Tom Shields‘ stock is on the rise. Finally.
College swimming fans knew Shields had the talent to pop in meters, but he left many disappointed after missing the 2013 US World Championship Team. Early this summer, 2014, Shields was feeling the stress. Plagued by sickness he swam a 2:09 200m butterfly at the Mesa Grand Prix, then quietly confided (off-camera) that swimming may not be his future, that success in meters might remain elusive. Shields quickly recovered, tying Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly at the Santa Clara Grand Prix.
However, most swim fans picks to win 100m butterfly at US Nationals went to Phelps, especially after his 51.6 at the Bulldog Grand Slam in mid-July. Shields wasn’t really on the radar at that point. Ryan Lochte, who beat Phelps at the Mesa Grand Prix in the 100m fly — Phelps first race back from retirement — seemed a more likely challenger.
Shields made many swim fans reconsider their faith in him in the 100m fly after his 200m fly win at US Nationals, 1:55.09. For 175 meters that race was pure perfection, pure beautly, until his last 25 meters, a brutal, short-armed, face-stressing mess. (Makes me wonder if Shields’ is 3 month of butterfly background away from ripping a 1:52-53 200m fly…)
US Nationals 100m fly was a mixed bag, though dramatically entertaining. Phelps delivered a prelims swim fastest enough to win gold at the 2012 London Olympic Games. That night in the finals, Tim Phillips, a speed demon worthy of everyone’s fear, shot out of the cannon and into the lead at the 50, touching in 23.92. Shields made it to the wall with a relaxed 24.25. Phelps scrambled, rushing his stroke, touching in 24.49. Phelps was 7th. He looked terrible, not like the guy we’d witnessed throughout the Grand Prix season, a guy who might be focusing more on his raw power and speed.
Shields won the 100m fly final by .o1 with a 51.29. Phelps was second in 51.30. Phillips captured third in 51.54. Shields nearly dislocated his shoulder in celebration, one of the best moments of the meet. Phelps’ face tightend as he nodded his congratulations.
Pan Pac Predictions:
Phelps needs to find more easy speed to hit his sub 51 second 100 fly at Pan Pacs. Yes, he’s got that sub 26.5 50 coming home, but he needs to be 24.1 out. I’m sticking with my prediction from earlier this summer. Though it’s a stretch, I think Phelps has a 50.49 in him right now.
Shields? I’d like to see Shields go sub 51 in Australia. I’m picking him for silver, but I think he’s threat for gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Moreover, I think the 100 butterfly could be the most competitive event at the 2016 US Olympic Trials in Omaha with Phillips coming on strong, Lochte healthy and focused, and Matt Ellis quietly perched to disrupt them all.