympics and how it’s going to change his life,” Tom Malchow, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist who held off Phelps in that trials final, said that night, according to The Associated Press. “He’s going to find out soon.”

Phelps, who did his trademark arm flaps before the trials final, made Bowman look like a prophet. Four years earlier, the coach sat Debbie down for a conversation she would not soon forget.

“Told me what he projected for Michael,” Debbie said, according to the Baltimore Sun‘s front-page story on a local 15-year-old qualifying for the Sydney Games. “He said that in 2004, he would definitely be a factor in the Olympics. He also said that he could be there in 2000, to watch out for him. At the time, he was only 11.”

The trials were bittersweet for the Phelps family. Whitney, one of Phelps’ older sisters, withdrew before the meet with herniated discs in her back that kept her from making an Olympics after competing in the 1994 World Championships at age 14.

After Phelps qualified for the Olympics, one of the first people to embrace him was Whitney on the pool deck.

The next week, Phelps, still with bottom-teeth braces, did his first live TV sitdown on CNN, swiveling in his chair the whole time, according to his autobiography, “Beneath the Surface.”

The next month, Phelps finished fifth in his Olympic debut, clocking a then-personal-best time that would have earned gold or silver at every previous Olympics.

Following the Olympic race, gold medalist Malchow patted Phelps on the back, according to “No Limits,” another Phelps autobiography. What did Malchow say?

“The best is ahead of you.”

MORE: Meet Arnie the Terminator, Katie Ledecky’s top rival

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Arnie the Terminator: Aussie rival to Katie Ledecky an unlikely swim story

Leave a comment

In August 2016, a 15-year-old Australian swimmer named Ariarne Titmus followed the Rio Olympics as she prepared to fly to Maui for the Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

Titmus paid special attention to her best events, the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles. Katie Ledecky swept them, breaking two of her own world records.

“I remember watching her races thinking, like, this chick is nuts,” Titmus told NBC Sports in Australia early this year. “She’s just doing stuff that no one’s gonna get near.”

Three years later, Titmus stunned Ledecky at the world championships, chasing down the American in the last 50 meters of the 400m freestyle. She became the first woman to beat Ledecky in a distance race in seven years and a bona fide rival one year from the Tokyo Games.

Ledecky at first attributed her late fade to tight and tired legs. Then she spent seven hours the next day in a South Korean emergency room with what she believed was a stomach virus.

“She was sick,” said Dean Boxall, Titmus’ South African-born coach, “and we happened to pounce.”

Titmus’ time — 3:58.76, a personal best by .59 — was slower than Ledecky’s wins at her previous three major international meets — Rio Olympics, 2017 Worlds and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships.

“It wasn’t a good swim by Arnie,” said Boxall, a vocal coach known to shout Ledecky’s name in practices. “And I know it wasn’t a good swim by Katie. Definitely not. But there was things that Arnie did in that race I was pleased with, and there was a lot of things that she did that I was not happy with at all.”

The Olympic postponement to 2021 gives Titmus and Boxall another year to work on those inefficiencies down in Brisbane. Another year to mature, to turn 20 years old before the Games.

“I try not to dwell on that [beating Ledecky] too much,” Titmus, sometimes called “the Terminator” by Australian press, said of the world championships, where she also out-split Ledecky in the 4x200m free relay and took bronze behind the American in the 800m free. “Next year’s the big one at the Olympics.”

Nowhere is swimming closer to a national sport than in Australia, but none of its Olympic champion Dolphins hail from Tasmania, an island 150 miles south of the mainland.

Notable Tasmanian sports persons include cricketer Ricky Ponting, retired NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose and woodchopping world champion David Foster, but no listed swimmers.

Stephanie Rice, the last Australian female swimmer to win an individual Olympic title in 2008, visited “Tassie,” the state a little bigger than West Virginia, nearly a decade ago. She met a young Titmus, who still remembers what Rice scribbled: “Be the best you can be.”

“I say it’s my favorite quote,” Titmus said. “She wrote it on my shirt, so it has to be my favorite quote.”

Titmus was born a week before the Sydney Olympics — “She loved watching Thorpie,” her mom said — and grew up on 16 acres of country land. The family — parents Steve and Robyn and younger sister Mia — had horses, a trampoline and a swimming club just down the road in Launceston.

They also had an indoor pool (areas of Tasmania approach freezing in the winter). One evening more than 15 years ago, Robyn was chopping vegetables and peered to see her elder daughter, then a toddler without formal swim lessons, doing the breaststroke.

“We didn’t know anybody at the swimming club,” said Steve, a longtime TV journalist. “And we turned up and said, hi, we’re the Titmuses. We’ve got a daughter called Ariarne, and she wants to race. Tuesday nights they had club night, and she jumped in the water, and away she went.”

Titmus wasn’t the fastest at first, but by the time she won a third Australian junior title, she became too big for the Apple Isle.

“[My coach] said, look, you can’t really do anything else down here,” Titmus remembered. “There’s no one for you to train with. There’s no one for you to race. It’s all up in Queensland. And he said, if you really want a shot at this, you should really move.”

The family relocated to Brisbane when she was 14 or 15, following Titmus’ coach.

We packed up the car, got on the boat, sailed to Melbourne,” said Robyn, a former national-level track sprinter. “We even stopped at Albury on the way for a training session because the coach she had at the time was a hard task master.”

Right around that time, she first met Boxall while with the Australian junior national team.

“I originally thought this guy is nuts,” Titmus said. “He gave us this speech about the New Zealanders or something were trying to be better than us. His veins were popping. It was crazy. I was like, I’m never ever going to have a coach like him.”

Boxall became her coach about a year later.

“I’ve got great athletes here that hurt themselves, and they enjoy going through the pain,” he said, “but you want to try and get that little bit extra from someone. You have to actually go there with them a little bit.”

In a sitdown, on-camera interview, Boxall first told how he met Titmus, his first impression of her and a bit about their relationship. He first mentioned Ledecky, umprompted, when asked the fourth question, about Titmus’ progression.

Boxall noted that Titmus swam the 400m freestyle in 4:09.81 at the August 2016 Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

“Ledecky went 3:56:46,” Boxall said, correctly noting Ledecky’s Rio Olympic world record to the hundredth, “so we’re 13 seconds off [at] that stage.”

Titmus raced Ledecky for the first time at the 2017 Worlds and finished fourth in the 400m, closing the gap to six seconds. In 2018, she took second to Ledecky at Pan Pacs, 1.16 seconds behind, becoming the first Australian to break four minutes in the event.

At 2019 Worlds, Boxall needed to be alone during the 400m free final. He left the Australian team box and snuck into a VIP area. As Titmus reeled Ledecky in, Boxall stood up and ran.

“Like a shot of adrenaline,” he said. “I couldn’t contain myself, but I was calmer as I’d ever been as well.

“That’s the first race that Arnie has raced Katie and actually was in the race. … Prior to that, it was just Katie.”

Titmus swam 10 seconds faster than when Boxall first compared her to Ledecky in August 2016.

“She’s 2.4 seconds off [Ledecky’s] world record,” Boxall said. “We know what the benchmark is, and we’re still a long way off.”

Titmus recorded the eighth-fastest 400m freestyle in history. Ledecky owns the top seven times.

“The greatest thing apart from obviously winning, I think, [is] being able to actually race someone who has been on her own for so long,” Titmus said. “I find it so crazy that now I’m in this situation where she’s my main rival.”

Scroll down the list, and you’ll see that the top 27 times in history (aside from the now-banned suit era) are shared by Ledecky (23) and Titmus (four).

“She’s certainly special,” Boxall said of his pupil. “Special enough? We’ll see.”

MORE: Simone Manuel’s experiences shape her voice for change today

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!