Elizabeth Beisel swam at her first world championships in 2007 at age 14. She’s expected to make this year’s world championships her last at age 24.
The three-time Olympian made her sixth straight world team by finishing second in the 400m individual medley at the USA Swimming Nationals, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast.
Beisel actually touched the wall third, 4.69 seconds behind winner Leah Smith. She was upgraded to second — and the final world team berth — after runner-up Ella Eastin was disqualified for an illegal turn.
“Since [Beisel] was about 12 or 13, she’s been the top of USA Swimming,” Smith said on Universal HD. “I’m sad that this is her last year of swimming.”
Beisel did not dive into retirement talk Thursday but said she’s “nearing the end” and that her Speedo contract is up in December.
Beisel, who made the team on just two months of training after a post-Rio break, regretted qualifying via DQ and said she urged Eastin to appeal.
“It’s weird for me to say that I am going to Budapest … the circumstances couldn’t be worse,” Beisel said on USA Swimming’s Deck Pass Live. “After the race [but before the DQ], I was looking at Leah, I was looking at Ella, and I was like, you guys are the future. I’m handing you the 400m IM baton.”
Beisel learned of the DQ first by looking at the scoreboard. Still in the pool, she told Eastin, a rising Stanford junior who had thought she made her first world team.
“You just see how elated she is,” Beisel said, “and you go from cloud nine to rock bottom in three seconds.”
Eastin’s last shot to make the world team comes in the 200m individual medley Saturday. She is ranked third in the U.S. this year in the event.
In other races Thursday, Olympians Kelsi Worrell and Caeleb Dressel won the 100m butterflies. Olympic silver medalist Chase Kalisz took the men’s 400m IM in 4:06.99, the fastest time in the world this year.
Kalisz is going to his third straight worlds, while Beisel is the only American swimmer to qualify for every major international meet since 2006.
She essentially took nine months off from competition after the Rio Olympics, traveling the world with eight-time Olympic medalist Allison Schmitt, who is believed to be retired.
“Now, at my age, I know what I can mentally and physically handle, and I’m not going to overdo it,” Beisel said on Deck Pass on Tuesday. “I know I’m not going to make the team in certain events, so I’m putting all my eggs in one basket this week [the 400m IM] with hopes that it works out. I’m what they call a one-hit wonder these days.”
Beisel was the youngest member of the U.S. team at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships (qualifying as a 13-year-old), 2007 World Championships and 2008 Olympics.
She earned her first world medal in 2009, then the world 400m IM title in 2011.
Both of her Olympic medals came in London, where she led the 400m IM by .81 of a second after 300 meters. But then Chinese 16-year-old Ye Shiwen went 1.77 seconds faster than Beisel on the first 50 meters of freestyle and ended up beating the American by 2.84 seconds, taking 1.02 off the world record.
Plenty of scrutiny was placed on Ye, the 2011 World 200m IM champion who chopped more than five seconds off her 400m IM personal best in London. But Beisel was not outwardly skeptical of Ye, who since London has not swum within two seconds of her since-broken world record.
“She had the race of her life,” Beisel said minutes after the London 400m IM. “Congratulations to her a million times over. It’s definitely hard getting second, but I can’t complain at all.“
Beisel later took bronze in the London 200m backstroke, sharing the podium with Missy Franklin.
In 2016, Beisel made the Olympic team by finishing second in the 400m IM at trials and then placed sixth in Rio.
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