2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: The Casas Conundrum In Men’s 200 IM

2024 U.S. OLYMPIC TRIALS

MEN’S 200 IM — BY THE NUMBERS:

  • World Record: 1:54.00 — Ryan Lochte (USA), 2011
  • American Record: 1:54.00 — Ryan Lochte (USA), 2011
  • U.S. Open Record: 1:54.56 — Ryan Lochte (USA), 2009
  • World Junior Record: 1:56.99 – Hubert Kos (HUN), 2021
  • 2021 Olympic Champion: Wang Shun (CHN), 1:55.00
  • 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Champion: Michael Andrew, 1:55.44
  • 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 2:03.49
  • 2024 Olympic Qualifying Time: 1:57.94

After four straight Olympic cycles with Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte representing the U.S. in the men’s 200 IM, the event saw a drastic shift in 2021 as, for the first time since 2000, the two greatest swimmers in the event’s history didn’t have the Olympic spots locked down for the Americans.

That opened the door for a variety of contenders to come to the forefront, from 400 IM stalwart Chase Kalisz, all-around sprinter Michael Andrew, freestyler Kieran Smith and the up-and-coming Carson Foster.

Lochte was still in the field, but at 36, he fell to 7th in the final as Andrew used his blazing opening speed to secure a comfortable win in 1:55.44, with Kalisz claiming the second roster spot in 1:56.97.

Based on what we’ve seen at the last two U.S. selection meets, we have a pretty clear idea of what this event will look like in Indianapolis, but there are two wildcards who could turn the race on its head.

RELIABILITY KEEPS FOSTER, KALISZ AT THE TOP

Any demons Foster may have had about selection meets after what happened in the 400 IM at the 2021 Olympic Trials was put to rest in 2022, locking in individual berths in both medley events at the World Championships in Budapest and then again in Fukuoka.

Foster is no lock to win this event at Trials, but he’s consistently shown that he can churn out 1:56 swims at will, and it would be surprising if two men were under that threshold in the final.

Over the last 24 months, Foster has been under 1:57 nine times, with his lone sub-1:56 performance coming in the 2022 World Championship final where he won silver in 1:55.71.

He was then 5th at the 2023 Worlds in 1:56.43, and was upset in the 2024 World Championship final by Canadian Finlay Knox, settling for silver in 1:56.97.

With so many under his belt, we know what we’re going to get from Foster, and by extension, we have a pretty good idea of what we’ll see from Chase Kalisz.

Kalisz peaked in the 1:55s in 2017 and 2018, and although he hasn’t been back there since, the 30-year-old has maintained a spot near the top domestically in the years since.

Last season was his slowest in the 200 IM and his first ranking below third in the U.S. since 2015-16.

Chase Kalisz – 200 IM

Season U.S. Rank Time
2023-24 4th 1:57.43
2022-23 3rd 1:56.52
2021-22 3rd 1:56.21
2020-21 2nd 1:56.97
2019-20 2nd 1:57.28
2018-19 1st 1:56.78
2017-18 1st 1:55.40
2016-17 1st 1:55.56
2015-16 4th 1:58.77

There might be three or four swimmers with higher ceilings than Kalisz in this event, but if anyone slips up, lets the nerves get the best of them, is off form, or gets disqualified, he’ll be right there to take advantage.

CASAS AND ANDREW: BOOM OR BUST

Shaine Casas and Michael Andrew are maybe the only two swimmers who could qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in multiple events and just as easily make zero finals and no one would be too surprised.

Over the last five seasons, either Casas or Andrew has ranked first in the United States in the 200 IM, with Casas holding that distinction each of the last three campaigns.

The well-documented problem with backing Casas to maintain that ranking at this type of meet is that he’s had many of his best performances come in ‘B’ finals, or from Lane 8 in an in-season meet. It almost seems as though he’s either going to qualify for the Olympic team in the 200 IM, or he won’t be in the final. His unreliability in the early rounds makes him a polarizing figure when it comes to predictions.

He ripped his personal best time of 1:55.24 at the 2022 U.S. Summer Nationals, which came three months after the selection meet for the World Championships where he opted out of the event.

In 2023, Casas got the job done, qualifying for the World Championship team, though he was only 1:57.47 at the U.S. Trials compared to his season-best of 1:56.06 from a Pro Swim stop two and a half months earlier.

He performed better at the World Championships, however, placing 4th in the final in 1:56.35, edging out Foster.

This season, Casas has repeated his in-season time from last year to lead the domestic rankings, clocking 1:56.06 in the consolation final at the U.S. Open, a time that was significantly faster than what Kalisz went to win the ‘A’ final (1:57.43).

Barring a scratch of either race, Casas will have the semis of the 100 fly directly after the 200 IM final. There’s a chance that leads him to drop the 200 IM, but given that it’s his best chance at the Olympic team, it’s hard to imagine that’s the route he chooses.

As for Andrew, will we really see him in this race? He only has one long course 200 IM on record in the past two seasons, has said his focus is the 50 free, 100 breast and 100 fly, and the 50 free and 200 IM collide on the Trials schedule.

All of that leads us to the likely conclusion that Andrew won’t be swimming the 200 IM. He’s got the speed and talent to lead the race through 150 meters, but even when he was hitting 1:55s at the 2021 Olympic Trials, he struggled on the last 50. If he hasn’t been all-in on training for the 200 IM, that will only be magnified.

THE MAXIMUS EXPRESS

Maximus Williamson has been rapidly rising the age group rankings over the last few years, and hit a new gear in the long course pool at the 2023 World Junior Championships this past September.

In the 200 IM, Williamson roared to the gold medal in a time of 1:57.29, becoming the fastest 17-year-old of all-time and moving to #2 all-time in the boys’ 17-18 age group in the United States behind Michael Phelps (1:55.94).

Relative to his competitors at Trials, Williamson’s skillset is more like Foster or Kalisz than it is Casas or Andrew—he’s solid across the board. But the one thing Williamson has working in his favor is his ability to close, having rocketed home sub-27.5 multiple times, a split only a select few swimmers, namely Phelps, have been able to produce in major competition.

Still 17, Williamson has progressed from 1:59 to 1:58 to 1:57 in each of the last three seasons—his 1:57 from Juniors is technically part of this season though it came just over a week after the end of the summer—and if the trend continues and he hits 1:56 in Indianapolis, an Olympic spot could be his.

At the first two Pro Swims of the year, he went 2:01.00 and then 2:00.90. Most recently, in May, he was 2:04.84 at the Longhorn Elite Invite.

OTHER CONTENDERS

Trenton JulianDestin Lasco and Kieran Smith are the three other swimmers in the field who hold sub-1:58 entry times, all sitting at 1:57.9.

Julian, whose best chance at an Olympic berth comes in the 200 fly, set his best time of 1:57.86 back in August 2021, but nearly matched it last year at Nationals in 1:57.94, placing 3rd in a tight battle with Casas, Lasco and Smith.

Lasco set a best time of 1:57.97 in that final, while Smith, who was 5th in 1:57.99, set his best time of 1:57.23 at the 2021 Olympic Trials where he was right in the thick of the battle and placed 3rd.

This season, post-grads Julian and Smith have been racing the 200 IM consistently in long course, while Lasco only has a few swims in the big pool after winning the NCAA title in short course and breaking the American Record.

Perhaps it’s telling that Lasco didn’t race the 200 IM at his most recent meet, the Los Angeles Invite, indicating maybe he won’t race it at Trials. The prelims of the 200 IM fall on Thursday morning, with the final of the 200 back later on that evening. Lasco has a better chance at the Olympic team in the 200 back, so it’s very possibly he opts to take the morning off that day and scratches the 200 IM.

Two prime candidates to drop time and move up in the top eight are Daniel Diehl, the 2023 World Junior silver medalist to Williamson, and Arsenio Bustos, the rising senior at NC State who broke through with a sub-1:40 swim at the NCAA Championships in March.

Diehl set his PB at World Juniors in 1:58.62, while Bustos was 1:58.74 last July at Summer Nationals.

Grant HouseBaylor Nelson, veteran Will Licon and 2024 NCAA runner-up Owen McDonald are some other names seeded in the 9-16 range who will be right there battling for an ‘A’ final berth.

THE VERDICT

Foster is the slam-dunk pick for a top-two spot. He’s the most consistent among the favorites and is in his prime. Williamson and Kalisz will be in the battle in the final, but it’s hard not to lean towards Casas qualifying for the team here. He was more than two seconds off his best time at the 2023 Nationals and still made the Worlds team, and gained some valuable experience in Fukuoka.

A Michael Andrew 1:55 in one of the early rounds would triple the amount of excitement for the final, but we don’t see him racing it.

SWIMSWAM’S PICKS

PLACE SWIMMER SEASON BEST
LIFETIME BEST
1 Carson Foster 1:56.97 1:55.71
2 Shaine Casas 1:56.06 1:55.24
3 Maximus Williamson 1:57.29 1:57.29
4 Chase Kalisz 1:57.43 1:55.40
5 Kieran Smith 1:58.98 1:57.23
6 Trenton Julian 1:58.46 1:57.86
7 Daniel Diehl 1:58.62 1:58.62
8 Arsenio Bustos 1:59.89 1:58.74

Dark Horse: Nate Germonprez – Coming off an impressive freshman year at Texas, Germonprez could do some damage in this race given the progress he made during the short course season. He dropped two seconds in SCY in the 200 IM, from 1:42.8 to 1:40.8, and with a best time of 1:59.9 in LCM from last summer, a similar drop puts him in the ‘A’ final.

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SWIMFAN
1 month ago

Based on the Swimswam Picks You have Casas and Julian Climbing out of the 200IM final and heading straight to the ready room for the 100FLY Semi. At least MA Admits that is not plan for success in either and scratched the 200IM.

Speedy K
1 month ago

Watch out for Maximus Williamson I think he will take 2nd and upset either Kalisz or Foster

Last edited 1 month ago by Speedy K
cheese
1 month ago

Peter Andrew responded to a commenter on his Instagram and said Michael’s swimming 100 breast, 50 free, and 100 fly, so he’s definitely not racing here.

Jalen T
1 month ago

Swimmers I don’t want to hear about against after these trials:
Casas
Carson and Jake Foster
Nick Finke
Michael Andrew
Swimmers who have been hyped up for years and have done nothing. No more please.

Viking Steve
Reply to  Jalen T
1 month ago

Nick Finke has ‘done nothing’ ?!

That is a bonkers take..

Last edited 1 month ago by Viking Steve
Viking Steve
1 month ago

Well… at least Casas still has one person that still believes.

I certainly don’t.

Chase for the 2 spot

Last edited 1 month ago by Viking Steve
Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Reply to  Viking Steve
1 month ago

I think he’s Canadian, go figure.

Andy
1 month ago

Casas kind of reminds me of Dennis Rodman. I wish Casas could only get (and accept) the right kind of support to channel his immense talent like Rodman did.

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

Michael Jordan kept him in line where David Robinson failed.

I miss the ISL (go dawgs)
1 month ago

Conundrum is a PERFECT word to describe him

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

Casas conundrum seems like a big bang theory episode

Outside Smoke
1 month ago

MA and Casas will tie for 8th heading into the final. The resulting swim-off will be legendary.

Last edited 1 month ago by Outside Smoke

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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