2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Day 2: What Does It Take to Make It Back?

2021 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials

After every prelims session this week, we’ll take a quick look at the times it took to earn a second swim in each event. Remember that for events that are 400m or longer, the top 8 swimmers from prelims go to straight to the final, while the top 16 in prelims go on to semi-finals in the 200m and under events. Specifically, we’ll be comparing the 8th/16th place prelims times to what it took to advance at the last three Olympic Trials, and sometimes trying to offer a bit of preliminary analysis to account for notable changes, or the lack thereof. Note that we are ignoring the impact of scratches promoting swimmers into the semis or finals, and only examining the times swimmers needed in the morning to guarantee themselves a spot, or in rare cases, a swim-off.

Here’s a quick glance at the 8th/16th place times from this morning, compared to what it took to advance at the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Trials.

2008 2012 2016 2021
Women’s 100 Back 16th 1:02.32 1:02.22 1:01.32 1:01.02
Men’s 200 Free 16th 1:48.76 1:49.71 1:48.63 1:48.15
Women’s 100 Breast 16th 1:09.75 1:09.39 1:08.54 1:09.00
Men’s 100 Back 16th 55.45 55.49 55.41* 54.52
Women’s 400 Free 8th 4:14.54 4:10.38 4:10.52 4:10.51

*tie for 16th, swim-off was required

While the top end of the women’s 100 back took a huge leap forward, with six competitors under last Trials’ top prelims time of 59.65, the 16th place time had a modest 0.30s improvement over 2016. That 1:01.02 that Talia Bates swam today to qualify 16th would’ve placed 11th in 2016.

Jack Dahlgren and Jeff Newkirk tied for 15th in the men’s 200 free with at time of 1:48.16. That same time would’ve ranked 9th in prelims in 2016. The 1:48.63 that it took to make semis in 2016 would’ve finished 20th this morning.

The women’s 100 breast took a small step back this go-around, in terms of what it took to make semis. Zoie Hartman qualified 16th with 1:09.00 this morning. That same time would’ve placed 22nd in 2016, when it took a 1:08.54 to advance, a time that would’ve taken 13th today. On the other hand, top seed Lilly King‘s time of 1:05.67 was almost a second faster than she was last year in leading prelims, and three other women were faster today than King’s 2016 prelims time of 1:06.45.

Swimmers had to be almost a second faster this year than they did in 2016 to get a shot at a second swim in the 100 back. Nick Simons‘ 54.52 secured a spot in the semifinals today, while last year there was a tie for 16th at 55.41. As in the 100 breast, the top end got faster, with four men under last year’s top seeded time of 53.22. Also of note is that defending Olympic champ Ryan Murphy was 0.76s faster this morning than he was in last year’s prelims, and we’ll see if that’s due to a change in strategy (perhaps because of increased competition in the event), or if we need to prepared for a big swim coming later this week.

In the final event of the morning, the 400 free, the 4:10.51 Ashley Twichell swam for 8th in prelims was virtually identical to the 4:10.52 needed in 2016. Curiously, the 8th place time for this event was nearly four seconds faster in 2012 than it was in 2008, then has remained essentially the same since then. That could be due to swimmers opting to focus on other events since Katie Ledecky has had one individual spot locked down, or simply could be due to random chance.

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BearlyBreathing
1 month ago

I think maybe after 5 years of anticipation our collective expectations were too high.

Joe
1 month ago

Crazy how consistent depth stays every 4 years