The 2020-21 NCAA season is over. And after the results of the Women’s and Men’s NCAA Division I Championships, we wonder which college swimmers have a shot to make the Olympic team. And even more, which of them can win Olympic gold medals this summer in Tokyo?
This is a harder feat than some of you may think. Instagram’s Swimming Stats page has published all the swimmers who won the NCAA and the Olympics in the same year, in the same individual event.
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Speaking of recent Olympics, there were no swimmers who achieved this feat in London 2012. In Beijing 2008, no men, and in Sydney 2000, no women.
On the other hand, three swimmers won gold at the 2016 Olympics and claimed the 2016 NCAA title across four events, the most since 1984: Lilly King (women’s 100 breast), Ryan Murphy (men’s 100 and 200 back), and Joseph Schooling (men’s 100 fly).
It’s worth noting that 24 male and 8 female swimmers were able to repeat their NCAA victories at the Olympics in the same year. The fact that there are fewer women than men is obvious: men’s swimming in the NCAA has been contested since 1925, and women’s NCAA swimming has only been contested since 1982.
Of course, there were some NCAA and Olympic legends who never won their events at the two meets in the same year simply because they didn’t have the chance to do so. Take the case of Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky, who won their Olympic gold medals years before entering college. If they were college swimmers in 2012 and 2016, respectively, undoubtedly they would make the list.
There were those who won NCAA titles, but managed to reach their peak and win the Olympic gold medal years later, such as Dana Vollmer, Katinka Hosszu, Nathan Adrian, Matt Biondi, Matt Grevers, Ryan Lochte, Mel Stewart, and many others.
And there were those who dominated their respective event in the NCAA, but, for one reason or another, didn’t win their races in the Olympic year. Simone Manuel, the 2016 Olympic champion in the women’s 100 free, won the 100 yard free at NCAAs in 2015, 2017 and 2018 – she didn’t compete in 2016. Misty Hyman, the women’s 200 fly Olympic champion in 2000, won the 200 yard fly at NCAAs in 1998 and 2001 – she ended up in 2nd place in 2000.
As we can see, it takes more than being a fantastic swimmer to win the NCAA and the Olympic titles in the same year. It’s a combination of reaching your peak while still in college and, of course, having the opportunity to compete at the Olympics during this period. History shows that this is a feat for a certain few.
Which 2021 NCAA Champions have the best chance to achieve this feat next summer? Two strong candidates are:
Maggie MacNeil (Michigan, Canada): Already a world champion in the women’s 100 butterfly, she became the first swimmer to crack the 49-second barrier in the 100 yard fly two weeks ago.
Shaine Casas (Texas A&M, USA): He was just 0.02 off Ryan Murphy‘s NCAA record in the men’s 200 backstroke recently. Murphy is the defending Olympic champion in the event, so Casas may have a shot. He can also be competitive in the 200 IM.
Do you think they or another 2021 NCAA winner will repeat their NCAA victories in Tokyo?