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

2021 U.S. OLYMPIC SWIMMING TRIALS

  • 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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PNW
20 days ago

I expect Smoliga to get a relay spot. She has gone recent pb’s in the 200 free and 100 back, and she knows that this could be her best shot to make it on the team given the ridiculous logjam in the 100 back

Thomas
Reply to  PNW
20 days ago

Agreed and unfortunately I think Schmitt will fall *just* short at 7th or 8th. Hopefully she qualifies in the 4×200 though.

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  Thomas
20 days ago

Catie DeLoof has swum faster than Allison Schmitt in the women’s 100 meter freestyle in calendar year 2021. Kate Douglass has swum faster than Allison Schmitt in the women’s 100 meter freestyle in calendar year 2021. Katie Ledecky has swum faster than Allison Schmitt in the women’s 100 meter freestyle in calendar year 2021. Olivia Smoliga has swum faster than Allison Schmitt in the women’s 100 meter freestyle in calendar year 2021.

RMS
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
20 days ago

Allison Schmitt is an Olympic champion.

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  RMS
20 days ago

9 years ago.

Cate
Reply to  RMS
20 days ago

So is Rowdy Gaines. What’s your point?

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  PNW
20 days ago

I don’t especially if Katie Ledecky puts her hat into the ring.

Captain Ahab
20 days ago

Simone Manuel will have to swim her ass off to win the 100 meter freestyle because Huske and Curzan are super hungry and if there coaches peak them physically and mentally they will be hard to beat.

Top 6 Final Prediction:

  1. Curzan
  2. Huske
  3. Manuel
  4. Brown
  5. Weitzel
  6. Ledecky
Hswimmer
Reply to  Captain Ahab
20 days ago

I could see it but I don’t think Brown will beat Weitzeil

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  Captain Ahab
20 days ago

2021 TYR Pro Swim Series – Indianapolis
Women’s 100 meter freestyle
Mack – 54.00
Douglass – 54.30
DeLoof – 54.36
Brown – 54.85

Bruh
Reply to  Captain Ahab
19 days ago

I could see that but I am inclined to believe Manuel wins because he has the experience and almost always pulls through. Curzan and huske are great but they are also young and have never been in oly trials final

Captain Ahab
Reply to  Bruh
19 days ago

LMAO!!! @”he has the experience.”

CanSwim13
20 days ago

I’m just thinking of the great duo interviews we’ll get if Natalie and Olivia snag a spot on the team in the 100 free