2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Preview: Douglass Leads Improved Domestic Field In Women’s 100 Free

2024 U.S. OLYMPIC TRIALS

WOMEN’S 100 FREE — BY THE NUMBERS:

  • World Record: 51.71 – Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden (2017)
  • American Record: 52.04 – Simone Manuel, 2019
  • U.S. Open Record: 52.54 – Simone Manuel, USA (2018)
  • World Junior Record: 52.70 – Penny Oleksiak, Canada (2016)
  • 2021 Olympic Champion: Emma McKeon (AUS) – 51.96
  • 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Champion: Abbey Weitzeil – 53.53
  • 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 55.79
  • 2024 Olympic Qualifying Time: 53.61

The women’s 100 freestyle is one of the events where the U.S. is most improved over where they were three years ago. At the 2021 Olympic Trials, Abbey Weitzeil won the event in 53.53, while Erika Brown touched 2nd with a 53.59. In that final, only five total women were under 54 seconds. Fast forward to this year, and we have 10 swimmers seeded under 54 seconds in the event, 7 of whom have already been under 54 this year, and one of whom has already been sub-53 this year.

This is a critical event for the Americans, as Australia’s women’s freestyle has exploded in recent years and they are currently the unquestioned class of the world in this event. It’s imperative that the U.S. puts together a great 4×100 free relay for Paris, one that can hopefully at least compete with the Aussies.

The Returning Champion

This year’s Trials will see Abbey Weitzeil, the defending Olympic Trials champion in the event, return. A veteran on this stage, the 27-year-old is poised to be even faster than she was three years ago when she made the Olympic team in the event. Coincidentally, Weitzeil’s 2024 season best of 53.53 is exactly what she swam to win this event back at the 2021 Trials. That being said, she’s been as fast as 52.92, a time which she swam at last summer’s World Championships Trials.

One of only four swimmers in this field to have been under 53 seconds in the event in their career, Weitzeil is certainly in the hunt to earn another individual Olympic berth in the 100 free. At the Tokyo Olympics, Weitzeil earned a spot in the final, where she would finish 8th. Though she finished 8th in Tokyo, she was remarkably faster there than she was at the 2021 Trials, swimming a 52.99 in the semifinals to earn her spot in the Olympic final.

In recent years, Weitzeil has built up her international experience. Last summer, she made the final at the World Championships in Fukuoka, where she came in 6th with a 53.34.

We can certainly expect that Weitzeil will make it onto the relay for Paris, the question is whether she’ll earn another spot in the event individually or not.

Currently The Best

Kate Douglass has become the standard for the US in the 100 free. She broke through last summer, winning the 100 free at US Nationals and earning the right to swim it at the World Champs in Fukuoka. There, Douglass was fantastic, finishing 4th in the event with a 52.81, just a tenth off the podium. To those USA Swimming fans who haven’t been following this event that closely in the last few years, it may sound to be excited that an American just missed the podium, however, we need to remember that at the last Olympics, the fastest American in this event finished last in the Olympic final, so a 4th place finish marks real progress.

Not only did Douglass breakthrough in the event last summer, she’s shown through her racing this year that she can be consistent in the event. She went to the World Championships in Doha earlier this year, where she once again finished 4th, this time with a 53.02.

Douglass enters these Trials as the only American to have gone under 53 seconds this year, having swum her season best of 52.98 at the Pro Swim Series in San Antonio back in April. She should be viewed as one of the unquestioned favorites to win this event this week.

The Fastest American in History

American Record holder Simone Manuel looks to be in great shape as she heads into these Trials. Manuel won gold in the 100 free back at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. She also holds the American Record in the event with the 52.04 she swam back in 2019.

Manuel didn’t make the Olympic team in the 100 free at the 2021 Trials, as she had been battling illness that was really having an effect on her swimming. She took some time and has since moved to ASU, where she’s seen a resurgence this year. Manuel has great momentum heading into this meet, having gone her season best of 53.10 about three weeks ago, which is also her fastest time in the event since 2019.

Having put up a 53.10, Manuel is no doubt a strong contender to make the Paris relay this time around, and she has a very real chance of earning a spot in the individual 100 free.

Torri Huske

There is one other swimmer who has been under 53 seconds in their career: Torri Huske. The 21-year-old boasts a career best of 52.92, which she swam at the 2022 World Championships. Huske has been great this year as well, already having gone 53.08 in the 100 free. That sets her up with the 2nd-fastest season best heading into this meet, where she is also tied with Weitzeil for the 3rd-fastest career best in the field.

It’s not just the 100 free where Huske has been great this year, however. She’s also put up a 24.31 50 free already this year, which is terrific, and she’s been 55.68 in the 100 fly, which is just 0.02 seconds off her own American Record in that event.

Considering that, Huske heads into these Trials with a ton of momentum and should considered a very real threat to make the team individually in the 100 free.

Gretchen Walsh

Gretchen Walsh in this 100 free will be one of the most anticipated races of these US Olympic Trials. If you don’t follow college swimming very closely, Walsh is coming off a truly remarkable season with Virginia. She shattered NCAA Records, including the SCY 100 free, where she went 44.83. That’s a time that’s so fast and so far outside what was thought to be realistically possible that it’s hard to accurately describe just how fast it is.

Walsh hasn’t truly broken out in LCM swimming yet, however, she has been 53.14 in the 100 free in her career, which she swam last summer. That’s a great time, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that it’s now over 8 seconds slower than her yards 100 free time. That being said, now that she’s gone 44 in the SCY 100 free, it’s basically impossible to imagine her not going under 53 seconds in the LCM event. She went 53.17 at the San Antonio Pro Swim Series in April, which sets her up well to improve upon that time here in Indy.

We’ve been waiting for Walsh’s dominance to show up in her LCM racing and it feels like this might be the moment, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Other Pros To Watch

There’s a few other pro swimmers who are serious contenders to finish in the top 6. Olivia Smoliga, a training partner to Manuel at ASU, is looking for her 3rd Olympic berth. Smoliga made the US Olympic team individually back in 2016 in the 100 back, then made it as a member of the 4×100 free relay for the Tokyo Olympics.

The 29-year-old is as experienced as anyone in this field, however, she hasn’t been quite as fast as the rest of the top seeds this year. Smoliga has a season-best of 54.83, which is well off her career best of 53.28. That’s not reason to panic on her Olympic prospects, as she’s been excellent in the 50 free and 100 back already this year, however, there are a lot of women in this field who have been faster than Smoliga in 2024.

Catie DeLoof is looking for her 2nd Olympic berth, which would be her 2nd time making the team for the 4×100 free relay. She made it back in 2021, and ended up swimming on the prelims relay in Tokyo. She earned Olympic bronze as the US team would go on to finish 3rd in the final. DeLoof had been training in Loughborough, England post-Tokyo, but has spent most of this season training at her alma mater, the University of Michigan, under new first-year head coach Matt Bowe and his staff.

DeLoof has been swimming well in 2024, already having gone 24.56 in the 50 free and 53.88 in the 100 free. Her 100 time comes in just off her career best of 53.75, a great sign heading into these Trials. Given her momentum this year, DeLoof is a strong contender to make the final in this event, which gives her a good chance at finishing in the top 6.

Another pro in the mix is Beata Nelson, who is hunting her first Olympic berth. Nelson was a legendary college swimmer, putting some of the best underwater dolphin kicks we’ve ever seen to great use. Due to her underwater prowess, LCM racing hasn’t come quite as easy to her, though she’s still put up times that leave her in contention for this relay.

Nelson put up her career best of 53.97 a couple of weeks ago, putting her in a great spot heading into the meet. If she can improve upon that time at all, she’ll have a real chance at making it into the final.

College Swimmers

As always, there are a handful of college swimmers looking to shake things up in this event. First and foremost…LET BELLA SPRINT! Florida’s Bella Sims, who made the Tokyo Olympic team in the 4×200 free relay, is the 8th seed in the 100 free heading into the meet. She’s been 53.73 in the 100 free already in her career, though she hasn’t yet raced the LCM 100 free this season.

Sims hasn’t done too much in LCM this season, though she did put up a very respectable 1:58.4 in the 200 free at the Georgia Classic last month. That being said, she had a great yards season with Florida this year, excelling in her 200-and-down events, so there’s good reason to be bullish on her in this event. She does have a busy schedule, however, so there is still a chance she doesn’t end up racing the 100 free, but with it being a relay event, it seems likely that she will.

Maxine Parker, a Virginia swimmer, is another interesting collegiate swimmer coming into the meet. Parker has looked good so far in 2024. She went 54.58 at the Knoxville Pro Swim Series back in January, before she got into taper/championship season for college. Parker has been as fast as 53.51, which she swam last summer, so she represents a very serious finals contender this week.

Alex Shackell

Having just finished her junior year of high school, Carmel Swim Club’s Alex Shackell will be looking to make the Olympic team this year, and the 100 free represents a real path for her. Shackell made the World Championships team in the 200 fly and 4×200 free relay last summer, and she’s looking like a serious threat in the 100 fly at these Trials.

Shackell has been 54.08 in the 100 free in her career, which she swam last year. This season, she’s gotten down to 54.38, which she swam at the Speedo Sectionals meet in Indy back in March. Shackell has been improving, so it’s not unrealistic that she will make it into this 100 free final.

SWIMSWAM PICKS:

RANK SWIMMER SEASON BEST
PERSONAL BEST
1 Kate Douglass 52.98 52.57
2 Torri Huske 53.08 52.92
3 Abbey Weitzeil 53.53 52.92
4 Gretchen Walsh 53.17 53.14
5 Simone Manuel 53.10 52.04
6 Maxine Parker 54.58 53.51
7 Bella Sims N/A 53.73
8 Catie DeLoof 53.88 53.75

Darkhorse: Anna Peplowski – Peplowski is better known for her strength in the 200 free, where she is one of our picks to make the relay for Paris. Up to this point, her LCM 100 free hasn’t quite clicked for her in the same way her 200 free has. She’s the 23rd seed in the 100 free at this meet with her career best of 54.63. That being said, Peplowski made huge gains in the SCY 100 free this past collegiate season, getting down to 47.27 in the event and earning a 7th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. If she were able to dip under 54 seconds at this meet, she would stand a very real chance of scraping into that final, at which point, anything could happen. 

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swimfan
1 month ago

i do not want parker to choke like she did last summer as well, hopefully smogs or sims for that sixth spot 🥺

Swimz
1 month ago

The article missed the fact that Witzel was the 2016 trail winner too and was in the Rio final..and, since 2021 , getting 4th by Douglas was not the highest place that a US woman got, tori Huske got a podium finish after lead the field more than 90 m in 2022 Budapest

NCSwimFan
1 month ago

I really like Rylee Erisman as a dark horse – improving her times pretty much every time she hits the water, and already seeded in the top 16. I think she makes semis at the least, and the final is certainly on the table!

Holden Caulfield's 400 IM
1 month ago

Definitely one of the most oddball events of the 2021 Trials. Looked like Douglass, Huske, Manuel, and Curzan were all safe bets for Top 6 relay berths at a minimum and yet none of them get the spot BUT all somehow find a way onto the US Olympic roster in other events. Weird. Plus the Smogs / Hinds Top 2 in semis thing was amazing and not that expected. Sounds like this iteration will be a lot more chalky than 2021.

dg5301
1 month ago

When you consider how strong Simone’s recent 200s have been and that 53.10, I just can’t see her being lower than 3 and a very strong contender for top 2.

I miss the ISL (go dawgs)
1 month ago

I really hope Gretchen throws down some monster time and shuts everyone up who has been doubting her.

Doe
Reply to  I miss the ISL (go dawgs)
1 month ago

World record!

Swimfan
1 month ago

I’m gonna go with Manuel and Walsh both under 52.6 and Douglass 52.7

BSD
1 month ago

This is the worst pick yet, the logic here is awful. I don’t understand how you have Simone that low, I am confident she will get an individual spot, but her floor is 3rd.

Swimfan
Reply to  BSD
1 month ago

I think her floor is 4, she can easily beat weitzeil, top 4 will be Douglas Walsh huske and Manuel

weitzeil will be 5th or 6th