2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Preview: Legacy and Future in Men’s 200 IM

There are three basic storylines for the 200 IM at Olympic Trials this year, each one roughly coinciding with a different group of swimmers:

The Dynamic Duo Will Dominate

Barring unforeseen accidents, illness, or incident, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps will almost certainly represent the United States at Rio this summer for the 4th consecutive Games, and the 200 IM will be the only race at Olympic Trials that will feature the two fastest men ever competing against each other.

While Phelps has won gold at each of those past three Olympics, Lochte is the world record holder, with his 1:54.00 from the 2011 World Championships just eclipsing Phelps’s 1:54.16 from the same race.  Phelps had the fastest time in the world last year, a 1:54.75 at US Summer Nationals, while Lochte registered a 1:55.81 en route to a fourth-straight gold medal at the World Championships.

Other Veterans Will Make Their Presence Known

Phelps’s former NBAC teammate Conor Dwyer, who’s been training with Trojan for the past year or so, is the 5th-fastest American ever, and the 3rd-fastest in textile.  Dwyer has been the other American representative at the two world championships since Phelps retired after London, and boasts a lifetime best of 1:57.41, from 2014.  At the ripe old age of 27 (OK, well, not “old” old, but not young in swimming terms), Dwyer probably doesn’t have much more room for improvement here, but his freestyle has been looking great, and should Phelps or Lochte falter, Dwyer should be next in line for a spot.

Tyler Clary has also done well in this event, but with the 200m backstroke final the same night as the 200 IM, Clary did not compete in this event in 2012, and it does not look likely that he will compete this year either.  If he does decide to swim it, he should make the final.

Austin Surhoff, Cody Miller, and Kyle Whitaker were all in the final in 2012, and all are still competing.  Surhoff trains with Phelps, and sports the best time since 2012, a 1:58.80 from last summer’s Nationals.  Miller is an elite breastroker, and hasn’t competed in this event at a major meet since the 2012 U.S. Open.  Whitaker’s 1:59.13 from 2014 Summer Nationals is faster than he went at OT’s, and he was a finalist at last summer’s World University Games, finishing 7th.

Rounding out the returning finalists is someone who bridges the gap a bit between the veterans and the next group, and that’s Chase Kalisz.   He’s been training with Phelps for years, and while he seems to have stalled in this event a bit, he is a beast in the longer IM, and at the age of 22 , he could be ready to pop off, pass Dwyer, and perhaps even challenge Phelps or Lochte for a spot here.  His best time, a 1:58.52, was from 2013.

One more veteran to mention is Michael Weissdropped over two seconds off his best time at USA Nationals last December, his time of 1:58.97 the first time the first time he’d gone faster than 2:01.  He finished 19th at Trials in 2012.

Who Is Going to Succeed Phlochte in This Event?

Phelps says this is definitely his last go-around.  Lochte is 32 and this could be it for him as well.  The final here could go a long way in showing which two swimmers will be representing the USA at international meets for years to come.

NCAA stars Will Licon and Josh Prenot have both made major strides over the past couple of years but lead a crop of college swimmers who are still looking for a long course breakthrough, whether in this event or another.  Licon is the 3rd-fastest man ever in the short course yards version of this event and won at NCAA’s this year.  He’s not yet to the same level in long course, but went 1:58.43 last summer after coming off a bout of mono.  Prenot finished 2nd at NCAA’s this year behind Licon, but won gold at WUG’s last summer with a 1:58.38.

Both will have to balance this event with the 200 breaststroke in the Olympic Trials format. The 200 breast final takes place on the same night as the 200 IM semifinals. But with the 200 breast opening the session, the 200 IM closing it and 5 other events in between, the double is doable if either or both men push for it.

Josh Prenot finished 2nd to a Will Licon record in the 200 breaststroke. (Photo Courtesy: Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com)

Cal’s Josh Prenot (Photo Courtesy: Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com)

Andrew Seliskar is the 15-16 NAG record holder in this event, but has yet to improve on that time, a 1:59.84 from the 2013 Junior World Championships.  He’s been training with Prenot and the rest of the Cal team for the past year, however, and it’d be surprising if he doesn’t see some improvement this summer.

Gunnar Bentz’s trajectory in this event has followed a similar path as Seliskar’s.  He has some really fast times as age grouper, and then seemed to stall a bit at the end of high school and beginning of college, but he’s got tremendous long course potential in this event, and should also cut some time from his best of 1:59.19, from 2014 Summer Nationals.

While he’s not dropping NAG records like he seemingly was a few years ago, you can’t ignore the fact Michael Andrew had the 8th-fastest time in the US last year, a 1:59.86 that also puts him 2nd all-time in the 15-16 age group, just .02 behind Seliskar and ahead of Phelps.

Going into the 2012 Trials, nine men had been under 2:00 in the previous four years.  It took a 2:01.51 to make finals in 2012.  This quad, there are 16 men who have cracked that 2:00 barrier.  The bottom line is that while it is unlikely that there will be any drama over who the top two will be, the competition to make the final will be incredibly fierce, and anyone who doesn’t take the semi-final seriously could find themselves on the outside looking in.



Top 8 Picks

Swimmer Best Time (Since 2012) Predicted Time in Omaha
Michael Phelps 1:54.75 1:54.85
Ryan Lochte 1:54.98 1:54.95
Conor Dwyer 1:57.41 1:56.92
Chase Kalisz 1:58.52 1:57.00
Will Licon 1:58.43 1:57.20
Josh Prenot 1:58.38 1:57.24
Gunnar Bentz 1:59.19 1:58.60
Kyle Whitaker 1:59.13 1:59.88

Dark horse: David Nolan, the fastest ever in the yards version of this event, finally cracked 2:00 in long course this past weekend at the Longhorn Elite Invite.  He’s spent the past year in Tempe, training under Bob Bowman, alongside Phelps, Kalisz, and Surhoff, and fans would love to see him finally translate his short course prowess into success in the bigger pool.


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Phelps and Lochte 1/2 in Rio and London

Phelps goes sub 1:54 in London.


Phelps didn’t go sub-1:54 in London…?


Boy I need to proofread before I post.


U bet !!! LOL


Dwyer is the 5th fastest ever behind shanteau and clary

bobo gigi

I don’t see what Licon and Prenot have to do in that event. Unless MP and Lochte are poisoned on the same day we all know the 1-2 finish. The 200 IM prelims are in the morning. Keep your energy for the 200 breast final on the evening. It will be a close race and the difference between a 2nd and 3rd place could be made with that kind of little details.
The goal at trials is not to swim the maximum of events. The goal is to qualify.

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