The women’s 200 freestyle is absolutely loaded with talent. Okay, every event at the Olympic Trials is loaded with talent, but not in the same way that the women’s 200 free is. In 2012 Allison Schmitt won the race in Omaha with a time of 1:54.40, and Alyssa Anderson made the team by finishing 6th and exactly 4 seconds behind Schmitt with a 1:58.40. The entire field is much faster and deeper this time around, and it may take a 1:58.40 or faster just to make the semifinals this year.
Katie Ledecky has been unstoppable ever since she won her first Olympic gold in London four years ago at the age of 15 in the 800. The once-and-future distance queen has proven her ability to swim the shorter races as well, beating out Italian world-record-holder Federica Pellegrini and teammate Missy Franklin last summer in Kazan to win gold in the 200. Her endurance is complemented with sharpened front-end speed, as she has demonstrated with a series of 54-second 100 frees (and one 53) throughout 2015 and 2016.
Missy Franklin has been highly competitive in the 200 free ever since she placed 4th in it at 2012 Olympics in London. In 2013 Franklin was World Champion in the event, and in 2015 she won the bronze behind teammate Ledecky and Italian world-record-holder Pellegrini. Already having clocked a 1:57.67 at the Arena PSS in Orlando this March, Franklin looks not only for a relay spot, but for a chance to race the 200 free individually in Rio.
2012 Olympic Champion Allison Schmitt has been relatively removed from the spotlight since London, but her times speak for themselves. Last summer, instead of swimming at the World Championships in Kazan, Schmitt swam at the Pan American Games, winning the race by over one second and setting a new competition record (1:56.23). In April, Schmitt swam a brisk 1:56.52 at the Arena PSS in Mesa. Training buddy of Michael Phelps and fellow disciple of Bob Bowman, Schmitt has the training and the tools to wow in Omaha.
Sprint star Simone Manuel has been steadily improving in the 200 free, and she even got a best time in Atlanta last month (1:57.90), swimming beside winner Ledecky. Manuel, who swims for the Stanford Cardinal, has swum at the 2013 and 2015 FINA World Championships, as well as at the 2014 Pan Pacs, picking up medals of every color between the three competitions, including a gold in 2013 as a member of the 400 free relay.
Junior butterfly star Katie McLaughlin has shown promise on her road to recovery after a neck injury that she endured during Cal Berkley’s training trip to Hawaii between semesters of the past NCAA season. McLaughlin, after taking months off from competition to focus on neck rehab and a lighter training regimen, recently resumed competition. At the Fran Crippen Meet of Champions held in late April, McLaughlin posted a 1:59.74 in her 200 free, though she swam a 1:57.55 last summer.
IM stars Maya Dirado and Ella Eastin both have great 200 freestyle times, but both are better at the 200 IM, and the finals of the 200 IM and 200 free are in the same session, with the 200 free coming first. Dirado went a 1:57.70 earlier this month at the Arena PSS and Eastin split a 1:42.18 as the second leg on Stanford’s 800 free relay at the NCAA Championships in March of this year.
If either or both make the 200 free final, though, it’d be a tough call to scratch out, with all but 2 of the A finalists making the Olympic team. We’ll predict both swimmers taking on the double at this point.
Leah Smith and Lia Neal both had stellar NCAA seasons. At the NCAA National Championships held in March, Smith was victorious in both the 500 and the 1650, missing her own NCAA record in the 500 by about one second, and off her record in the mile by about 7 seconds. Smith also took 6th in the 200 free at NCAA’s. Smith swam a 1:56.64 at the Arena PSS in Indianapolis earlier this month, and is looking like a threat for a relay spot. Neal took 3rd in the 200 free at NCAA’s, as well as 2nd in the 100 and 6th in the 50. Though she has a slower LCM 200 than most of the others in this predicted top-12, her yards time indicates big potential in the Olympic pool.
Shannon Vreeland, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 800 free relay and 2013 triple-world-champion as a member of the 400 free, 800 free, and 400 medley relays, has posted strong times so far this season, including a 1:58.88 at the Atlanta Classic held in June. Melanie Margalis, a contender for the 100 and 200 breaststroke finals, also posted a great time of 1:57.33 at the Arena PSS earlier this month. Hali Flickinger, NCAA finalist in the 200 (6th) and 500 (3rd), led off the University of Georgia’s championship 800 free relay with a time of 1:42.80, and her best LCM time of 1:58.18 makes her competitive for a relay spot.
One rising young swimmer who hasn’t made much of an appearance in our predictions yet is Katie Drabot. The Junior Pan Pacs gold medalist in 2014, Drabot has consistently cut time in this event since breaking two minutes for the first time in 2013. Drabot was third at U.S. Nationals last summer in a lifetime-best 1:58.58.
|Place at OT||Name||Best Time Since London||Predicted Time in Omaha||Training Base|
|1||Katie Ledecky||1:54.43||1:53.7||Nation’s Capitol Swim Club|
|2||Missy Franklin||1:54.81||1:54.5||Colorado Stars|
|3||Allison Schmitt||1:56.23||1:55.2||NBAC at ASU|
|4||Leah Smith||1:56.64||1:55.6||University of Virginia|
|5||Melanie Margalis||1:57.33||1:56.8||St. Petersburg Aquatic Club|
|8||Hali Flickinger||1:58.18||1:57.4||University of Georgia|
|9||Shannon Vreeland||1:56.76||1:57.5||Athens Bulldogs Swim Club|
|11||Katie McLaughlin||1:57.55||1:57.6||Cal Berkley|
|12||Katie Drabot||1:58.58||1:57.9||Ozaukee Aquatics|
Mallory Comerford of the University of Louisville could be a dark horse in this race. Though her best long course time is only a 2:00.31 swum in early March of this year, she placed 2nd at the NCAA Championships in mid-March, where she went a 1:42.54.