How Accurate Were SwimSwam’s Way-Too-Early Olympic Trials Picks?

On January 27, 2023, myself (Yanyan Li), Braden Keith, Sophie Kaufman, Robert Gibbs, Nicole Miller, Anya Pelshaw, and James Sutherland put together SwimSwam’s way-too-early 2024 U.S. Olympic trials predictions, around a year and a half before the competition began. Now that the meet has concluded, let’s take a look back at our predictions to see how accurate we were.

  • To look at the original prediction article, click here.

Final Results

Before calculating the final score, I put together a scoring system to determine who most accurately picked out the 2024 U.S. Olympic team. For one event, writers who got the exact placement of a swimmer correct earned three points, writers who correctly placed a swimmer in the top three (or between fourth to sixth place for the 100 and 200 free races) earned one point, and writers who correctly placed a swimmer in the top six but not the top three/bottom three for 100 and 200 free races earned half a point. Based on this scoring system, Nicole had the most accurate predictions with 116.5 earned points, while Braden had the least accurate ones with 95.5 earned points. The maximum amount of points you could earn through this system was 288 points.

I understand that this scoring system isn’t perfect, but I felt that it was the system that accounted for accuracy in the most objective manner.

Scoring System:

  • Correct placement: 3 points
  • Correctly placed in top 3 (or in top 4-6 for the 100/200 free): 1 point
  • Correctly placed in top 6 for 100/200 free (but not top 3 or top 4-6): 0.5 point

Rankings:

  1. Nicole — 116.5 points
  2. Yanyan — 111.5 points
  3. Sophie — 107 points
  4. Robert — 105.5 points
  5. James — 104.5 points
  6. Anya — 101 points
  7. Braden — 94.5 points

Regan Smith (and Ryan Murphy)…?

The most controversial trend in our predictions was the lack of confidence in Regan Smith. Both Anya and I picked her to miss the Olympic team in its entirety, three writers had her missing the team in both backstroke events, and four writers had her missing the 200 back — an event where she was then the world record holder in. In the 200 back, James was the only writer who accurately predicted her winning the event.

We got a lot of flack for being this skeptical over Smith, and rightfully so. At trials, she was arguably the top-performing female swimmer, winning the 100 back, 200 back, and 200 fly. In addition, she also broke the world record in the 100 back final. So clearly, she made us eat our words.

I can’t speak for everyone, but a possible reason for the wariness around Smith’s career then was her sudden move to leave Stanford and collegiate swimming to train with Bob Bowman at Arizona State as a pro. She was just six months removed from making that decision, and there was still some uncertainty around whether she’d still succeed after making such a big life change (that being said, at the time she was also coming off a meet where she broke 2:05 in the 200 back for the first time since 2019). In addition, at that point, she had just missed two consecutive international teams in the 200 back. Clearly, those concerns about Smith didn’t pan out over the next year in a half.

Another miss in the backstroke department came within the men’s 100 back. Only Robert and James had Ryan Murphy winning the event, and only three writers had him making the team. Meanwhile, five of seven writers had Hunter Armstrong winning the event, while those who didn’t pick Murphy to make the team picked either Daniel Diehl or Shaine Casas to do so. Murphy proved his naysayers wrong, going on to win the 100 back at trials by a comfortable margin.

Notably, these predictions were made when Armstrong had a lot of momentum — he was just 0.01 of a second off Murphy in the 100 back final at the 2022 World Championships, and was also the world record holder in the 50 back at that point. Diehl was also just over a month removed from nearly breaking the 53-second barrier in the 100 back as a 17-year-old, while Casas put up Worlds medal-worthy performances in multiple events at U.S. Nationals in August 2022.

So go ahead, feel free to roast us, we admit that we truly missed the mark with these picks.

Gretchen Walsh Expectations

A year and a half in advance, most SwimSwam writers expected Gretchen Walsh to be America’s top female sprinter prior to Paris. Four out of seven writers had her winning both the 50 and 100 free, and every writer besides Robert picked her to claim an individual spot in either event.

At the end of 2022, Walsh was the fifth-ranked 100 freestyler and third-ranked 50 freestyler in America, and was coming off a U.S. Nationals meet where she broke 54 seconds in the 100 free for the first time 2019. She also garnered massive momentum due to the ongoing 2022-23 NCAA season, where she was then undefeated in individual events within collegiate competition. However, she had never qualified for a senior international meet at that point.

Walsh still ended up being a successful sprint freestyler, taking second in the 50 free and third in the 100 free at Olympic trials. However, what SwimSwam did not envision was that her Virginia training partner Kate Douglass would end up becoming America’s top sprinter. Douglass, who won the 100 free and became the American record holder in the 50 free, was not put in the top three for the 50 free by any writer and only Braden had her getting an individual spot in the 100 free (finishing second).

Meanwhile, writers didn’t foresee that Walsh would reach the top of American sprint butterfly. Only Yanyan and Nicole picked her to make the team in the 100 fly (finishing second), and she later went on to not only win the race at trials, but break the world record for the event in semi-finals.

Near/Total Misses

There were notably eight Paris Olympians — Emma Weber, Chris Guiliano, Anna Peplowski, Keaton Jones, Blake Pieroni (who announced his initial retirement in August 2022), Luke Whitlock, Aaron Shackell, and Charlie Swanson — that were not picked by a single writer to qualify for the meet. Notably, this came even after Swanson made the 2022 U.S. World Championships team.

There were also four Olympians that were only picked by a single writer to make Paris, with those swimmers being Jack Alexy (Robert, fifth in the 100 free), Alex Shackell (Nicole, second in the 200 fly), Erika Connolly (Robert, sixth in the 100 free), and Emma Weyant (Anya, second in the 400 IM). Weyant and Connolly were both on the 2022 U.S. World Championships, and Weyant was the reigning worlds bronze medalist in the 400 IM at the time.

Meanwhile, Jake Magahey, Claire Curzan, and Bella Sims were picked by every writer to qualify for Paris, but none of them did. Curzan and Sims were both 2021 Tokyo Olympians and members of the 2022 Worlds team, while Magahey still has yet to qualify for a long course Worlds or Olympic games.

Correct Sweeps

Thirteen placements were correctly predicted by all seven writers: Caeleb Dressel winning the 50 free/100 fly, Bobby Finke winning the 800/1500 free, Nic Fink winning the 100 breast, Carson Foster winning the 400 IM, Katie Ledecky winning the 200/400/800/1500 free, Douglass winning the 200 breast, Katie Grimes winning the 400 IM, and Grimes getting second in the 1500 free.

Most of those picks seemed like pretty much a given even a year and a half in advance. However, there were some question marks surrounding Dressel and Douglass’ sweeps. At that point, Dressel was on a competitive swimming hiatus, which started in June 2022 when he abruptly left in the middle of the 2022 World Championships and didn’t end until May 2023. There were many questions surrounding whether he’d ever return to form then — which he did, but it only happened this year (he missed the 2023 World Championships team).

Meanwhile, Douglass didn’t really gain a dominant advantage on Lilly King until she broke the American Record in the 200 breast this January. She beat King for the first time at an international qualification meet this year, but finished second to her at both the 2022 and 2023 World Championship qualification meets.

Shoutout to Robert, who was the only writer that correctly predicted an entire top three in an event (the men’s 400 IM).

Full Men’s Results

ACTUAL RESULT YANYAN BRADEN ROBERT SOPHIE NICOLE ANYA JAMES
50 free Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel
Chris Guiliano David Curtiss Michael Andrew Michael Andrew David Curtiss David Curtiss David Curtiss Michael Andrew
Matt King Matt King David Curtiss David Curtiss Michael Andrew Brooks Curry Brooks Curry David Curtiss
100 free Chris Guiliano Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Brooks Curry Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel
Jack Alexy Ryan Held Shaine Casas Ryan Held Caeleb Dressel Brooks Curry Brooks Curry Brooks Curry
Caeleb Dressel Brooks Curry Ryan Held Brooks Curry Shaine Casas Ryan Held Matt King Matt King
Hunter Armstrong Matt King Kaii Winkler Matt King Ryan Held Matt King Ryan Held Ryan Held
Ryan Held Zach Apple Brooks Curry Jack Alexy Matt King Shaine Casas Shaine Casas Drew Kibler
Matt King Shaine Casas Matt King Adam Chaney Drew Kibler Hunter Armstrong Drew Kibler Kieran Smith
200 free Luke Hobson Kieran Smith Drew Kibler Kieran Smith Kieran Smith Carson Foster Luke Hobson Kieran Smith
Chris Guiliano Luke Hobson Carson Foster Drew Kibler Drew Kibler Kieran Smith Carson Foster Drew Kibler
Drew Kibler Carson Foster Kieran Smith Carson Foster Carson Foster Luke Hobson Kieran Smith Luke Hobson
Kieran Smith Henry McFadden Henry McFadden Henry McFadden Henry McFadden Luca Urlando Drew Kibler Carson Foster
Brooks Curry Luca Urlando Gabriel Jett Luke Hobson Jake Magahey Drew Kibler Henry McFadden Henry McFadden
Blake Pieroni Jake Magahey Maximus Williamson Jake Magahey Luke Hobson Jake Magahey Jake Magahey Jake Magahey
400 free Aaron Shackell Kieran Smith Kieran Smith Kieran Smith Kieran Smith Jake Magahey Carson Foster Kieran Smith
Kieran Smith Jake Mitchell Jake Magahey Ross Dant Jake Magahey Kieran Smith Kieran Smith Jake Magahey
Jake Mitchell Jake Magahey Jake Mitchell Jake Mitchell Jake Mitchell Jake Mitchell Jake Mitchell Luke Hobson
800 free Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke
Luke Whitlock Will Gallant David Johnston Ross Dant David Johnston David Johnston David Johnston David Johnston
Daniel Matheson David Johnston Charlie Clark Charlie Clark Charlie Clark Charlie Clark Will Gallant Charlie Clark
1500 free Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Bobby Finke
David Johnston Alec Enyeart Charlie Clark David Johnston Will Gallant David Johnston Will Gallant Charlie Clark
Luke Whitlock David Johnston David Johnston Charlie Clark David Johnston Charlie Clark David Johnston David Johnston
100 back Ryan Murphy Hunter Armstrong Hunter Armstrong Ryan Murphy Hunter Armstrong Hunter Armstrong Hunter Armstrong Ryan Murphy
Hunter Armstrong Daniel Diehl Shaine Casas Daniel Diehl Daniel Diehl Shaine Casas Ryan Murphy Hunter Armstrong
Jack Aikins Ryan Murphy Ryan Murphy Hunter Armstrong Ryan Murphy Ryan Murphy Shaine Casas Shaine Casas
200 back Ryan Murphy Ryan Murphy Shaine Casas Ryan Murphy Ryan Murphy Ryan Murphy Ryan Murphy Ryan Murphy
Keaton Jones Jack Aikins Ryan Murphy Jack Aikins Shaine Casas Shaine Casas Shaine Casas Shaine Casas
Jack Aikins Daniel Diehl Daniel Diehl Shaine Casas Daniel Diehl Daniel Diehl Jack Aikins Daniel Diehl
100 breast Nic Fink Nic Fink Nic Fink Nic Fink Nic Fink Nic Fink Nic Fink Nic Fink
Charlie Swanson Max McHugh Josh Matheny Michael Andrew Michael Andrew Matt Fallon Josh Matheny Michael Andrew
Josh Matheny Josh Matheny Michael Andrew Max McHugh Josh Matheny Josh Matheny Kevin Houseman Josh Matheny
200 breast Matt Fallon Matt Fallon Matt Fallon Nic Fink Nic Fink Matt Fallon Matt Fallon Matt Fallon
Josh Matheny Nic Fink AJ Pouch Matt Fallon Matt Fallon AJ Pouch Nic Fink Nic Fink
AJ Pouch AJ Pouch Nic Fink Will Licon AJ Pouch Nic Fink AJ Pouch AJ Pouch
100 fly Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel Caeleb Dressel
Thomas Heilman Dare Rose Thomas Heilman Thomas Heilman Thomas Heilman Thomas Heilman Shaine Casas Thomas Heilman
Dare Rose Thomas Heilman Michael Andrew Shaine Casas Shaine Casas Michael Andrew Aiden Hayes Luca Urlando
200 fly Thomas Heilman Luca Urlando Gabriel Jett Luca Urlando Thomas Heilman Luca Urlando Carson Foster Luca Urlando
Luca Urlando Carson Foster Thomas Heilman Carson Foster Gabriel Jett Gabriel jett Gabriel Jett Gabriel Jett
Mason Laur Gabriel Jett Luca Urlando Zach Harting Luca Urlando Thomas Heilman Aaron Shackell Aaron Shackell
200 IM Carson Foster Carson Foster Shaine Casas Carson Foster Shaine Casas Carson Foster Carson Foster Carson Foster
Shaine Casas Shaine Casas Carson Foster Chase Kalisz Carson Foster Shaine Casas Shaine Casas Shaine Casas
Kieran Smith Michael Andrew Chase Kalisz Shaine Casas Baylor Nelson Michael Andrew Baylor Nelson Michael Andrew
400 IM Carson Foster Carson Foster Carson Foster Carson Foster Carson Foster Carson Foster Carson Foster Carson Foster
Chase Kalisz Chase Kalisz Baylor Nelson Chase Kalisz Maximus Williamson Chase Kalisz Bobby Finke Chase Kalisz
Jay Litherland Bobby Finke Maximus Williamson Jay Litherland Bobby Finke Bobby Finke Chase Kalisz Kevin Vargas

Full Women’s Results

ACTUAL RESULT YANYAN BRADEN ROBERT SOPHIE NICOLE ANYA JAMES
50 free Simone Manuel Gretchen Walsh Gretchen Walsh Abbey Weitzeil Gretchen Walsh Torri Huske Gretchen Walsh Gretchen Walsh
Gretchen Walsh Claire Curzan Claire Curzan Simone Manuel Claire Curzan Gretchen Walsh Claire Curzan Claire Curzan
Abbey Weitzeil Erika Connolly Abbey Weitzeil Claire Curzan Abbey Weitzeil Claire Curzan Abbey Weitzeil Torri Huske
100 free Kate Douglass Gretchen Walsh Gretchen Walsh Torri Huske Gretchen Walsh Gretchen Walsh Gretchen Walsh Torri Huske
Torri Huske Torri Huske Kate Douglass Claire Curzan Torri Huske Torri Huske Claire Curzan Gretchen Walsh
Gretchen Walsh Kate Douglass Torri Huske Simone Manuel Claire Curzan Claire Curzan Torri Huske Claire Curzan
Simone Manuel Claire Curzan Abbey Weitzeil Abbey Weitzeil Abbey Weitzeil Simone Manuel Kate Douglass Kate Douglass
Abbey Weitzeil Abbey Weitzeil Claire Curzan Erin Gemmell Kate Douglass Anna Moesch Abbey Weitzeil Abbey Weitzeil
Erika Connolly Simone Manuel Camille Spink Erika Connolly Simone Manuel Natalie Hinds Natalie Hinds Simone Manuel
200 free Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky (scratch) Katie Ledecky (Scratch) Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky
Claire Weinstein Erin Gemmell Bella Sims Erin Gemmell Bella Sims Erin Gemmell Bella Sims Bella Sims
Paige Madden Bella Sims Claire Weinstein Bella Sims Erin Gemmell Bella Sims Claire Weinstein Claire Weinstein
Erin Gemmell Claire Weinstein Leah Smith Claire Weinstein Claire Weinstein Claire Weinstein Erin Gemmell Erin Gemmell
Anna Peplowski Paige Madden Erin Gemmell Paige Madden Leah Smith Katie Grimes Kayla Wilson Alex Walsh
Alex Shackell Leah Smith Alex Walsh Leah Smith Alex Walsh Alex Walsh Alex Walsh Leah Smith
400 free Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky
Paige Madden Erin Gemmell Bella Sims Katie Grimes Bella Sims Erin Gemmell Katie Grimes Katie Grimes
Jillian Cox Paige Madden Katie Grimes Leah Smith Erin Gemmell Bella Sims Bella Sims Leah Smith
800 free Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky
Paige Madden Katie Grimes Bella Sims Leah Smith Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes
Jillian Cox Leah Smith Leah Smith Katie Grimes Leah Smith Leah Smith Bella Sims Leah Smith
1500 free Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky Katie Ledecky
Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes
Ashley Twichell Erica Sullivan Erica Sullivan Erica Sullivan Jillian Cox Erica Sullivan Mariah Denigan Erica Sullivan
100 back Regan Smith Katharine Berkoff Claire Curzan Regan Smith Regan Smith Regan Smith Katharine Berkoff Regan Smith
Katharine Berkoff Claire Curzan Rhyan White Rhyan White Claire Curzan Claire Curzan Claire Curzan Claire Curzan
Kennedy Noble Regan Smith Katharine Berkoff Katharine Berkoff Katharine Berkoff Gretchen Walsh Gretchen Walsh Katharine Berkoff
200 back Regan Smith Phoebe Bacon Phoebe Bacon Phoebe Bacon Phoebe Bacon Phoebe Bacon Phoebe Bacon Regan Smith
Phoebe Bacon Claire Curzan Rhyan White Regan Smith Rhyan White Regan Smith Bella Sims Phoebe Bacon
Claire Curzan Regan Smith Regan Smith Rhyan White Regan Smith Rhyan White Regan Smith Rhyan White
100 breast Lilly King Lilly King Lilly King Lydia Jacoby Lilly King Lilly King Lydia Jacoby Lilly King
Emma Weber Lydia Jacoby Kaitlyn Dobler Lilly King Kaitlyn Dobler Lydia Jacoby Lilly King Lydia Jacoby
Lydia Jacoby Kaitlyn Dobler Lydia Jacoby Lucy Thomas Lydia Jacoby Kaitlyn Dobler Kaitlyn Dobler Kaitlyn Dobler
200 breast Kate Douglass Kate Douglass Kate Douglass Kate Douglass Kate Douglass Kate Douglass Kate Douglass Kate Douglass
Lilly King Lilly King Lilly King Lilly King Lilly King Lilly King Annie Lazor Lilly King
Alex Walsh Lydia Jacoby Annie Lazor Ella Nelson Annie Lazor Annie Lazor Lilly King Annie Lazor
100 fly Gretchen Walsh Torri Huske Torri Huske Torri Huske Torri Huske Torri Huske Claire Curzan Torri Huske
Torri Huske Gretchen Walsh Claire Curzan Claire Curzan Claire Curzan Gretchen Walsh Torri Huske Claire Curzan
Regan Smith Kelly Pash Gretchen Walsh Gabi Albiero Gretchen Walsh Claire Curzan Gabi Albiero Gretchen Walsh
200 fly Regan Smith Dakota Luther Hali Flickinger Regan Smith Regan Smith Regan Smith Hali Flickinger Hali Flickinger
Alex Shackell Hali Flickinger Regan Smith Dakota Luther Kelly Pash Alex Shackell Kelly Pash Regan Smith
Linsday Looney Regan Smith Kelly Pash Lindsay Looney Hali Flickinger Kelly Pash Regan Smith Tess Howley
200 IM Kate Douglass Kate Douglass Alex Walsh Kate Douglass Alex Walsh Alex Walsh Alex Walsh Alex Walsh
Alex Walsh Alex Walsh Leah Hayes Alex Walsh Leah Hayes Leah Hayes Leah Hayes Kate Douglass
Isabel Ivey Leah Hayes Kate Douglass Leah Hayes Kate Douglass Kate Douglass Beata Nelson Leah Hayes
400 IM Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes Katie Grimes
Emma Weyant Leah Hayes Leah Hayes Alex Walsh Hali Flickinger Leah Hayes Emma Weyant Hali Flickinger
Lillia Bognar Emma Weyant Alex Walsh Hali Flickinger Emma Weyant Emma Weyant Leah Hayes Emma Weyant

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arigoated
22 days ago

okay if you honestly though Regan wasn’t gonna make the olympic team at all you’re a hater

Khachaturian
22 days ago

From a fellow goat, great job on the score Nicole!

Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
22 days ago

What a joke. Regan Smith wins the silver medal in the women’s 200 meter butterfly yet Regan Smith will fail to qualify in the women’s 200 meter butterfly even with the retirement of Hali Flickinger. Kelly Pash? Talk about a long course fraud. Dakota Luther? Tack on yet another of Carol Capitani’s failures.

Last edited 22 days ago by Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
jeff
22 days ago

it’s a little concerning that all of the top 4 non-Ledecky swimmers in the 200 free from last summer’s trials were faster last year than this year. Hopefully it was just nerves for qualifying for their first Olympics (besides Bella) and they’re faster at the real thing

jim
Reply to  jeff
2 days ago

What happened to bella?

Crazycucumber93
23 days ago

Interesting to see every writer picking Curzan to make the team in the 4×100 relay

Genevieve Nnaji
Reply to  Crazycucumber93
22 days ago

Curzan’s 100 free PB from 4 years ago still colored the judgement.

Long Strokes
23 days ago

If you are a swim journalist and you didn’t pick Regan Smith to at least make the team, you should consider changing your career…

Crazycucumber93
23 days ago

I know Regan’s stock has risen a lot in the last year and a half, but the fact that more than one writer picked Regan to miss the team entirely is shocking

JasonHere
23 days ago

Armstrong didn’t beat Murphy in 2022 though?
Maybe you meant he beat him at the Trials that year. Murph got him by a hundredth at Worlds that year though.

Last edited 23 days ago by JasonHere

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming by being her high school swim team's manager for four years. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in January 2022, where she hopes to contribute to and learn more about …

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