A Changing Of The Guard Looms In The Women’s 50 Freestyle (U.S. Trials Day 9 Finals Preview)


It’s the last night of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials. Over eight days, we’ve seen finals of 26 events go off the blocks and now there are just two remaining: the women’s 50 freestyle and men’s 1500 freestyle. At the end of tonight, the roster for the Paris Olympics will be set.

So, is there going to be anyone new joining the team in Paris or are going to see four athletes add to their Olympic schedules?

Women’s 50 Freestyle

The top five of the women’s 50 freestyle have already been confirmed for Paris. And leading the charge is Gretchen Walsh, who’s looking to cap off her excellent week in Indianapolis with another win. In a stacked second semifinal on Day 8, the new 100 butterfly world record holder just got the better of Torri Huske, ripping a 24.06 to Huske’s 24.09.

Those were huge best times for both Walsh and Huske and pushed them up the all-time American rankings to 4th and 6th, respectively. More important for their Olympic bids in this event, the two clearly separated themselves from the rest of the challengers. Abbey Weitzeil qualified 3rd in 24.48, over four-tenths behind Walsh’s top time.

But this is the splash and dash — it’s an unpredictable event and both Weitzeil and Simone Manuel (4th, 24.51) know how to get the job done in the 50 freestyle at Olympic Trials. And, both are still looking for an individual Olympic berth.

Manuel, the former American record holder, and Weitzeil are the two swimmers in the field who sit ahead of Walsh and Huske on the all-time top Americans list. They were also the U.S. Olympic representatives in both 2016 and 2021, though Walsh and Huske are already faster than the qualifying times at the last two Trials.

In tonight’s final, we could be about to witness a changing of the guard in the women’s 50 freestyle.

Men’s 1500 Freestyle

For the last event of these Trials, we’ll totally shift gears from the sprints and jump to the men’s 1500 freestyle. And while there is some unpredictability here — more on that in a minute — one thing that is not in doubt is that Bobby Finke should win this event and get the chance to defend his Olympic gold.

It would by the biggest upset of the meet if someone in this field got the better of Finke; he’s the defending Olympic champion, the third-fastest performer in history (14:31.59), and was the only swimmer to go sub-15 minutes in prelims yesterday morning. Luke Whitlock did close on him during the final 50 of the 800 free, but make no mistake, Finke is the clear favorite to win and sweep the men’s distance events in Indianapolis.

Can Whitlock once again win the race for second? The 18 year old is already Paris bound after finishing second in the 800 freestyle in a personal best 7:45.19. Whitlock’s swum personal bests in both the 400/800 freestyle already this week — a solid signal that he’s gearing up for a drop in the 1500 freestyle as well, where his personal best is a 15:08.09 from earlier this season. If Whitlock wants to swim this event in Paris, he’ll need a big drop even if he finishes second as the Olympic Qualifying Time (OQT) stands at 15:00.99.

Besides Finke, the only swimmer in the final who’s been under that time is Charlie Clark. After a rough 800 freestyle, Clark looked better in the 1500 prelims, posting a 15:04.77 to move through in 3rd. Though it isn’t just Whitlock he’ll have to contend with: both Daniel Matheson and David Johnston and will be ready to jump on their last shot at making the Paris team. Neither Matheson nor Johnston have hit the OQT yet, though with PBs of 15:0195 and 15:02.37 need smaller drops than Whitlock to make it happen. Johnston was right off his PB in prelims, qualifying 2nd for the final in 15:02.42.

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26 days ago

Well that headline didn’t age well. maybe let the results speak rather than prognosticate.

26 days ago

i’m so happy for simone manuel she’s improved so much since 2021 and is peaking at the right time

27 days ago

No changing of the guard. Simone is still on top!

Joseph Knudsen
27 days ago

I absolutely just squealed for Simone and Gretchen!!! US will be well represented by “something old and something new” in the 50! 🙂

…..sidebar: I can’t help but wonder why Claire Curzan doesn’t consider racing the 50? The talent/competition in her main events seem to be some of the deepest events in the US (granted, the 50 is pretty deep too). So, considering Simone’s winning time was only .04 seconds faster than Claire’s Junior World Record, perhaps it is worth giving the event a whirl? (Noteworthy: the WJR of 24.17 is also faster than Simone’s winning 50 time at trials is 2021). These early signs of greatness are quite amazing…so I”m just a little surprised we don’t see her “dabble”… Read more »

Reply to  Joseph Knudsen
27 days ago

Again, Claire ain’t sniffed that time in years. And people say the TAC pool/timing system is suspect also

Genevieve Nnaji
Reply to  Joseph Knudsen
26 days ago

Claire’s 50 free and 100 fly PBs were done in the meet/pool where the timing was suspect.

Some people said many swimmers went their fastest in that meet and never approached those time again.

Genevieve Nnaji
27 days ago

Aged like 🐄🥛

27 days ago

lol. Simone is the Champ again in America and meanwhile in Europe Sarah casually missing the WR by a 1/10th.
Literally the antithesis of changing of the guard. Old school standing tall.
Seems more like a 2016 matchup than a 2024 🤣🤣🤣

27 days ago

Simone be like…not yet!

Sarah C.
27 days ago

Well, well, well.

Congratulations, Simone!

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

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