All of the data discussed comes courtesy of SwimSwam’s data expert, Barry Revzin.
While 2021’s US Olympic Swimming Trials didn’t see anyone ranked above 40th advance to finals, it did see Bella Sims qualify for the Olympic Team as just the 39th seed entering the meet in the 200 free. That makes her the lowest seed in at least the last 6 US Olympic Trials to qualify for the Games.
Between 2000 and 2016, only one swimmer seeded worse than 30th in an event coming into the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials qualified for an Olympic Team. That honor belongs to Erin Phenix, who, in 2000, went from the 38th seed in the 100 free to 6th at Trials, earning her a spot on the 400 free relay as a prelims-only swimmer. Eight years later, Morgan Scroggy became the lowest seed to advance to the finals at Trials, improving from a seed of 41st in the 200 back to an 8th place finish.
Going into the meet, Bella Sims, the 16-year old standout from the Sandpipers of Nevada, was only seeded 39th in the 200 free. After making her way into finals in the event, she finished 5th in the event, securing herself a spot on the team as a relay-only swimmer for the 800 free relay. In making the team, she became possibly the lowest seed in United States history to qualify for the Olympic Team.
Prior to this year’s trials, over 90% of the Olympic Team since 2000 entered Trials seeded better than 1oth in their event.
Lowest Seed to Make the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Team
- 39th: Bella Sims – 200 free
- 19th: Katie Grimes – 800 free
- 15th (tie): Brooke Forde – 200 free
- 15th (tie): Brooks Curry – 100 free
- 14th: Natalie Hinds – 100 free
Sims was also the worst seed to even qualify to swim during finals, becoming the 4th-lowest of this century. Just behind her was Trenton Julian in the 100 fly, who was the 38th seed in the event before qualifying to race in finals. He now sits tied for the 5th-lowest seed to qualify for a finals race.
The lowest swimmer to make a final in the last 21 years, at least, is Morgan Scroggy, who qualified for the finals of the 200 back at the 2008 Olympic Trials after entering the meet as the 41st seed. This took on special significance earlier this year, because her 41st place is where USA Swimming drew the new cutlines between the Wave I and Wave II meets when the event was split in two because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lowest Seed to Make 2021 Olympic Trials Finals
- 39th: Bella Sims – 200 free
- 38th: Trenton Julian – 100 fly
- 35th: Hunter Tapp – 200 back
- 34th: Destin Lasco – 200 back
- 33rd: Brett Pinfold – 100 free
While Brooks Curry would go on to pick up a spot on the Olympic team in the 100 free, he also was the lowest seed to qualify for a semifinals swim in Omaha. Seeded 51st going into the meet, Curry was able to crack the top-16 during prelims of the event before failing to make it into the top-8. He wasn’t alone in making the move from the 51st to the top-16, as Talia Bates was able to accomplish the same feat in the women’s 100 back.