2021 US Olympic Trials Previews: Can Urlando Take Over Phelps’ 200 Fly Throne?

2021 U.S. OLYMPIC SWIMMING TRIALS

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

Men’s 200 Butterfly

  • World Record: Kristof Milak – 1:50.73 (2019)
  • American Record: Michael Phelps – 1:51.51 (2009)
  • US Open Record: Michael Phelps – 1:52.20 (2008)
  • World Junior Record: Kristof Milak – 1:52.71 (2018)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Michael Phelps – 1:53.
  • 2016 Olympic Trials Champion: Michael Phelps
  • Wave I Cut: 2:01.19
  • Wave II cut: 1:59.63

In 2016, Michael Phelps made his 5th straight US Olympic team in the men’s 200 butterfly en route to an Olympic gold medal performance. In fact, the medal marked his 4th straight in the event, making the podium every year since 2004. With Phelps’ retirement, the United States has a large hole to fill, especially in this event, where no Americans made the podium at the 2017 or 2019 World Championships. 

In 2017, Pace Clark and Jack Conger represented the US at the World Championships. At the time, Conger seemed to be an imminent heir to Phelps’ throne as he finished 5th overall at Worlds in a time of 1:54.88, while Clark failed to make it past the semi-finals. However, Cogner has not hit a best time in the event since 2017 and failed to qualify for the event for the 2019 World Championships. Clark, meanwhile, has since retired from the sport of swimming, last registering a swim at the PSS meet in Knoxville in 2019. 

Since 2018, the fastest American in the event has been the University of Georgia’s Luca Urlando, who posted a time of 1:53.84 at a Pro Swim Series stop in June 2019. Urlando, the 2019 Junior World Champion, was unable to race at the 2019 World Championships due to the fact that the United States contingent was selected at the 2018 National Championships, where he finished 3rd. 

Although Urlando has recently been hindered by shoulder issues after dislocating last summer, he is still in the prime position to make his first US Olympic Team, especially if he can near his lifetime best at trials. Urlando’s season best currently stands at a 1:57.21 from the Georgia Invite. 

At the same competition, Cal’s Trenton Julian had a breakthrough swim, winning the event in a personal best of 1:55.77. His time currently ranks him first in the nation, leading the rankings by over a second. Julian’s performance places him as the 7th-fastest American since 2018. Internationally, Julian represented the US at the 2019 World University Games, finishing 13th in the 200 butterfly and winning a gold medal as a member of the 800 freestyle relay. 

Although he traditionally focuses on the IM events, Georgia’s Chase Kalisz is also in the conversation for an individual spot in this event. Kalisz owns a personal best of 1:54.79 from the 2017 US National Championships, and has already been as fast as 1:56.90 this season to rank second in the country behind Julian. However, with such a tight field in the IM events, Kalisz may elect to focus on them instead, as he was the 2017 World Champion in both the 200 and 400 IM. Likewise, Cal standout Andrew Seliskar may also be a threat, but may elect to focus in the 200 IM and 200 freestyle, where he is amongst the top swimmers in the country as well. 

Another Georgia standout, Gunnar Bentz, may also be in the position to challenge for an Olympic team spot. Bentz recently swam a time of 1:57.64 in the event at the 2021 Longhorn Invite, ranking him 5th in the country for the season. In 2016, Bentz represented the United States as a member of the 800 freestyle relay, earning a gold medal via his prelims performance. 

Since 2018, the primary international US representatives in the event have been Zach Harting and Justin Wright. Both Wright and Harting represented the United States at the 2019 World Championships and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Since 2018, Wright and Harting rank 2nd and 3rd, respectively amongst Americans with times of 1:54.63 and 1:55.05. This season, Harting ranks 5th in the country with a time of 1:57.64, while Wright holds a season best of 2:00.25. Unless he can muster up his fastest performance since 2018 in the event, Wright may be on the outside looking in during the final in Omaha, as there are several young athletes hovering in the 1:57-range. 

Just ahead of Harting in the national rankings for this season is 22-year-old Connor LaMastra, who swam a best time of 1:57.49 last week. With his swim, Lamastra destroyed his previous best of 1:59.56, earning his first Wave II Olympic Trials cut in the process. If he has another drop in store, Lamastra may be able to make the final in Omaha, or even make the Olympic team in the event. 

Like Lamastra, Arizona’s Brooks Fail also recently swam his way into the Olympic team conversation, dropping a second off of his best time to finish in 1:56.18. With his performance, Fail became the 2nd fastest American this season, behind the aforementioned Julian. 

There are also several collegiate stars that may have an impact upon the field, including Miles Smachlo, Jack LeVant, Nicolas Albiero, and Sam Pomajevich. Albiero specifically should be a threat given his recent performances in the event, as he holds a season best of 1:57.86 from Des Moines that ranks him 10th in the country this season. In addition, Albiero is currently the 4th-fastest performer of all-time in the yards version of the event. 

Tom Shields was the other US representative in the event at the 2016 Olympic Games, besides Phelps. However, since then, he has been relatively inconsistent in both national and international competitions. At the Atlanta Classic, Shields was only 2:00.92, barely sneaking into the final. Recently, Shields appears to have shifted his focus to the 100 butterfly, posting a time of 51.55 in Atlanta. Shields holds a best time of 1:55.09, which would sneak him into Olympic consideration, but the field may simply be too fast for the veteran.

 

SwimSwam’s Picks:

Place Swimmer Lifetime Best Season Best
1 Luca Urlando 1:53.84 1:57.21
2 Zach Harting 1:54.63 1:57.64
3 Trenton Julian 1:55.77 1:55.77
4 Brooks Fail 1:56.18 1:56.18
5 Nicolas Albiero 1:56.05 1:57.86
6 Chase Kalisz 1:54.79 1:56.90
7 Jack Conger 1:54.47 1:59.72
8 Connor Lamastra 1:57.49 1:57.49

Dark Horse: Matthew Fenlon is currently one of the top age-group prospects in the country, ranking #10 in SwimSwam’s rankings of the class of 2021. Fenlon holds a best time of 1:57.39 from 2019, but has already been as fast as 1:59.31 this season at the PSS meet in San Antonio. Given his young age, Fenlon could see some major drops come Omaha, which may push him into the final.

Wave I Standout: Princeton University commit Conor McKenna currently holds a lifetime best of 2:00.13, falling within .4 of the Wave II cut of 1:59.63. However, his short course best of 1:45.02 converts to a 1:59.44 in long course using the Swimulator, meaning McKenna most likely has more room to improve his time. 

 

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third 50
1 year ago

Trenton Julian is going to make it. Come back to this comment when it happens.

SwimMike
1 year ago

Dean swims the 200 fly on a whim and finishes first at trials.

Tea rex
1 year ago

Weird to not pick the guy who is peaking at the right time. I’m bullish on Julian.

I’d also forgotten how good Seliskar was at this event. I get wanting to go for the 200 free – safer, and more glory – but it seems a shame to be 1:55 out of high school and not going for it

Sqimgod
1 year ago

Dressel would win OT if he swam this race

manoj ghimire
1 year ago

Either, he qualify for 200 fly he have less chances for impressive swim at Tokyo . If he got his form and go 1:45 low at 200 free it may be important

THEO
1 year ago

Shields and Urlando are my tops. But albeiro, Julian and all others could surprise

Connor
1 year ago

Dark Horse Matt Fenlon will show up at trials. Fenlon, arguably one of the greatest 16-year-old 200 LCM flyers, will come through and put on a performance in finals. I’m seeing a possible 1:51-1:53 swim out of him. Although the world record swim may have to wait until Tokyo, Fenlon will undoubtedly drop the fastest time this year from any American. Standing at a massive 6’3, Kristof Milak will most likey enter Tokyo as one underdog for the gold medal. Excited to see whether Fenlon breaks the American record.

Jose Aldu
Reply to  Connor
1 year ago

The Dark Horse is sure to be a fine specimen in a couple years, however it seems to me that you are ignoring the obvious facts. Dark Horse Fenbod has just barely graduated high school and has not yet blossomed into the ruler of the new generation of dominant swimmers. It would certainly be acceptable to say that He is a favorite for the gold at Tokyo 2021 if it weren’t for the Hungarian Prince Kristóf Milák himself. You are under appreciating his accomplishments and hours of grueling and intense training, not to mention simply ignoring his obvious immense stature of 6ft 3 inches and sturdy build at 183 pounds. Milak is the epitome of the efficient lord of butterfly… Read more »

Connor
Reply to  Jose Aldu
1 year ago

Jose Aldo, you bring up many good points in your response about Kristof Milak. There is no denying that Kristof Milak is the current world record holder in the 200m fly and will prove to be lethal at Tokyo. Although what you call “Prince Kristof Milak” is a great swimmer and an unit of a man, his small and fragile stature prove to be a big disadvantage. Standing at a small and short 6 ft 3 inches and weighing in at a tiny 183 pounds, Kristof Milak will have to get significantly stronger and bigger if he wants to hold this world record come August 2021. All records are meant to be broken, at one point we all believed that… Read more »

Khabib
1 year ago

Kind of ridiculous to put Fenlon as a dark horse when he is a clear top 5 finisher. I would be very surprised if we don’t get at least a 1:55 low out of him. #fentrain

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. After competing for the swim …

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