How Unprecedented Is Kate Douglass’s Olympic Swimming Lineup?

For as long as Kate Douglass has been swimming, she’s been known for her versatility and her unconventional event lineups — specifically, her ability to excel in both sprint freestyle and breaststroke. But after winning the 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, and 200 individual medley at the 2024 U.S. Olympic trials, she truly entered rarified territory.

Douglass will become the second American (and first American woman) in history to swim at a single Olympics in both a breaststroke and another non-individual medley event, with the first being Michael Andrew — who made the 2021 U.S. Olympic team in the 50 free, 100 breast, and 200 IM. In addition, she is also the ninth American to qualify for a single Olympics in both a breaststroke and a non-breaststroke event.

Note: Jessica Hardy won the 100 breast and placed second in the 50 free at the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials, but was removed from the U.S. Olympic team that year because she tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol. Caulkins also qualified for the 1980 Olympics in the 100 fly, 100/200 breast, and 400 IM but did not compete as the United States ended up boycotting the Games that year.

But here’s where things get even more unprecedented. Douglass is not only the second American to make an Olympics individually in a breaststroke and another non-IM event, but she’s first American swimmer to win both kinds of events at an Olympic trials meet — Andrew finished second in the 50 free in 2021. In addition, Douglass is the third swimmer in U.S. Olympic trials history to win a breaststroke and a non-breaststroke event at one meet, after Andrew in 2021 and Tracy Caulkins in 1984 and 1980.

List Of  U.S. Olympic Individual Qualifiers In Both Breaststroke And Non-Breaststroke Events:

Swimmer Olympic Trials Results
Kate Douglass 1st in 100 free/200 IM/200 breast (2024)
Michael Andrew 1st in 200 IM/100 breast, 2nd in 50 free (2021)
Amanda Beard 1st in 100/200 breast, 2nd in 200 IM (2004)
Tom Wilkens 2nd in 200 breast/200 IM (2000)
Kristine Quance 2nd in 100 breast/200 IM (1996)
Steve Lundquist 1st in 200 IM, 2nd in 100 breast (1984)
Tracy Caulkins 1st in 100 breast/200 IM/400 IM (1984), 1st in 100 breast/200 breast/200 IM/400 IM, 2nd in 100 fly (1980)*
Bill Barrett 1st in 200 IM, 2nd in 100 breast (1980)*
Lynn Vidali 1st in 200 IM, 2nd in 100 breast, 3rd in 400 IM (1972)**

*The United States ended up not sending an Olympic team to the 1980 Games in boycott of host nation Soviet Union

**The two per-nation limit in individual events was not instituted until 1984

For casual sports fans, the singling out of the breaststroke discipline might seem like an attempt to cherry-pick statistics. But historically in swimming, breaststrokers tend to specialize in one stroke more often than other swimmers due to the unique nature of breaststroke, making it more extraordinary when a swimmer is capable of being elite in both breaststroke and another discipline.

To put things in perspective, since 2012, there have been 12 different U.S. Olympic individual qualifiers across multiple non-breaststroke disciplines for a single Games (freestyle, backstroke, individual medley, butterfly) — Michael Phelps, Caeleb Dressel, Regan Smith, Maya DiRado, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Tyler Clary, Torri Huske, Hali Flickinger, Katie Grimes, Gretchen Walsh and Elizabeth Beisel. That’s more than the amount of Americans who have made the Olympics individually in both breaststroke and another discipline in swimming’s entire 128-year history at the Olympic Games. Singling out non-IM events is also significant, because breaststroke is a part of the individual medley race.

Now what about non-Americans? There’s been several from other nations who have raced both breaststroke and other non-IM events at the Olympics, but the U.S. Olympic team is arguably the most difficult team to qualify for — making Douglass’s feat even more extraordinary.

  • For a non-exhaustive list of all swimmers who have raced both breaststroke and other non-IM events at the Olympics, click here.

The unprecedented nature of Douglass’s Olympic lineup can reach a whole new stratosphere in Paris. Right now, she’s ranked fifth in the world in the 100 free, second in the 200 breast, and second in the 200 IM, meaning that she has a shot at medalling in all three events and perhaps even winning gold in the latter two. Only four swimmers in Olympic history have medalled in both a breaststroke and non-breaststroke event, and none of them have won gold in both types of events. In addition, only one swimmer has medalled in both a breaststroke and another non-IM event — Hungary’s Eva Novak, who won silver in the 200 breast and 400 free at the 1952 Olympics.

Even if Douglass doesn’t medal in both the 200 breast and 100 free at this Olympics, she can still join Novak in rarified territory by swimming on the 4×100 free relay, where the United States are the favorites for silver. It’s also notable that France’s Leon Marchand also has a chance to join those aforementioned four swimmers, as he’s the 2023 World Champion in the 200 IM/400 IM/200 fly and the sixth-fastest performer of all-time in the 200 breast (more on him later when the time comes).

List Of Olympic Medalists In Both Breaststroke And Non-Breaststroke Events:

Swimmer Olympic Performance
Amanda Beard, United States 200 breast gold, 200 IM silver (2004)
Lin Li, China 200 IM gold, 200 breast/400 IM silver (1992)
Claudia Kolb, United States 200/400 IM gold (1968), 200 breast silver (1964)
Eva Novak, Hungary 200 breast/400 free silver (1952)

None of this even accounts for the fact that Douglass, alongside holding the American record in the 200 breast, is also the American record holder in the 50 free. However, she opted not to swim the event at Olympic trials because its semi-finals were right before the 200 IM final. Had she raced it, more history could have been made.

In a sport full of specialists, Douglass has always been a unicorn. And the Olympic history that she’s made only further proves it.

In This Story

90
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of

90 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
ADB
20 days ago

Why can’t Kate Douglass go WR type fast in the 100 Breast? She has insane sprint abilities via her other strokes, especially the 23/52 she can put up in freestyle, and then she also has the most efficient and beautiful 200 stroke ever. She holds the water so well. How can she not just glide less and sprint a 100? I’m utterly baffled.

Genevieve Nnaji
21 days ago

“with the first being Michael Andrew — who made the 2021 U.S. Olympic team in the 50 free, 100 breast, and 200 IM.”

So much talent.

Oh what could it have been if only……

Swimdad
21 days ago

Kate swam the easiest 52.6 you’ll ever see. Almost as if she was saving energy for the 2br.

I have her winning three individual golds in Paris. She will winbthe 100br and 50fr if she choose to focus on it. Such a versatile athlete.

Last edited 21 days ago by Swimdad
Genevieve Nnaji
Reply to  Swimdad
21 days ago

“Kate swam the easiest 52.6 you’ll ever see”

Thanks for confirming you only started following elite swimming this month.

MarkB
Reply to  Swimdad
21 days ago

It’ll be tough for her to win the 50 Free and 100 Breast in Paris.

Erik
Reply to  MarkB
21 days ago

Truer words have never graced the comments on swimswam before.

Fraser Thorpe
21 days ago

It’s the 50 free/200 brst that makes her so unique. Haughey, MAndrew, Hardy and Dressel have proven that a freestyler can breaststroke, but they’re still taking advantage of their sprint ability and applying it to breast.

And those like W1 and Kaylee who can throw down an excellent 200 brst can’t sprint a 50 free like KD. Though KM is also in rare air being a 50 and 200 WR holder and top 5 all time in a 400.

The 50 is the antithesis of the 200 brst – shes not using any of the same skills or systems. So even though there are others with range and versatility that equals and may even surpass her in terms of total… Read more »

Just Keep Swimming
Reply to  Fraser Thorpe
21 days ago

I don’t see how KD’s 50 free + 200 breast is better than Kaylee’s 50 back WR + 200 breast + 200IM + 400IM + 400 free.

Surely a 50 WR at the same time as a top 3 all time in a 400 hasn’t happened in the last 50 years?

Fraser Thorpe
Reply to  Just Keep Swimming
21 days ago

Show me where I said anything about ‘better’

Just Keep Swimming
Reply to  Fraser Thorpe
21 days ago

You said the 50 free/200 breast combo is “so unique”. Kaylee’s 50 back and 400IM combo is unique also, but she ranks higher in both (1st and 3rd all time) than KD (4th and 8th all time)

Parker
21 days ago

Some of the information is incorrect for 1980 regarding Tracy Caulkins.
She did place 1st in her 100 breast.
Tied for first in the 200 breaststroke.
Placed 2nd in the 100 fly. (Went 59.98 earlier in the year)
400 IM 1st.
Although she did win the 200 IM at the combined Nationals/olympic trials in 1980, the 200 was not swam in either 76 or 80. So it’s not a qualifying race for 1980.

Last edited 21 days ago by Parker
jamesjabc
21 days ago

Eh. Michael Andrew did it 3 years ago. Maybe her career trajectory will follow his.

I’ve seen more versatility elsewhere. McKeown is better at the IM than Douglass, and McKeown’s best stroke (backstroke) is much better than Douglass’s best stroke (freestyle). McKeown has the A cut in 8 events across backstroke, freestyle, breaststroke and IM. Douglass has an A cut in 6.

jeff
Reply to  jamesjabc
21 days ago

When did she hit the breaststroke A-cuts? The FINA site says neither of her breaststroke PBs are under the OQT

jeff
Reply to  jeff
21 days ago

Anyway, if she actually hasn’t hit it in the breaststrokes then she’s at 6 OQT events, tied with Douglass (100/200 back, 200/400 free, 200/400 IM vs 50/100 free, 100/200 breast, 100 fly, 200 IM). 6 seems like a pretty crowded number; Grimes (200/400/800/1500 free, 200 back, 400 IM) and Regan Smith (100/200 back, 200 free, 100/200 fly, 200 IM) each have that amount too.

The only active female swimmer I can think of who has more than 6 is McIntosh, who has 9 across the 200 to 800 free, both butterfly, both IM, and both backstroke events. Katinka Hosszu’s personal bests would give her 8, in the same events as McIntosh minus the 800 free. Natalie Coughlin would have… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by jeff
ScovaNotiaSwimmer
Reply to  jamesjabc
21 days ago

The comment section already hashed this out months ago – Douglass isn’t necessarily the most versatile based on pure number of events with extremely elite times, but her combo of events that she’s the most elite in are more rare than swimmers like McIntosh and McKeown, which is the point of this article.

RangerCoach
Reply to  jamesjabc
12 days ago

Her career trajectory is already way different than Andrew’s.

Caroswim
21 days ago

This doesn’t even talk about how incredible she is at 100 fly. She was third at trials last time around and before Gretchen was the fastest ever in yards. We don’t really know what she could achieve in 100 fly/breast LCM. To me that’s the amazing third event for her – not the 2IM (where she of course is incredible) but the 50 free/100 fly/200 breast combo is really absurd.

Paul Thomas
21 days ago

Kate is like the Shohei Ohtani of swimming– she somehow has two completely different elite skillsets within the same body. Absolutely unique talent. I really, really hope she does not give up the sport for a few years yet; she’s so fun to watch.

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 …

Read More »