2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: Is it Cavalier to Say Douglass, A. Walsh are 2 IM Locks?


WOMEN’S 200 Individual Medley— BY THE NUMBERS:

  • World Record: 2:06.12 – Katinka Hosszu, Hungary (2015)
  • World Junior Record: 2:06.89 – Summer McIntosh, Canada (2023)
  • American Record: 2:06.15 – Ariana Kukors (2009)
  • U.S. Open Record: 2:07.09 – Kate Douglass, USA (2023)
  • 2021 Olympic Champion: Yui Ohashi (JPN) – 2:08.52 
  • 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Champion: Alex Walsh – 2:09.30
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 2:16.09
  • 2024 Olympic Qualifying Times: 2:11.47/2:12.13

Normally, this part of the article would include a long, drawn-out review of the past Olympic Trials results. However, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so… here’s a picture.

And if the picture gets me a thousand words, a video must be what, a billion?

The final of this event at 2021 Olympic Trials was expected to be thrilling. It pit the experience of Melanie Margalis and Madisyn Cox against the up-and-comers Torri Huske, Alex Walsh, and Kate Douglass. For those of you unable to watch the video, I’ll set the stage a little, as it only helps to show where the event is now.

Huske, who shocked the Audience, America, World with her 100 fly earlier in the program, was out like a bat and held a lead of over half a second on Douglass. Huske still led at the 100 mark by nearly three-quarters of a second but over Walsh, who we have come to know as having a great middle one hundred. She took over the lead in the breaststroke but was out-split by Cox, who continued to charge into the freestyle.

However, Cox struggled in the closing meters, and Douglass, who closed in 31.04, caught her to take over second place. Walsh finished in 2:09.30, Douglass just behind in 2:09.32, and Cox in an agonizing third, just .03 away from sole second place, in a time of 2:09.34.

AWalsh with Medals

Since then, it has been the Walsh and Douglass show. The pair went on to win the silver and bronze medals in Tokyo and have been the only two swimmers atop the podium at NCAAs in the event, showing utter dominance over their competition.

Walsh built upon her dominance over the domestic field in the 200 IM the next summer. At the 2022 Team Trials, Walsh set a new US Open record, hitting the wall in 2:07.84. Two months later, in Budapest, she claimed victory in 2:07.13, one of three gold medals she won at the meet.  Fast forward 12 months, and Walsh entered as the favorite to repeat as the top US woman in the 200 IM.

However, Douglass returned to the event and shattered the US Open record by swimming a time of 2:07.09, breaking Walsh’s barely one-year-old record of 2:07.89. In Fukuoka, the pair were near their best. Walsh had the lead, with just a 50 left, but Douglass came back on her and the field, swimming a 29.83 last 50 to take the win 2:07.07, with Walsh taking the silver in 2:07.97. Yu Yiting, the bronze medalist, was close to a second behind Walsh, finishing in 2:08.74.

In the intervening months, Douglass and Walsh have continued to flex their dominance over their domestic competition. Douglass swam to another gold medal at the 2024 Doha Worlds, putting up the fastest time in the world and a new personal best of 2:07.05. Walsh swam 2:07.63 at the Knoxville Pro Swim Series in January, a new in-season personal best, and carried that momentum to the NCAAs, where she became just the second woman in history under the 1:50 barrier, joining Douglass, her training partner.

Since Worlds and NCAAs, the pair have swum at two meets, the PSS in San Antonio and the NCAP Elite Qualifier two weeks ago. Douglass didn’t contest the 200 IM in San Antonio, but Walsh placed 2nd in a time of 2:08.60. The pair finished in their familiar order at the latter meet, with Douglass stopping the clock in 2:07.76 and Walsh getting under 2:08 again, as she finished in 2:07.99.

The pair are the only two active Americans who have been under 2:08 this season; in fact, they are the only two active Americans who have been under that barrier as the pair have led American IMers over the past three years chasing, but not yet reaching the legendary mark of 2:06.15 set by Ariana Kukors back in 2009.

Young Gun

Leah Hayes 2023 World Juniors courtesy Marcus Chen Photography

When Douglass opted not to swim the 200 IM in 2022, a gap naturally appeared. Diving into the gap and throwing herself into the spotlight was then 16-year-old Leah Hayes. Hayes qualified in second behind Alex Walsh in 2:09.99, making her first international team. Hayes would then improve that time to 2:08.91, a time that won her a bronze medal.

Since then, however, Hayes has struggled to repeat that form, as she has not broken 2:10 since the summer of 2022. She missed out on qualifying for the 2023 team, placing 4th in a time of 2:10.42, but did represent the USA at the Junior Worlds that summer. In Netanya, she swept both IMs, winning the 200 in 2:10.24, as well as winning an individual bronze in the 200 free. This long course season, Hayes has only swum the event twice, with her best being a 2:10.62 at the Westmont PSS meet.

In the Psych Sheet, Hayes finds herself a little isolated as the number four seed. Entered with a time of 2:10.03, she is over a second and a half behind the #3 seed and over two seconds ahead of the #5 seed. However, Hayes, who is heading to UVA this fall, may have her chances improve in the event after the meet starts as two of the swimmers ahead of her will have to make a decision about swimming a tough double.

To 50 or not to 50

Outside of the Douglass/Walsh pair, only two Americans have been under 2:10 this season, and one of them, Regan Smith (2:09.05), is not entered in the event. This leaves Huske with the best chance of breaking up the UVA dominance.

In 2021, as the video above shows, Huske had a strong front half to her race at the Olympic Trials but was really let down by her breaststroke (39.30) as she plummeted from 1st at the 100 to 4th at the 150 turn and ultimately finished 4th in a time of 2:10.38. Huske stepped away from the event for a little while, but has seen a resurgence as of late.

Taking a redshirt from Stanford, Huske has been focussing solely on long courses and has hit three personal bests at the last three meets she has swam. At the US Open, she swam 2:09.10 to take 3rd, and three months later broke 2:09 for the first time, winning the event at the Westmont PSS in 2:08.83. A month later, in San Antonio, Huske knocked even more time off, swimming a new personal best of 2:08.47, beating Alex Walsh, who was 2nd in 2:08.60.

Despite Huske’s improvements, especially in the breaststroke, she split 37.80 in San Antonio; she will be faced with a tough decision as she faces a potential back-to-back evening swim.

The semifinals of the women’s 50 free are slated to occur right before the finals of the women’s 200 IM, and the multi-talented Huske finds herself as the #4 seed in the 50. She is not alone, however, in the conundrum, as Douglass is the top seed in both events. The two events were on separate days in 2021, and while the finals of both were in the same session at the 2023 Nationals, they were roughly 45 minutes apart.

We are going to operate under the assumption that both Huske and Douglass are going to swim the 200 IM but we will update if we hear any rumors otherwise.

100 Badger-sized gators or one gator-sized badger

With the top four all having a connection to Virginia, with Huske calling the state home, the next four seeds in the event are tied to two different states: Florida and Wisconsin (hence the subheading).

The 5th and 8th seeds in the event are a pair of Florida Gators: #5 Bella Sims and #8 Isabel Ivey. Sims is a human Swiss Army Knife as she is entered in 11 events, which equals out to everything besides the 50 free and the breaststroke. Sims entered with a time of 2:12.15, which comes from her 5th-place finish in the event last summer. Sims is a question mark in the event, however as she has not recorded a time in the event this season. In yards, for the Florida Gators, she only swam the event once, albeit swimming to a new PB and SEC title in a time of 1:51.86.

Ivey, who finished runner-up at SECs and at NCAAs, the latter in a new PB of 1:51.96, is the 8th seed. Ivey finished 16th in the event last summer in a time of 2:16.50 after tying for 8th place in the prelims (2:14.23) and subsequently losing the swim-off. Later that summer at the Pro Swim Series Championship, Ivey popped off a 2:12.57 to place 5th and 3rd amongst Americans. This season, she has just one recorded time, but its a speedy 2:12.76 from the Atlanta Classic.

Ahead of her at the PSS Championship last summer were a pair of Wisconsin Badgers: #6 seed Phoebe Bacon (2:12.18) and #7 seed Beata Nelson (2:12.38). Nelson, the more experienced of the two, placed 7th in the finals of the Olympic Trials in 2021 in 2:11.96 and will be looking to repeat the feat. The American Record holder in the 100 SCM IM, Nelson has great turns and underwaters, which helped her win three NCAA titles at the 2019 Championships, as she won the 200 IM and both backstrokes.

However, in a long course pool with half the walls, Nelson struggles a little against the competition. Also entered in the 100 fly (8th – 57.97),  50 free (20th – 25.11), and 100 free (10th – 53.97), the 200 IM is her highest individual-ranked event. She holds a personal best of 2:11.55 and has been bouncing around 2:12 this season, so she could be on track for a great swim, but she will certainly need to be a lot faster to have a shot of qualifying in the event.

Bacon, a fellow Badger, did not compete in the 200 IM at the 2021 Trials, instead focusing on the back and fly events. After finishing 2nd in the 200 back in Omaha and 5th in the finals in Tokyo, Bacon won a silver medal at the 2022 Budapest Worlds.

The 200 IM is relatively new to her event program, popping up last year for the first time at a major qualifying meet. She placed 6th in the final in a time of 2:12.27, a then-personal best, but in San Antonio, she swam a new PB of 2:12.18. The 200 back remains her best path to qualifying for the Olympics again, and with the finals of the 200 back occurring on the same day as the prelims of the 200 IM, she may solely concentrate on the backstroke. Or she may prefer to have a morning swim, similar to NCAAs, so we will have to wait and see.

2:12 to Finals

Last summer, 2:14.23 tied for 8th in prelims; however, it looks like it’ll take at least a 2:12 to make the cut. The top 11 entries are all under 2:13, and the top 21 are sub 2:14. Abby Harter, who won that swim-off and earned her place in the A-final last summer, enters as the 10th seed, just .03 behind Kelly Pash and .22 ahead of Justina Kozan.

Harter, who represented the US at the Pan-Am Games, placed 6th in Santiago in a time of 2:17.95 and has only been as fast as 2:16.77 this season, but to be fair, has seemed to transition to a focus on the butterfly events.

Pash was also at the Pan-Am games and collected medals in the fly events; he is the 9th seed. She placed 6th at NCAAs in the event and has been hovering around her personal best, swimming 2:13.33 in Knoxville this past January. Pash did not swim the event at the 2023 Nationals, nor did she at the 2021 Trials, so her participation in the event is uncertain.

Kozan, the last of the sub 2:13 entries, is entered with her U23 LEN winning time of 2:12.98. Kozan earned her spot at the meet courtesy of her 9th place last summer (2:13.23). Kozan has a personal best of 2:11.55, but that dates back to 2019, and like Pash, her participation in this event is uncertain. She has only swum it once this season, swimming 2:20.25 in April, and instead appears to be putting more focus into the 400 IM.

If there is a flurry of scratches in the event, some 2:13s may squeak by into the final, with Zoie Hartman (12th – 2:13.07) and Caroline Bricker (13th – 2:13.18) leading a tight pack.

Kennedy Noble, too, could be one to take advantage of some scratches. She placed 12th in 2023 (2:13.94) and won the bronze at Pan-Ams (2:14.19) ahead of Harter. Noble, like many above her, may have a better chance of making the finals in the backstroke events, however. She is seeded 20th in this but 4th in the 200 back, and the finals of the 200 back are on the same day as the prelims and semis of the 200 IM.

Decision Time (or is it?)

As the 200 IM prelims are on day 7, a lot can happen in the preceding days, and with so many potential doubles, some scratches are bound to happen, so take that into account for your Pick’ems. I may resort to a crystal ball in determining mine.

If Douglass swims this, and I think she will, then it’s a clear-cut Douglass and Walsh atop the field. Despite being flush with international hardware and being the prohibitive favorites, the pair still need to put up fast times, as they could find themselves on the periphery of the medal conversation should they not be close to Kaylee McKeown’s recent 2:06.63.

As for the Top 8, Douglass has to get the edge over Walsh; she has been faster this season and has a faster personal best. Huske is the natural 3rd  (if she swims) and Hayes 4th. After that, it gets a little murky, with Sims being a big question mark. She only swam it twice in the lead-up to 2023, and with only two long course meets his season under her belt, she couldn’t swim all of her 11 events at them, so that might not be the best indicator of her actual event schedule. I think Sims is likely to swim and, based on her 200 IM yards performance, could challenge for 4th with Hayes.

As for the 6th-8th, I think Ivey is going to have a good swim and jump ahead of the Badgers. After landing in Florida, she’s hit new PBs this season in the 200 IM and 100 free (SCY) as well as in the 200 free (LCM), so a new best in this event doesn’t seem that farfetched. Bacon, too, has had a strong season, but I think her focus has naturally been more on the backstroke.


1 Kate Douglass 2:07.05 2:07.05
2 Alex Walsh 2:07.63 2:07.13
3 Torri Huske 2:08.47 2:08.47
4 Leah Hayes 2:10.24 2:08.91
5 Bella Sims N/A 2:12.15
6 Isabel Ivey 2:12.76 2:12.56
7 Phoebe Bacon 2:12.18 2:12.18
8 Beata Nelson 2:12.49 2:11.55

Dark Horse: Lucy Bell (Stanford) & Josephine Fuller (Tennessee) – With two of the top four seeds facing a potential double and Sims maybe having the 200 IM 800 free back to back, I felt two dark horses were necessary. Of these two, Bell seems the best poised to make the jump. Despite being the 14th seed (2:13.28), she’s 11th among Americans this season and 8th among those entered. Her season best of 2:13.28 is her personal best and was achieved just a month ago at the LA Invite. And while she is seeded behind her teammate Caroline Bricker, she got the better of her at NCAAs, where Bell finished 4th to Bricker’s 10th. I think Bell has a strong shot of leapfrogging a lot of those ahead of her, but it remains to be seen if it’s enough to break into the top 8, who all are in the range of being sub 2:12.

Fuller finished ahead of them both, placing 3rd in the 200 IM at NCAAs. Over the course of one season, she dropped two seconds in the event, and if she could replicate that form in the long course pool, her 22nd-seeded 2:14.01 could turn into a 2:12 and put her name into the conversation of making the finals. 

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1 month ago

I’m worried about AW. I don’t believe she will qualify in the 100/200 breast, so she will feel pressured, and it’s really, really hard to repeat as a US Olympic swimming qualifier. The pressure may get to her.

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

She’s been in so many high pressure situations before, if there’s something that gets to her, it won’t be the pressure. She’s incredibly head-strong and confident right now.

1 month ago

Beata is too low, she’s been swimming well, just went lifetime bests in the 100 FL and 100 FR

Reply to  oxyswim
1 month ago

I think she’s probably too low just on the basis that I don’t think everyone ahead of her will swim it lol.

Viking Steve
1 month ago

KD doing the 200IM; Huske doing the 50 free

1 month ago

I’m operating under the assumption that KD doesn’t swim the 50 free for the sake of my pick’ems. Like she said after Worlds in February, i don’t think she can beat Sarah Sjostrom.

Reply to  Swimfan27
1 month ago

My thinking as well for the sake of the pick ’ems contest.

“Michael Andrew fades to fourth (M 100 BR), Michael Andrew fades to fourth (M 100 FL), Michael Andrew fades to fourth (50 FR).”

Reply to  Swimfan27
1 month ago

An individual Olympic silver medal is nothing to sneeze at.

1 month ago

Alex Walsh’s personal best time was set in the final of the W 200 IM at the 2022 World Aquatics Championships not at the 2024 TYR Pro Swim Series – Knoxville.

Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
1 month ago

Thank you SwimCloud 😂

1 month ago

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: that pic needs to be on an album cover

1 month ago

It’s hard to pick against KD in this race because she closes much better than Alex. Walsh will need a healthy lead after the third leg to have any chance to beat Kate. But as Barrowman proved back in 92, at Olympic trials the adage is “first is first & second is first.”

Reply to  KeithM
1 month ago

Kate Douglass has a better breaststroke (100 BR, 200 BR) than Alex Walsh.

Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
1 month ago

I understand that. My comment just mentioned she needed to have a decent margin on Douglass after the third leg. Walsh doesn’t need to have a faster breast split to be in the lead after 150m. If Douglass is even or ahead going into freestyle then Walsh isn’t going to win the race.

micah bell
1 month ago

is it cavalier to say that A Walsh is extremely beautiful ?

Steve Nolan
Reply to  micah bell
1 month ago

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