2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: Simone’s Show in the Women’s 100 Freestyle


  • When:
    • Wave I Dates: June 4-7, 2021
    • Wave II Dates: June 13-20, 2021

Women’s 100 Freestyle 

  • World Record: Sarah Sojostrom – 51.71 (2017)
  • American Record: Simone Manuel – 52.04 (2019)
  • US Open Record: Simone Manuel – 52.54 (2019)
  • World Junior Record: Penny Oleksiak – 52.70 (2016)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Penny Oleksiak/Simone Manuel – 52.70 
  • 2016 Olympic Trials Champion: Abbey Weitzeil – 53.28
  • Wave I Cut: 56.29
  • Wave II cut: 55.56

Since the last Olympic Games, the swimming fandom has learned one thing: don’t doubt Simone Manuel. At the 2016 Olympic Trials, Manuel finished second to Abbey Weitzeil with a time of 53.52 before dropping almost a second to claim Olympic gold in a new Olympic record of 52.70. In 2017, Manuel stood at an odds to claim the World Championship title after Swedish superstar Sarah Sjostrom broke the world record leading off the 400 freestyle relay, but she once-again managed to surprise the world, winning in a time of 52.27. Although she fell short at Pan Pacs in 2018, finishing second to Australian Cate Campbell, Manuel successfully defended her World Championship title in 2019 with an American record of 52.04. 

With her proven performances, Manuel is the clear frontrunner for a spot on the Tokyo Olympic team, as her American Record ranks her over a half second ahead of the 2nd fastest American in history. It also ranks as the 3rd-fastest performance in history worldwide, only trailing Sjostrom and Campbell. Although Manuel has not competed much in the past year due to the pandemic, she still stands a head above the rest of the field historically.

Behind Manuel, the field is much more tight, with 4 of the remaining top-10 Americans all-time currently being active in the event. The aforementioned Weitzeil is a potential Olympic medal threat in her top form, having gone as fast as 53.18 in 2019. This season, Weitzeil has gone a 54.18, to rank 4th amongst Americans, also facing a limited competition schedule due to the pandemic. However, after An explosive 2020 ISL season that saw her break the American record in the SCM version of the event, Weitzeil looks to be in a prime position to vie for her second Olympic team.

After making the 100 freestyle semi-finals at the 2016 Olympic Trials, Louisville’s Mallory Comerford burst onto the scene at the 2017 World Championship Trials, breaking Manuel’s American record with a blistering time of 52.59. Although Manuel reclaimed her record at the World Championship meet, Comerford still ranks as the 2nd-fastest American in history with her performance. However, recent results have indicated that Comerford may struggle obtaining her first Olympic berth, as her season best only stands at 55.21 from the 2020 US Open. 

Looking to break up veterans are two of the country’s top age groupers Torri Huske and Claire Curzan, as the two youngsters currently rank 2nd and 3rd amongst Americans this season. The 16 year-old Curzan and the 18 year-old Huske have been on a tear lately, putting themselves in contention for Olympic Team spots across the 100 butterfly, 100 freestyle, and 50 freestyle. Curzan recently added her name to the discussion in the 100 backstroke as well, showing great stamina across events. Although it is difficult to tell how much either swimmer has left to drop this season, Huske has already been as fast as 53.46, while Curzan has been 53.55, both of which would have made the team in 2016. 

Prior to this season, it seemed imminent that Gretchen Walsh would be the next US sprint superstar. Although she has not seen drops like Huske and Curzan, Walsh is still steadily progressing and could be a major threat come Olympic Trials. The reigning World Junior Champion holds a best time of 53.74, and a season best of 54.37.

Besides the rising group of age group stars, there are also several seasoned veterans looking to establish themselves at the top 6 during trials. 25-year-old Linnea Mack recently experienced a breakout at the Pro Swim Series meet in Indy, swimming a personal best of 53.78 that ranks her 5th in the country for this season. The former US National Team member is pursuing her first Olympic berth. Likewise, former Tennessee Vol standout Erika Brown is also looking to make her first Olympic Team. The 22 year-old currently ranks as the 8th-fastest American all-time with her personal best of 53.42, and is ranked 7th in the country this season with her time of 54.03 that she swam at the GA Elite Meet. 27-year-old Natalie Hinds is ranked just behind Brown this season with her time of 54.29 from the Atlanta Classic, which also stands as her best time. 

Several other swimmers could also challenge for a spot in finals in the event, seeing as they don’t focus their efforts on other swims, inducing distance superstar Katie Ledecky, backstroker Olivia Smoliga, butterfly specialist Kelsi Worrell, Allison Schmitt, Kate Douglass, and sisters Catie and Gabby DeLoof

Place Swimmer Lifetime Best Season-Best
1 Simone Manuel 52.04 53.83
2 Torri Huske 53.46 53.46
3 Abbey Weitzeil 53.18 53.66
4 Claire Curzan 53.55 53.55
5 Erika Brown 53.42 54.29
6 Gretchen Walsh 53.74 54.37
7 Linnea Mack 53.78 53.78
8 Natalie Hinds 54.29 54.29
9 Catie DeLoof 54.28 54.32
10 Kate Douglass 54.3 54.3
11 Allison Schmitt 53.8 54.6
12 Olivia Smoliga 54.15 54.36

Dark-horse Pick: Although traditionally known for her backstroke and IM events, former Wisconsin NCAA Swimmer of the Year Beata Nelson recently threw down a best time in the event during the Pro Swim Series meet in Indianapolis. Her time off 54.74 currently ranks her 14th in the country for the season. However, based on her previous NCAA and ISL performances, Nelson is known to be a proven performer on big stages who could challenge for a finals spot in the event.

Wave I Standout: Despite being a 2016 SC World Championships gold medalist, veteran Katrina Konopka has not swam under the Wave II time standard of 55.56 in the event yet. During the Olympic Trials qualifying period, Konopka holds a best time of 56.03, but she has been as fast as 55.05 back in 2015. If she is able to match her best time, Konopka would be a strong candidate for a Wave II berth in Omaha. 

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11 months ago

If you had told me a year ago that Comerford wouldn’t be a favorite for an individual 100 free spot, much less a relay spot, I wouldn’t have believed you

NY Coach
11 months ago

Ledecky will be there, she has shortened that stroke.

11 months ago

After the semifinals it will be clear who the top competitors are.

I think there will be a lot of times bunched up around 53.0.

In the finals, we’ll see who’s got 52 speed.

11 months ago

If Manuel is not selected for individual races in 50 and 100 freestyle but gets only on 4x100FR relay she won’t be allowed to race in 4×200 relay. Is it right?
The 200FR races will go before 100 and 50 at Trials.
So if Manuel feels very confident about sprint races or quite an opposite if she is almost sure that she doesn’t win then we will see her entering 200FR competition.
If she is uncertain about outcomes of sprint races she will skip the 200FR competition to be as fresh as possible for races in 100 and 50 events.

Reply to  Yozhik
11 months ago

No if she on the the team she can swim any relay

11 months ago

Sleeping on Katie

The Original Tim
11 months ago

I think Manuel’s going to need to advance her taper to her Olympics level taper instead of her Trials level taper to make the cut. Looking at her selection meet results vs her shave/taper meet results over the past few cycles:

2016: 53.52 at Trials, 52.70 at the Olympics (at the end, not the 53.36 she swam at the beginning)
2017: 53.05 at Nats, 52.27 at Worlds
2018: 52.54 at Nats, 52.66 at Pan Pacs

If she follows her 2016 and 2017 pattern, there’s not much margin for error assuming Curzan and Huske (or any of the others, really) continue to drop time. If she follows her 2018 Trials/Nats taper pattern, then I think she’s got a great… Read more »

Reply to  The Original Tim
11 months ago

Besides MC, who on that list has been under 53? Not worried

11 months ago

Simone Manuel has won gold in the 100, arguably the most competitive event in swimming, in 2016 olympics, 2017 world championships, and the 2019 world championships.

I put her as the #2 U.S. female swimmer behind Ledecky right now based on her career accomplishments and because she has beat out the fastest swimmers in history in her event to win her medals.

11 months ago

My personal opinion as long as Manuel, huske,curzan and weitzeil are on the team (even as relay only swimmers) I’ll be happy Because I have said this time and time again they are the four best chance at beating the Aussie in the 400 relay

About Nicole Miller

Nicole Miller

Nicole has been with SwimSwam since April 2020, as both a reporter and social media contributor. Prior to joining the SwimSwam platform, Nicole also managed a successful Instagram platform, amassing over 20,000 followers. Currently, Nicole is pursuing her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is an active …

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