Following the 2012 London Olympics Games, much of the conversation about Team USA’s male sprinters has focused on the veteran men and lack of youth to keep the Americans on the podium in the 400 free relay for Rio 2016. Things began to look bleak in 2014, when only 2 American veterans, Olympic gold medalists Nathan Adrian and Michael Phelps, were able to swim under 48.50. A year later at the 2015 World Championships, the downward trajectory continued when the American men failed to make the finals of the 400 free relay. In the face of heavy criticism, Team USA has badly needed its young male sprinters to step up. In the lead up to Rio, quite a few have done just that.
Caeleb Dressel has asserted his way into the Olympic conversation with his multiple American and NCAA Records during his first 2 seasons at Florida, as well as his 2015 National Championships title in the 100 free. The 19-year-old Dressel powered his way to a 48.78 last summer to win the National title. Dressel has been getting better and better, with tremendous yards swims of 18.20 in the 50 and 40.46 in the 100. After downing Nathan Adrian‘s American Record in the yards pool, the youngster now has a chance to showdown with the defending Olympic champ at trials. Dressel looks ready for the challenge, having swum a best time in season with his 48.74 at the Tennessee Aquatics June Invite, just 3 weeks ahead of trials.
Dressel is one of a slew of young swimmers who are now in the picture for this event. Missouri’s Michael Chadwick and incoming Florida freshman Maxime Rooney broke onto the scene last summer, as they were the only American men under 49 aside from Adrian and Dressel. Chadwick posted a 48.87 to win Athens sectionals. Rooney matched that performance, swimming a 48.87 at the 2015 FINA Junior World Championships.
Texas’ Jack Conger will likely make a run for a 400 free relay spot. Conger, who finished 2nd behind Dressel at 2015 Nationals, swam a 49.02 at the 2015 World University Games. He’s shown promising signs that he’s capable of going faster with multiple 47.9 relay splits at that meet.
While these swimmers give us the potential to see a changing of the guard, we definitely can’t count out veteran Nathan Adrian. Following his Olympic gold in 2012, Adrian maintained a top 3 position at 2013 Worlds (47.82) and 2014 Pan Pacs (48.05). Adrian swam a 48.00 at Mesa Pro Swim this season, the fastest he’s been since 2014 and less than a half second off his winning 47.52 from 2012.
With the hype surrounding the Olympic year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more American veterans return to stronger form. Conor Dwyer and Matt Grevers swam on the 400 free relay at Worlds last summer. Grevers swam a 48.67 on the 3rd leg, and Dwyer followed suit with a 48.44 anchor. Individually in this Olympic cycle, Grevers’ fastest has been a 48.91 from 2013, and he hasn’t entered the 100 free tapered since. He’s done his part for Team USA on the 400 free relay before, splitting a 47.54 in London. Like Grevers, Dwyer focuses more on other events, but has been a 48.94 from a flat start.
Also members of the 2015 Worlds relay, Anthony Ervin and Jimmy Feigen have been far from their bests recently. Feigen missed semis at the 2015 World Championships, swimming a 49.12 out of prelims. On the relay, Ervin swam a 49.69 from a rolling start, with a painful looking 2nd 50. To make the Rio team, Feigen and Ervin will need to return to 2013 Worlds form, where Feigen split a 47.7 and Ervin split a 47.38 on the 400 free relay.
This season, USA National Teamer Josh Schneider broke 49 for the first time with a 48.91 at the FINA World Cup. He then went on to improve that time at U.S. Winter Nationals, placing 4th in 48.76. After a narrow miss in the 50 free at 2012 trials, Schneider will be looking to make his first Olympic team.
While neither swam this event last summer, it’s likely that Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte will challenge for a relay spot. In the first year of his comeback, Phelps posted a 48.45 at 2014 Pan Pacs, the 2nd fastest time done by an American since 2013. Phelps has been as fast as 47.51 from a flat start (2008) and a 47.15 relay split (2012). Individually since London, Lochte has swum a 48.58 from 2013 worlds, and his relay split there was a 47.80. Time will tell if Lochte’s move to SwimMAC has helped him build his speed.
Men’s 100 Free Top 12 Predictions:
|Place||Name||Best Since London||Predicted Time||Training Base|
|1||Nathan Adrian||47.84||47.6||University of California, Berkeley|
|2||Caeleb Dressel||48.74||47.9||University of Florida, Gainesville|
|3||Michael Phelps||48.45||48.2||Arizona State, Tempe|
|4||Jack Conger||49.02||48.5||University of Texas, Austin|
|5||Maxime Rooney||48.87||48.5||Pleasanton Seahawks, CA|
|6||Jimmy Feigen||47.82||48.6||SwimMAC Carolina, Charlotte|
|7||Matt Grevers||48.91||48.6||University of Arizona, Tucson|
|8||Ryan Lochte||48.58||48.6||SwimMAC Carolina, Charlotte|
|9||Anthony Ervin||48.49||48.7||University of California, Berkeley|
|10||Conor Dwyer||48.94||48.7||Trojan Swim Club, Los Angeles|
|11||Josh Schneider||48.76||48.8||University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati|
|12||Michael Chadwick||48.87||48.8||University of Missouri, Columbia|
Dark Horse: High school junior Ryan Hoffer swam a blistering 41.23 in the 100 Yard Free at 2015 Winter Juniors. His long course best is a 49.73 from 2015 Junior Worlds. If the Cal commit can translate his improvements to long course, he should have a shot at the top 8.