As swimmers finish Olympic Trials prep, must-see events take shape

2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials - Day 7
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Over the next two weekends, many of the U.S.’ top swimmers are expected to fine-tune in races ahead of next month’s Olympic Trials by competing across the country.

Indianapolis hosts the last pre-Trials meet of the Tyr Pro Swim Series this week. Olympic Channel airs live finals coverage Friday at 6 p.m. ET. NBCSN airs live finals coverage Saturday at 6. USASwimming.org streams finals on Wednesday and Thursday.

Lilly KingRegan Smith and Nathan Adrian are the headliners in Indy.

Over in Georgia, Caeleb DresselRyan Lochte and Ryan Murphy are entered in the Atlanta Classic from Friday through Sunday, live streaming on Swim Atlanta’s YouTube channel.

Next week, Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel are expected to compete in Austin, Texas, according to Swimswam.com.

At Trials in Omaha, the top two per individual event will make the Olympic team. Here’s a look at what are shaping up to the most exciting finals at Trials …

Women’s 100m Backstroke
Top 5 since 1/1/2019
1. Regan Smith 57.57 WR
2. Kathleen Baker 58.56
3. Phoebe Bacon 58.63
4. Olivia Smoliga 58.73
5. Katharine Berkoff 59.29

Top 5 since 1/1/2021
1. Olivia Smoliga 59.04
2. Claire Curzan 59.37
3. Regan Smith 59.39
4. Kathleen Baker 59.45
5. Rhyan White 59.66

The most loaded event in American swimming: the current world record holder (Smith), the previous world record holder (Baker), the world bronze medalist (Smoliga) and a pair of teen stars (Bacon, 18, and Curzan, 16). The U.S. has four in the world top 10 since the start of 2019, and that doesn’t include Curzan, who during the pandemic lowered a bunch of national age group records. An Olympic medal-worthy swimmer will not make the team.

Men’s 200m Individual Medley
Top 5 since 1/1/2019
1. Chase Kalisz 1:56.78
2. Michael Andrew 1:56.83
3. Carson Foster 1:57.59
4. Abrahm DeVine 1:57.66
5. Ryan Lochte/Sam Stewart 1:57.76

Top 5 since 1/1/2021
1. Michael Andrew 1:57.98
2. Kieran Smith 1:59.38
3. Abrahm DeVine 1:59.65
4. Ryan Lochte 1:59.72
5. Caeleb Dresel 2:00.13

The most intriguing men’s event ever since it became clear that it’s Lochte’s primary, and maybe only, shot at qualifying for a fifth Olympics at age 36. To become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in history, Lochte must navigate a field that includes the 2017 World champion (Kalisz), a phenom who turned professional at age 14 (Andrew, now 22) and a man nearly half his age (19-year-old Carson Foster, who in 2018 broke a national age group record). In Lochte’s favor: the U.S. is not nearly as dominant in this event as it once was. No Americans are in the top five in the world since the start of 2019. None are in the top 10 this year. And it’s believed that Lochte hasn’t raced a 200m IM fully fit or fully rested in this Olympic cycle. He has the ability to go significantly faster than the 1:57.76 he clocked at 2019 Nationals, his first meet back from a 14-month suspension when he said he was 22 pounds overweight.

Women’s 200m Freestyle
Top 5 since 1/1/2019
1. Katie Ledecky 1:54.40
2. Allison Schmitt 1:56.01
3. Simone Manuel 1:56.09
4. Katie McLaughlin 1:56.48
5. Leah Smith 1:57.40

Top 5 since 1/1/2021
1. Katie Ledecky 1:54.40
2. Katie McLaughlin 1:57.48
3. Allison Schmitt 1:58.04
4. Torri Huske 1:58.09
5. Justina Kozan 1:58.10

For Ledecky, the most challenging event on her program given she’s not expected to try for the Olympic team in the 100m free. Though Ledecky hasn’t won a major international 200m free title since Rio, she also hasn’t been beaten by a countrywoman in a full meet 200m free in seven years. The Olympic Trials field should nonetheless be decorated. Schmitt is the 2012 Olympic champion and American record holder. Manuel is the world champion in the 50m and 100m frees who should be valuable on the 4x200m free relay come Tokyo, if not making the individual 200m free. Smith is the Olympic 400m free bronze medalist.

Men’s 100m Freestyle
Top 5 since 1/1/2019
1. Caeleb Dressel 46.96
2. Ryan Held 47.39
3. Maxime Rooney 47.61
4. Zach Apple 47.69
5. Blake Pieroni 47.87

Top 5 since 1/1/2021
1. Ryan Held 48.68
2. Nathan Adrian 48.74
3. Caeleb Dressel 48.82
4. Zach Apple 48.89
5. Justin Ress 49.06

Dressel repeated as world champion in 2019 in the second-fastest time in history. He’s expected to make the Olympic team in three individual events, including this one. The intrigue lies with Adrian, the 2012 Olympic champion coming back from testicular cancer. Adrian, an eight-time Olympic medalist, made the U.S. team for the year’s biggest meet (Olympics/worlds/Pan Pacs) each of the last 12 times. The 32-year-old also has a chance in the 50m free, but his focus has always been the 100m. Keep in mind that, in addition to the top two racing it individually at the Olympics, it’s expected that the top six at Trials will make the Olympic team in the 4x100m free relay pool. Adrian is ranked eighth in the U.S. since the start of 2019.

Women’s 100m Butterfly
Top 5 since 1/1/2019
1. Claire Curzan 56.20
2. Torri Huske 56.69
3. Kelsi Dahlia 57.06
4. Katie McLaughlin 57.23
5. Regan Smith 57.34

Top 5 since 1/1/2021
1. Claire Curzan 56.20
2. Torri Huske 56.69
3. Katie McLaughlin 57.39
4. Gretchen Walsh 57.43
5. Regan Smith 57.88

Maybe no event has been impacted more by the one-year Olympic postponement. Dahlia was the U.S.’ fastest 100m flyer every year from 2015 through 2019. But last month, high schoolers Curzan and Huske posted those nation-leading times. Then there’s Smith, another teen, who owns both backstroke world records but can also swim both butterflies at Olympic Trials without having to race more than twice in any single session in Omaha. This will be the first event at Trials for all of these swimmers. The 200m fly may be just as exciting, featuring world silver and bronze medalists Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot and Smith, who just before the Olympics were postponed swam a time that would have won the 2019 World title.

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