2021 US Olympic Trials Previews: Bacon’s Time To Sizzle in Women’s 200 Back


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

Women’s 200 Backstroke 

The women’s 200 backstroke is one of only two women’s events where both US representatives from the 2016 Olympic Games have since retired as Olympic Champions Maya DiRado and Missy Franklin have since moved on from the sport. Despite this, the event is still loaded with talent, and it is extremely possible that the 3rd and 4th place finishers at the US Olympic trials would be capable of medaling at the Olympic Games.

Regan Smith

At the 2016 Olympic Trials, Regan Smith competed at the age of 14-years-old, coming in 33rd overall in this event. In 2021, the now 19-year-old Smith is a heavy favorite for Olympic gold after breaking Missy Franklin’s world record at the 2019 World Championships. In fact, Smith’s best time of 2:03.35 stands almost 3 seconds ahead of the next-fastest active swimmer, Kathleen Baker

This season, Smith ranks second in the country with her time of 2:06.90 from the Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis. However, given her big taper performances, it is clear that Smith is saving some time for trials.

Everybody Else 

The aforementioned Baker leads the tight battle for second place behind Smith. Baker, the former world record holder in the 100 backstroke, holds a personal best of 2:06.14 from the 2018 Pan Pacs Championships, which currently ranks her as the 5th fastest American of all-time with three of the swimmers ahead of her retired. Although Baker struggled with injuries at the 2019 World Championships, keeping her out of the final in this event, she has proven to have the speed to get the job done when it matters most. Baker has already been as fast as 2:07.54 this season, a time which would have qualified her for the Olympic Team in 2016. Incredibly, this only ranks her 5th in the country this season. 

Like Smith, 18-year-old Phoebe Bacon was amongst the youngest swimmers at the 2016 Olympic Trials, competing in the 100 backstroke at only 13-years-old. In the 5 years since those trials, Bacon has exploded to become one of the top age group swimmers in history. During her freshman campaign at Wisconsin, Bacon claimed her first NCAA title in the 200 backstroke, moving to 2nd all time in the 17-18 age group with her short course time of 1:48.32, only trailing Smith. In addition, Bacon recently swam a personal best time in the long course version of the event at the Indy PSS, beating Smith head-to-head in a time of 2:06.84. With her time, Bacon holds the fastest time in the country this season, and is the 8th fastest American of all time. 

Fellow NCAA stars Rhyan White and Isabelle Stadden rank directly behind Bacon, occupying the positions as the 9th and 10th fastest Americans of all-time. Both athletes posted their best times within the past month, as White swam her time of 2:07.07 at the Atlanta Classic and Stadden went a 2:07.28 at the Longhorn Invite. In addition, both White and Stadden hold international experience that could help them on a stage as big as Olympic Trials. White represented the US at the 2018 Youth Olympics Games in Argentina, finishing 4th in the 50, 100, and 200 backstroke events, while Stadden was a member of the 2018 Jr. Pan Pacs team and 2019 Pan American Games team. At Pan Ams, Stadden finished 2nd to teammate Alex Walsh in the 200 backstroke. 

Assuming she does not elect to focus on the 200 IM, Walsh may also prove to be a threat in this event. A versatile swimmer, Walsh didn’t even swim this event at the NCAA Championships, instead electing to focus on the 200 IM, 200 Free, and 200 breast. However, Walsh holds a personal best of 2:08.30 from Pan Ams, which puts her in the conversation for a spot in finals, especially considering that she has improved her other times significantly since 2019. 

Both Olivia Smoliga and Hali Flickinger are in a similar situation as Walsh is, as they may choose to focus on other events at trials. Smoliga, the reigning world champion in the 50 backstroke, has a much better chance of making the 100 backstroke, which she won at the 2016 Olympic Trials. In addition, Smoliga also is in contention for a relay spot in the 100 freestyle, where the top 6 finishers make the team. Flickinger, meanwhile, is the favorite to make the team in the 200 butterfly, and may also contend for a spot in one of the IM events. Regardless, both Smoliga and Flickinger are still ranked in the top-10 in the country for the 200 backstroke this season, holding times of 2:10.97 and 2:10.86, respectively. 

Aggie Lisa Bratton may end up being the only returning finalist from the 2016 Olympic Trials. At that meet, Bratton finished 3rd behind Franklin and DiRado with a time of 2:08.30. After struggling in 2017, Bratton bounced back in 2018 by making the World University Games team via a 4th place finish in the 200 backstroke at Nationals. She took full advantage of the opportunity to represent the USA, breaking the World University Games meet record and winning the gold medal in a lifetime best of 2:07.91. More recently, Bratton swam a time of 2:09.69 at the Atlanta Classic, taking second behind White. 

At the Atlanta Classic, Kentucky’s Sophie Sorenson finished 3rd overall in a best time of 2:11.01, ranking 11th in the country this season. Sorenson’s time puts her in the conversation for a potential final spot. Former NCAA star Beata Nelson may also be in contention. Although she has yet to hit her long-course stride in the event, Nelson owns a short course best of 1:47.24 making her the second fastest performer of all time.

SwimSwam’s Picks:

Place Swimmer Lifetime Best Season Best
1 Regan Smith 2:03.35) 2:06.90
2 Phoebe Bacon 2:06.84 2:06.84
3 Kathleen Baker 2:06.14 2:07.54
4 Rhyan White 2:07.07 2:07.07
5 Isabelle Stadden 2:07.28 2:07.28
6 Alex Walsh 2:08.30 2:12.03
7 Lisa Bratton 2:07.91 2:09.69
8 Olivia Smoliga 2:08.58 2:10.97


Dark horse pick: 18-year-old Summer Smith cut over a second off of her best time at the Atlanta Classic to drop a final time of 2:11.26. Smith, who primarily specializes in the IM events, trains at Bluefish, the same age group club of Elizabeth Beisel, who earned multiple Olympic berths in both the 200 backstroke and 400 IM. Given her training patterns, Smith may be able to slide into the final in Omaha with another drop. 

Wave I Standout: Former Virginia standout Megan Moroney is the top seed at the Wave I meet with a time of 2:13.16. However, Moroney has been as fast as 2:10.53 back in 2018 and her best time in short course stands at a 1:51:28, which converts to a 2:08.14 using the Swimulator. If she is able to match her best time, Moroney should easily move on to Wave II. 

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16 days ago

Will Smoliga swim this?

Reply to  Hswimmer
16 days ago

She says she might.

Reply to  Braden Keith
16 days ago

Do y’all know if she is swimming 200 free?

Reply to  Hswimmer
16 days ago

200 free semis and 100 back final is the same session, in that order, with only men’s 200 free final inbetween… that would be a tough double, I would think she’d go for the 100 back and maybe swim prelims of the 2free to throw her name in for a relay spot… but she could surprise us

Reply to  Coleman Hodges
16 days ago

How did that work out for Kolesnikov at the 2021 European Aquatics Championships?

Last edited 16 days ago by Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  Coleman Hodges
16 days ago

200FR semis may happen to be more intense than the final. If you got to the final you are almost on the team. You compete against only 2 swimmers in the race who will be 7th and 8th.
At first semi final you compete against 16 swimmers and have no idea what those who are not in the race with you right now will be up to.

Reply to  Yozhik
16 days ago

That is a very good point, along with some who will try to post times in prelims or semis but then scratch to prep for other events. Could be a whole lot of names in the 200 free relay conversation!

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Braden Keith
16 days ago

Feels like it’d be a backup event if she doesn’t make the 100 free final.

(The semis of the 200 back are right before it, her odds of making the team if she’s already in the 100 free final are a loooot higher than making it in the 200 back.)

16 days ago

“Bacon’s time to sizzle…” making me hungry!

Reply to  SwimDad
16 days ago

How many headlines next week will have Bacon and sizzle?

Reply to  Ghost
16 days ago

Too many

Reply to  Ghost
16 days ago

Every time Rowdy says it on broadcast I’ll do a shot.

Coach Chackett
16 days ago

Summer is from Agawam Massachusetts . She swims primarily for Nick Rice at the Bluefish Western Massachusetts site.. Nick Rice has a good history with the 200 BK. He coached fellow Western Massachusetts swimmer Erin Voss into the 2016 FINALS at the Olympic Trials. At that 2015 Olympic Trials, the Bluefish had 2 of 8 finalists in the 200 BK, with Elizabeth Beisel and Voss both representing the Bluefish.