5 Storylines to Follow at the 2021 Pro Swim Series – Richmond

2021 TYR PRO SWIM SERIES – RICHMOND

The Pro Swim Series is back for the first time since March 2020, around the beginning of the United States’ COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the country’s top swimmers will be racing at one of two sites for the first 2021 PSS stop, one in Richmond, Va., and one in San Antonio, Tx., with the moved-back Olympic Trials less than half a year away.

Below, check out five of the top storylines to follow at the Richmond site this week (in no particular order).

#1 CLAIRE CURZAN FOLLOWING UP ON STATEMENT 100 FLY

Claire Curzan has been leaving NAG records in her wake for several years now, and while her LCM ability has also progressed, she made it to international medal threat level speed at the end of 2020. Throwing down a 56.61 100m fly at the Greensboro site of the virtual 2020 U.S. Open, the 16-year-old shot to the #3 performer slot in U.S. history.

She’s the fastest American in this event since Kelsi Dahlia went 56.41 at the 2018 Pan Pac Championships.

Dahlia hasn’t broken 57 seconds in this race since that swim in 2018, making Curzan a favorite to take over duties as America’s top butterflier, a role Dahlia has more-or-less held since former World Record-holder Dana Vollmer‘s peak years.

Curzan can be expected to go fast at any point in the season, and she’s entered in the 50 free, 100 free, 100 back and 200 back this week. Besides her huge 100m fly, in the last five weeks, Curzan has clocked a 50.18 15-16 NAG record in the 100 back, broke 1:50 in the 200 back and was named to the 2020-21 National Team. In LCM, she’s gotten right up to time barriers in the 50 free (25.23), 100 back (1:00.00) and 200 back (2:10.16) in her career, and will try to keep making waves in Richmond.

#2 THE FINAL YEAR OF RYAN LOCHTE?

Four-time Olympian and World Record-holder Ryan Lochte has been on a redemption tour, of sorts, since the 2016 Rio Olympics and his infamous gas station incident. Since then, he’s gotten married, had two children, faced another suspension in 2018 for having a prohibited IV infusion and gotten almost a half-decade older.

The postponement of the 2020 Olympics wasn’t what Lochte, 36, initially had in mind. But, despite it all, he’s dead-set on making the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, which would be his fifth Games. Finally, Lochte’s 2021 has arrived.

With only five months until the Olympic Trials, the pressure is on. In Richmond, Lochte is entered in six events, including four of the five races he told SwimSwam in October he’d be targeting for Trials. He’s seeded first in the 200 IM, and he’ll also contest the 100 free, 200 free, 400 free, 100 back and 100 fly. In October, he said he planned on racing both IMs, the 200 free, the 100 fly and the 200 back, so he’s not taking on the 200 back and 400 IM from that plan in Richmond.

Lochte hasn’t put down any impressive swims in quite some time, but training under Gregg Troy‘s notorious distance-heavy workload, he’s never really been that fast in-season. Regardless of whether he makes the 2021 Olympic team, this feels like Lochte’s last chace at the big stage; 2021 could be the last year of Lochte.

#3 OLYMPIC HOPEFULS IN MEN’S BUTTERFLY

While the men’s 100 fly looks like Caeleb Dressel and Maxime Rooney‘s Olympic spots to give up, the 200 fly is far more open.

Entered in the 200 fly this week in Richmond are World Champs participants Justin Wright and Jack Conger and National Team-er Jack Saunderson. Wright and Conger represented Team USA at different Worlds in the 200 fly; Wright competed in 2019, placing 18th in prelims and just missing semifinals, while Conger reached the final in 2017 and placed fifth. Conger also made the team in 2019, albeit in the 100 fly, where he made semifinals and touched 11th overall.

There’s still a chance for Conger and Saunderson, Olympic team-wise, in the 100 fly; they were both 51-low in 2019, and they’re two of the strongest contenders to unseat Rooney. Still, the 200 is the more open event, with Georgia freshman Luca Urlando the favorite for the win and a slew of guys between 1:54-1:56 behind.

All three men have left their college post-grad groups; Wright has traveled from Arizona to the pro group at UNC, Conger from Texas to the pro group at UVA and Saunderson from Towson to Wolfpack Elite at NC State. Wright and Saunderson are entered with 1:57’s and Conger a 1:58.

#4 DISTANCE STARLETS GORMSEN, WEINSTEIN & MORE CONVERGE

A handful of emerging distance free talents on the women’s side will come together this week in Richmond. Two of the bigger names from the last few months are New York standouts: Long Island Aquatic Club’s Cavan Gormsen, 15, and Westchester Aquatic Club’s Claire Weinstein, 13.

Gormsen really set herself apart in December at a LIAC-hosted meet, blasting a 15:58.97 in the 1650 free and a 4:38.45 in the 500 free. Weinstein, the youngest swimmer at this meet, has hit best times left and right since the fall season started, and a highlight came at a virtual U.S. Winter 18 & Under Championships site in December, where she dropped over 20 seconds from her old best to hit a 9:43.75 in the 1000 free.

Both Gormsen and Weinstein are entered in the 200/400/800/1500 free, while Weinstein will also race the 200 back. Gormsen will eye additional Olympic Trials cuts to go with her 400 free cut, while Weinstein will look to become the youngest OT qualifier and nab her first-ever cut.

Among the young distance stars at this meet are 2019 World Junior Champs participants Rachel Stege (FMC Aquatic) and Paige McKenna (NCAP), 2019 Pan Am Games medalist Mariah Denigan (Lakeside Swim Team) and Weinstein’s club teammate Alexa Reyna.

The top seed in the 400/800/1500 free is Olympian and open water specialist Ashley Twichell, 31, of TAC Titans.

#5 JUSTIN RESS & COLEMAN STEWART SPAR IN 100 BACK

Teammates while at NC State collegiately and now as part of their pro group, Justin Ress and Coleman Stewart are two big contenders for a 100 back spot on the 2021 Olympic Team. The pair were teammates on a third team, the Cali Condors, during the 2020 International Swimming League season, though Stewart’s name was a bit more glued to headlines.

Aside from a brief spat with LA Current’s Ryan Murphy during the ISL season, Stewart’s swimming spoke for itself: he posted a 49.62 in the 100 SCM back, making him the fifth-best American performer ever and #15 all-time in the world. Ress, meanwhile, was a bit more focused on sprint free this past ISL season.

In long course, though, Ress has the upper hand, boasting a lifetime best of 53.26 to Stewart’s 53.85. Ress’s time is from summer 2018 and Stewart’s is from summer 2019, and they’re the two to watch in Richmond.

As far as Olympic spots go, Murphy looks like a lock for one, while Shaine Casas and veteran Matt Grevers have both been 52-point since 2019 and Jacob Pebley hit a 52.9 in 2016. Ress and Stewart are still in it, but they’ll need to find their way into 52-second territory to have a shot.

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Swammer
11 days ago

Oof. Claire isn’t going.

Swimmer daddy @Tufts
Reply to  Swammer
11 days ago

Which Claire ? I hear West had some Covid cases and has to quarantine . Is this so? I was looking forward to seeing her swim.

Swammer
Reply to  Swimmer daddy @Tufts
11 days ago

Curzan. The #1 story to watch

Swimmer daddy @Tufts
Reply to  Swammer
11 days ago

Bummer , I just saw Alexa Reyna scratched as well. It’s always exciting to see kids from that team compete . That Covid really did a number on that team. I just heard they had to quarantine their senior team because two swimmers tested positive last week. Many of us were rooting for Weinstein/Reyna. It’s refreshing to see that coach Carle follows the quarantine rules .

Westchester Aquatic Club Mom
Reply to  Swimmer daddy @Tufts
11 days ago

You clearly have a lot of “insider” information but it is incorrect. There was a swimmer that tested positive and the swimmers in contact with her were all told to test and quarantine. That case did not affect Claire or Alexa. Claire is at the meet and we’re excited to watch her race. Alexa just got back from a big meet in France- her scratch at this meet has nothing to do with Covid. Good luck to all the swimmers this weekend!

OG Prodigy
Reply to  Swammer
11 days ago

Big Insider Information 🙂

backstroker
11 days ago

9:43.75 for a 100 free?

Swim Fan
11 days ago

Good luck to all swimmers and Olympian this weekend . I hope people are followed Covid rules . From the looks of this thread, a lot of great swimmers have scratched. Covid and the new strand is serous.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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