On Friday, we published our way-too-early predictions for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. We received overwhelming feedback about many of our predictions, so as promised, all seven writers who picked their Olympic teams will be breaking down some of their selections.
Yanyan, who organized this project, kicked things off, and now it’s my turn to address some of the questions I got on my picks in the comments.
- In case you forgot, all of our Olympic Trials picks can be found here.
- See Yanyan’s breakdown of her picks here.
Reminder of My Picks
|50 Free||Caeleb Dressel||Michael Andrew||David Curtiss|
|100 Free||Caeleb Dressel||Shaine Casas||Ryan Held||Kaii Winkler||Brooks Curry||Matt King|
|200 Free||Drew Kibler||Carson Foster||Kieran Smith||Henry McFadden||Gabriel Jett||
|400 Free||Kieran Smith||Jake Magahey||Jake Mitchell|
|800 Free||Bobby Finke||David Johnston||Charlie Clarke|
|1500 Free||Bobby Finke||Charlie Clark||David Johnston|
|100 Back||Hunter Armstrong||Shaine Casas||Ryan Murphy|
|200 Back||Shaine Casas||Ryan Murphy||Daniel Diehl|
|100 Breast||Nic Fink||Josh Matheny||Michael Andrew|
|200 Breast||Matt Fallon||AJ Pouch||Nic Fink|
|100 fly||Caeleb Dressel||Thomas Heilman||Michael Andrew|
|200 fly||Gabriel Jett||Thomas Heilman||Luca Urlando|
|200 IM||Shaine Casas||Carson Foster||Chase Kalisz|
|400 IM||Carson Foster||Baylor Nelson||
|50 Free||Gretchen Walsh||Claire Curzan||Abbey Weitzeil|
|100 Free||Gretchen Walsh||Kate Douglass||Torri Huske||Abbey Weitzeil||Claire Curzan||Camille Spink|
|200 Free||Katie Ledecky||Bella Sims||Claire Weinstein||Leah Smith||Erin Gemmell||Alex Walsh|
|400 Free||Katie Ledecky||Bella Sims||Katie Grimes|
|800 Free||Katie Ledecky||Bella Sims||Leah Smith|
|1500 Free||Katie Ledecky||Katie Grimes||Erica Sullivan|
|100 Back||Claire Curzan||Rhyan White|
|200 Back||Phoebe Bacon||Rhyan White||Regan Smith|
|100 Breast||Lilly King||Kaitlyn Dobler||Lydia Jacoby|
|200 Breast||Kate Douglass||Lilly King||Annie Lazor|
|100 fly||Torri Huske||Claire Curzan||Gretchen Walsh|
|200 fly||Hali Flickinger||Regan Smith||Kelly Pash|
|200 IM||Alex Walsh||Leah Hayes||Kate Douglass|
|400 IM||Katie Grimes||Leah Hayes||Alex Walsh|
My take on Regan Smith
My process was basically this: I went through and made all of my picks in a vacuum, and then went event-by-event and nailed down on things like “where I think they’re going to shift their focus” and “event conflicts” and made some semi-educated guesses.
That’s where my Regan Smith outcome came from.
I think two divergent things will happen between now and the 2024 Olympic Trials: I think Smith will focus more-and-more on the 200 meter races, and I think Claire Curzan will focus more-and-more on the 100-meter races.
When Regan left Stanford for Arizona State, she said that she felt the need for more volume, and to me, that pushes her more-and-more toward the 200 fly and 200 back, and away from the 100 fly and the 100 back where she has been so good in her career.
Inside Braden’s head: I probably should have picked her to win the 200 fly.
I know she’s got the American Record in the 100 back. I know she swam well in that event at the 2022 Trials. I know all of these things. I just think that she will find more-and-more comfort over 200 meters as Paris approaches, and ultimately I think that means she drops the 100 fly, and maybe drops the 100 back.
The good news for her (I guess?) is that she’s not particularly good at freestyle, so in spite of her versatility across fly and back, she doesn’t have to balance relay swims. I think there’s a chance that she starts to explore the 200 IM as well, though that event is going to be a logjam in the next few years.
Gretchen Walsh Is Not a Short Course Specialist
While I recognize that our readers abroad like to label any NCAA success story as a short course specialist (including, recently, the World Champion in the 200 and 400 long course meter IMs Leon Marchand), Gretchen Walsh is unequivocally-not a short course specialist.
No swimmer who swims a 53.74 in the 100 free at 16 (which, by the way, is faster than the Australian record for 16-year olds) is not a short course specialist.
Did she have an adaptation period to get back to that level in long course at Virginia? Absolutely. Does it seem like she’s figured it out now? It sure does.
I hear the arguments about Abbey Weitzeil and Simone Manuel. Weitzeil had a great meet in Knoxville (I wrote about that here), but I think America has to reset expectations. Weitzeil’s meet was great, but getting back to her best isn’t good enough in 2024. A much-younger Torri Huske was 52.92 at Worlds last summer, which is .07 faster than Weitzeil’s personal best.
While I think Weitzeil showed that somewhere in the neighborhood of 53.00, which will grab a relay spot, is in reason for her, I just think there’s too much young talent progressing for her to get individual spots there. If she decides to go full-in for the 50, do a Bruno Fratus or a Kasia Wasick, I would gladly change my pick there, but that’s generally not the American swimming way.
As for Simone, while it’s great to see her back in the water, we have to pick based on the information available, and what we’ve seen so far doesn’t indicate that she’s going to be back at 52-mid. It’s definitely too early to write her off, but it’s also too early to declare her a favorite. Let’s see how that progresses.
A Wave of Youth
I think 2024 is going to see a massive wave of youth swimmers interrupting the established order. Between the pandemic, the changed motivation patterns, a generation of swimmers who have hung around longer than most we’ve seen in the past, and a ridiculous wave of teenage talent, I think that there are going to be a lot of teenagers on this team.
Thomas Heilman to make the squad in the 100 and 200 fly doesn’t seem like that much of a reach to me. The 200 fly continues to be a weaker event for the US, and since he’s been training with Gary Taylor, his 200s have been his biggest growth.
His Winter Juniors times in short course yards were ridiculous, and came off an equally-ridiculous long course season (51.98 and 1:56.52 in the flys at Junior Pan Pacs). I just don’t see, with his momentum, how that doesn’t become 50-point and 1:54-point, at least, by 2024.
I was shocked that I was the only one to pick Kaii Winkler. That kid has momentum and seems fully-focused on long course performance right now. Maybe 4th was too high. But I think he makes the team.
After his 1:47.3 in Knoxville, I’ve got Henry McFadden just above his future Stanford teammate Rex Maurer in the 200 free. This is another event that’s due for a turnover in the American ranks, and I think we’re going to see it in a big way with lots of fresh faces. The Carson Foster pick there is based on him swimming it; if he doesn’t, stick Maurer in my lineup.
I’ll acknowledge that Camille Spink is a bit out of left field. She had big drops in 2022 and I think Tennessee training will suit her.
Wherefore art thou Caeleb?
The exercise was not to hedge. If I think that Caeleb is 70% to come back, but if he comes back, he wins everything, I can’t put him 2nd because of that 30% uncertainty. That’s just not how this game works.
So on balance, my crystal ball tells me this: Caeleb will come back, swim a light schedule in Fukuoka in 2023, return to his normal lineup in Paris (sans a mixed medley), and then ride off on his tractor into the sunset. I think he’d be satisfied ending his career now, but I also think he can muster the passion for one more big run. And if he does, he’s still the favorite in his events.
No Olivia Smoliga?
Olivia Smoliga will be just shy of her 30th birthday when the 2024 Olympics roll around. While the 100 backstroke used to be a veterans game, for the last decade it has been dominated by the overwhelming cycle of youth.
|Tokyo 2020||Rhyan White||21|
|Rio 2016||Kathleen Baker||19|
|London 2012||Rachel Bootsma||19|
|Beijing 2008||Natalie Coughlin||26|
|Athens 2004||Haley Cope||25|
|Sydney 2000||Barbara Bedford||27|
Even if I don’t think that Regan Smith will swim this, that still leaves Claire Curzan, Katharine Berkoff, Rhyan White, maybe Gretchen Walsh, and Isabelle Stadden to fight through.
Smoliga’s better chance is if she sneaks on to a 400 free relay, but there’s a lot of youth there too and I just don’t see it.
We all love Smoliga, too. She gives great interviews, she’s fun to watch – but that doesn’t convince me that I’m wrong.
Women’s 200 IM Picks
This one was really tough. The US has three great choices here (and probably more to come): the defending long course World Champion Alex Walsh, the defending short course World Champion Kate Douglass, and the defending long course World Championship bronze medalist Leah Hayes.
They’re all still clearly getting better. Hayes is the youngest of the group. Douglass seems like she’s got the most untapped upside from her current best pick. They’re all current or future Virginia Cavaliers (though Hayes isn’t committed to arrive until after Paris).
I basically just went with the safest pick. None of the three in any position would surprise me at all.
What About Michael Andrew?
Swimming’s biggest enigma since Caeleb Dressel, Andrew doesn’t seem fully focused on swimming right now. That said, he’s so talented, and by the nature of his training, if/when he decides to go back full-in, he can catch back up in a hurry.
If nothing else, he’s at least staying very active.
What’s he going to swim? What’s he going to make the team in? I don’t know. The #2 spot in the 50 still seems like his. He would’ve made the team in the 100 fly in 2021 if he had swum the event at Trials. The 100 breast is an event where an obvious second behind Nic Fink hasn’t emerged.
I think he drops the 200 IM. I think he swims the other 3. I think he makes 2 of them. I don’t know which 2.
Shaine Casas‘ Conundrum
This was another “but the schedule!” scenarios. Casas is immensely talented. In a bubble, he’s a contender for the team in the 100 fly, 100 back, 200 fly, 200 back, 200 IM, and 100 free, at least.
We’ve seen him struggle at selection meets in the past, but putting that aside, he has some choices to make with the schedule. Specifically, does he want to run the 100 fly on the same day as the 200 IM final.
Something tells me that Eddie Reese and Wyatt Collins will talk him out of that. It’s not the worst double, because the 100 fly prelims are alone (the morning of the 200 IM final), and the 100 fly semi-final comes after the 200 IM final. But it’s right after.
I don’t know, I don’t see it happening. I think he’ll swim the two backstroke races, the 200 IM, and maybe take a prelims flyer on the 100 free to see if he can get a look for the Games. To me, that’s the smart schedule.
What Are We Gonna Do About the Men’s Mid-D and D Frees?
I’m not going to lie, these were the hardest events for me to pick. Bobby Finke was the easy call at the top of the 800/1500 free fields. If he stays healthy, I don’t think anybody is touching him in those races.
But there’s a lot of good talent behind him, and it’s not entirely clear who’s going to emerge. Especially with the Jakes, both of whom have to show us still how they’re going to adapt to new training this season (Mitchell at Florida, Magahey still at Georgia but post-Bauerle retirement). And how many of them will make the team in the 800 free relay?
I went young on the 200 free. Johnston feels more dialed in to the 800 than the 1500 to me, but it feels like it would be a bad decision to leave Clark off the team.
So I don’t know. I’m not sure if those picks were all intellectually consistent. But I made them. And feel as good about them as I can.
“No swimmer who swims a 53.74 in the 100 free at 16 (which, by the way, is faster than the Australian record for 16-year olds) is not a short course specialist.”
Except Cate Campbell went 53.30 at 15 lol
And went slower the next year. And eventually went on to be Olympic champion. Point in KD’s favor.
She went slower the next year because she was injured. She went faster again the year after. She never stagnated for 4 years like Gretchen Walsh has.
Also, they’re talking about GW, not “KD”.
You can go 53.7 as a 16 year old, not drop any time for a few years in long course, get really really good UW, and become a better short course swimmer. This is what’s happened with Gretchen Walsh.
I’d guess she’ll drop some more time in her long course events but they don’t compare to her short course events.
I do not understand picking Winkler over Heilman in the 100 free relay team. I get that you put Heilman on the flys but why would Winkler be above him on sprint freestyle. Heilman is younger, markedly faster, and improving quicker.
I think Kai being taller and less filled out then Heilman really does play a role there. No doubt both could be 48 by next summer
sure….i guess you could maybe make that case if Heilman didnt improve in his events at a more impressive rate at this years juniors. He only got freestyle swims in relays but his improvement curve was nuts in the flys and IM. and being 49.0 in august, its virtually guaranteed he is already at 48 level
I am scared for the US men’s team…
Agreed without Dressel lookin kinda ruff, Aussies & the French might beat us in Paris
I think this is overblown. Even if Dressel is out, the Australian men’s team isn’t winning more medals than the US men’s team without massive breakout improvements.
We would basically need Kyle to improve further in 100 free, Temple to become a gold contender in 100 fly, Cooper to become a gold contender in 100 back, ZSC to win again, Winnington to win and find a much better 100 breast medley leg to potentially win that. As it stands Australian men have 1 likely individual gold (200 BR), 2 realistic individual gold chances (100 FR, 400 FR) and no relay chances.
There is no universe in which US men win less than 3 golds in Paris, especially if Russia… Read more »
Caeleb is doing his best Derek Zoolander look in that photo. I totally see it now
Dressel is done. So is Andrew. I think some veterans may have to come out of semi-retirement to save us. My prediction is Nathan Adrian or Tom Shields or both will come back and make the team.
50free: David Curtiss and Nathan Adrian
100free: Shaine Casas and Kai Winkler
100fly: Tom Shields and Thomas Heilman
I thought you were joking at first but now I see that you are not. Yikes.
Don’t get me wrong – love me some Adrian and Shields.
But “save” is v unlikely from either of them. (Not everyone can be Jason Lezak.)
youre out of your mind. Shields? He’ll be in his mid 30’s. No.
M Andrew is in his absolute prime. Not only will be be deadly in the 50f and 100 br, but he will also have a very good chance to win the 2 IM (if he swims it), even with the piano dropping on the last 50.
YES! Phelps and Lochte 200 IM… Alright, alright. Y’all can stop laughing. I know, I know…
The former is, not the latter
You think MA and Dressel are done, but that Adrian and Shields have their best swims yet to come?
Can’t see Berkoff beating Smith in 100 back; SCY, yes, already done; LCM, no way.
My biggest question for Braden is why Sims over Grimes in the 800? Also i understand being bullish on the young talent in the 200 free but the Stanford men have yet to really show ability to get guys on international teams consistently. Maybe that will change soon but definitely something I would consider in predictions.
Other random thoughts, I think Smith will make it in the 100 and 200 back. She’s got the skill set and now has her confidence back, which she hasn’t had since 2019. I also feel like the second 400 IM spot will come down to either Weyant and Flickinger again opposed to Hayes. I think like Regan at Stanford, Weyant wasn’t totally comfortable… Read more »
Agreed. Sims and Smith over Grimes at 800 caused me to double take then triple take, beyond anything explained in the OP. Grimes had a poor 800 at 2022 trials. I would toss that.
Perhaps they’re thinking her large program will wear her down by the time the 800 arrives. If she swims all her usual events and tries for a relay spot she’ll have done 2×400 free, 3×200 free, 2×400 IM, 2×1500 by the time the 800 arrives.
Grimes should not swim the 200 individual even if she is top 2.
she wouldn’t get past Kate or Alex anyway.
Her track record at qualifying meets seems to show she does better as the meet goes on but also understand that perspective.
“Track record”? She’s 15, that’s not a reference for anything…
I believe Katie is 17 now. Even if she does qualify top 2 for 200 free for Paris it would be a very difficult double on day 3 with the prelims for the 400IM followed by the finals that evening to go along with the 200 free if she was to make the final. Same difficult decision for SM as well when deciding which events to swim come 2024.
The most fun about these articles is going to be reading all but 1 contributor having their obligatory G.Walsh apologist paragraph.