With the explosion of fast swimming at the U.S. Olympic Trials dominating coverage last week, we’re rolling last week’s Blueseventy Swim of the Week into this week’s in a U.S. Olympic Trials Double Feature. Today, we’ll look at the best swim of the first four days of Trials, and tomorrow, we’ll check in with the top swim of the meet’s second four days.
It was without doubt the most nerve-wracking – and heart-breaking – race of the U.S. Olympic Trials. Swim fans have known for a year or more that the men’s 100 back would feature at least 3 major international medal contenders, and that only 2 would make the trip to Rio in the 100.
Few races are this loaded at the national level, but last Tuesday night saw 2012 Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers, 2016 world leader David Plummer and 2015 world leader Ryan Murphy walk out the Olympic Trials tunnel one after the other for the 100 back final.
It’s hard to pick any other race as our Blueseventy Swim of the Week for the first half of Trials (the race of the second half of the meet will be the subject of tomorrow’s Swim of the Week double feature). The results speak for themselves.
All three men went out at a blistering pace, rattling the world record pace of Aaron Peirsol‘s legendary 2009 swim. Though the intensity of the moment caught up to all three in the final, Peirsol’s world record seems to be living on borrowed time, with a great chance it falls in Rio.
Not to be forgotten is Jacob Pebley, who had the misfortune of swimming the most overshadowed 52 in 100 back history. His 52.95 sits inside the world’s top 5, and he could very well have won a medal in Rio had he earned a bid to swim the 100 back there. (Luckily, Pebley made the team in the 200 back, where he’s also a major medal contender).
In all, the men’s 100 back produced the 1st-, 2nd-, 4th- and 5th-fastest times in the world this year, and spots 2-5 in the world rankings for the season, which stretch back to last September.
It was the reigning Olympic champ Grevers who was left out, despite swimming an outstanding 52.76. Murphy (52.26) and Plummer (52.28) head to Rio to continue the historically dominant Team USA run in the event. Despite the bittersweet outcome for all involved (fans included), the race will go down in history as one of the fastest, most ferocious battles in the history of the event.
Because choosing just one race is so difficult, here are a few honorable mentions from the first four days of Trials:
- Men’s 400 IM: The ushering in of a new era. First-time Olympians Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland beat 2012 Olympic champ Ryan Lochte, symbolically kicking off an Olympic Trials that would be full of fresh faces for a Team USA.
- Men’s 100 Breast: It was an American record for Kevin Cordes, and all the way down the line, the event was impressive for how far it has risen over the past few years. Both Cordes and Cody Miller are medal contenders in an event many had written off for the American men.
- Women’s 400 Free: It was vintage Katie Ledecky, who swam an extremely aggressive race in search of a world record despite not being fully rested. But maybe more significant was runner-up Leah Smith, who became the second-fastest textile performer of all-time and actually closed on Ledecky late in the race.
- Men’s 200 Free: In terms of pure excitement and unpredictability, this one was hard to match. Conor Dwyer‘s aggressive early pace. Ryan Lochte pushing those on-the-back underwaters to the limit. Townley Haas‘s late surge to touch out the vets. Gunnar Bentz going from last at the 50 to an Olympic berth at the finish. A winning margin of .01. And most of all, a huge statement from the American men that the 4×200 free relay title still goes through them.
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