Olympic Trials Preview: Franklin, Dirado to Fend Off Teens in 200 Back

200 back world record holder Missy Franklin is an obvious frontrunner in this race, though she’s slipped since her dominating performances at the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 World Championships. Despite her stumbles in long course, Franklin was still able to put up a 2:06.34 in Kazan, and looks to be the favorite going into Omaha.

Franklin put some doubts to bed with a stellar swim at the Arena Pro Swim Series stop in Minneapolis this past November. Her 2:07.24 was the 2nd-fastest swim in the world this season (September 1 to current), and still ranks #6 in the world right now. She’s also the fastest American this season by almost a full second.

2012 Olympic bronze medalist Elizabeth Beisel has been quiet in this event since London, focusing more on the 400 IM than the 200 back. Beisel hit a best time of 2:06.18 at those Olympics, but hasn’t been close to that in the last couple years. Her 2:09.54 from the World Championships last summer was well off of form, and while a time like that should pretty easily secure her a spot in the final at Trials, it’s definitely not going to be enough to get her an Olympic spot in this event.

Maya DiRado swims prelims of 200 backstroke 2015 Santa Clara Pro Swim (photo: Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography)

Maya DiRado swims prelims of 200 backstroke 2015 Santa Clara Pro Swim (photo: Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography)

A new player has arrived to the 200 back game: Maya Dirado. A versatile and incredibly talented force, Dirado has only recently picked up this event in long course. Dirado has hit 2:08 four times since this fall, her fastest a 2:08.19 in January at the Austin stop of the Arena Pro Swim Series. That time ranks her 10th in the world this year, and we haven’t seen a fully tapered, summer championship swim in this event from her since she went 2:11.14 at the 2011 US Summer Nationals. Dirado has quickly emerged as the favorite to take the other Olympic spot in this event behind, or ahead, of Missy.

_BAKER Kathleen BAKER Kathleen BAKER USA-TBX_4842-

Kathleen Baker is one of the top teenagers heading into Trials (photo: Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com)

Kathleen Baker and Claire Adams are two age group stars who have recently made successful ventures onto the international stage. Both are stronger in the 100 back, and Baker was able to make the final in the 100 back at the 2015 World Championships. Meanwhile, Adams notched a new World Junior record in the 100 back for her part. Baker’s been 2:09.36 (from the Austin Pro Swim Series meet in January) and Adams 2:09.44. Baker, though, swam that time at a mid-season meet, while Adams did her time at World Juniors.

Youth was a significant factor at the 2012 Trials in this event. In the 200 back final four years ago, seven of the eight finalists were under the age of 20, with Kylie Stewart being the youngest at 16. Heading into trials, there is a sizable contingent of teenagers who have great shots at making the final. 18-year-old Kaitlin Harty, who is heading to the University of Texas next fall, hit a 2:10.23 at the Mesa stop of the Pro Swim Series. A slew of current 15-year-olds will be in contention this summer– Grace AriolaLucie Nordmann, and Rhyan White have each hit times of 2:12 or better in the past year when they were 15 years old. Erin Voss and Erin Earley are both 17– both have been 2:10 in the past year, and Voss just notched a personal best at the Charlotte stop of the Arena Pro Swim Series in the middle of a training cycle.

We can go even younger– 14 year old Alex Walsh has been on a tear of late, including taking down NAG records for the 13-14 age group in the 100 back and 200 IM, previously held by Baker and Franklin, respectively. She went 2:12.38 at the Arena Pro Swim Series stop in Austin and 2:12.32 at the stop in Charlotte, but has a best time of 2:10.55 from last summer. Meanwhile, Regan Smith was 2:13.72 at the Minneapolis Pro Swim Series stop last November, but hasn’t swum the event yet in 2016. Smith only recently turned 14, and she and Walsh are among the youngest overall Olympic Trials qualifiers in the nation.

200 back top seed, Kentucky Wildcat, and Elite 90 award-winner, Danielle Galyer. Photo Credits: Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com

200 back NCAA champion, Kentucky Wildcat, and Elite 90 award-winner, Danielle Galyer. (photo: Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com)

Some NCAA stars will try to make their way into the top 8, too. Lisa Bratton dipped under 2:10 for the first time last summer with a 2:09.31, and had a strong NCAA season this year. Elizabeth Pelton, who is the American record holder in this event in yards, hasn’t been under 2:10 since 2014, and hasn’t been anywhere near her personal best of 2:06.29 from 2013. Clara Smiddy, too, hasn’t lived up to her 2:10.69 since she swam that time in 2013, though she put up two 2:11’s at the Charlotte stop of the Arena Pro Swim Series. The 2016 200 back NCAA champ, Danielle Galyer, swam a 2:09.75 last summer. Bratton and Galyer have been hitting their bests recently, but Pelton is the only one that has been fast enough to try to challenge for an Olympic spot here. The question is whether or not she can get back to form– her mid-NCAA season 2:11.03 from January is somewhat promising, and she looks to be capable of at least getting under 2:10 in Omaha.

In 2012, a 2:12.37 made the final in Omaha. This year, more than 20 female backstrokers have been under that time going into Trials. It will be an incredibly competitive event through prelims, semis, and finals.


Swimmer Best Time (since 2012) Predicted Time in Omaha
Missy Franklin 2:04.06 2:05.8
Maya Dirado 2:08.19 2:06.9
Elizabeth Beisel 2:06.18 2:07.5
Danielle Galyer 2:09.75 2:08.8
Elizabeth Pelton 2:06.29 2:09.1
Lisa Bratton 2:09.31 2:09.3
Kathleen Baker 2:09.36 2:09.6
Alex Walsh 2:10.55 2:09.8

Dark Horse: Carmel Swim Club’s chances in the Olympic trials final don’t end with Claire Adams. Amy Bilquist swam a lifetime best of 2:13.22 at the Crippen Swim Meet of Champions, but swam a pretty incredible 1:49.90 in the 200y back at the Pac 12 Champs in February. She is definitely a swimmer capable of translating her SCY power to long course, and after such a strong NCAA season in the backstroke, Bilquist is one to watch for.

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Will frankin be the Hoff of the upcoming olympics? can’t see anything more than a bronze in the individual events(nothing wrong with that). Looking forward to trials to show something to doubt the assertion and be in the gold medal hunt


Dirado will most likely be the hoff of the upcoming Olympics.


you are predicting a silver and 2 bronze medals? I hope she does that well.


Before Trials (Missy 2014/2015 form) I would bet on a bronze or silver only at 200 back.. no medal on 100 back, no medal on 200 free and even if we see the 2012 missy, she won´t medal on 100 free..


In other words you would bet that 2016 Missy will be more or less the Missy of 2014/2015. Given your past comments it seems like you would bet often against Americans (apart from Ledecky). A lot of Americans here may seem too optimistic (and truthfully many are) but then there are others who seem to come from the opposite extreme…the persistently skeptical one. I have no idea which Missy will show up. On the one hand in most cases the form of the previous year is usually more indicative than 3 years ago. Maybe the Missy of the last two years is the new norm. That would seem a tad bit too cynically dismissive though. She’s still quite young. Careers… Read more »


That is what I have.. even if I use the 2010 Missy, at this time I would not bet on her beating Seebohm on 100 at least, on 200 she would be favorite. 200 free the 2012/2013/2014/2015 any version of Missy is a medal contender, but right now that is the hardest event to bet on OG medallists, Ledecky, Sjostrom, Femke, Federica, some chinese/australian girl, and Missy first must pass through Schmitt also. On 100 free Missy won´t medal.. any version, the C sisters, Ranomi, Sjostrom are too far ahead. To put on paper, I would only choose 3 swimmers to be extreme gold favorites: Ledecky (400/800), Sjostrom (100 fly), Katinka (400/200 IM if she does not choose a crazy… Read more »


Franklin will be one worth closely observing at Trials. Realistically, she is not a “player” internationally in the 100free yet the fact remains she is still potentially in the mix for an individual spot given the US level is essentially 53mid-high, and her PB is amongst the best. 200free: given Ledecky appears a lock for one spot, the 2nd spot looks to be between Franklin & Schmitt. Don’t know that we’ll see any other sub 1.55s than Ledecky but Schmitt & Franklin look the only real sub 1.56 contenders. 100back: US appears to have a ruck of sub minutes so she’s no certainty to qualify and thus she WILL need to “go some” to ensure she does. Internationally, she really… Read more »


That’s a pretty good analysis CommonWombat. Realistic, rational, and balanced. She may need to swim the 100 free at trials to lock down a relay spot. The new rule about relay only swimmers and the number of swimmers dipping under 54 may encourage them to swim through to finals at trials since they can’t be assured of having a relay spot being kept warm for them. At Rio though it may be wise to drop the individual 100 (if she finishes top 2 at trials).


Just to clarify I was talking about Maya. Missy I wouldn’t predict until after trials but individually I think three medals would be really good also.


She hasn’t made an Olympic team before so the comparison isn’t really there


Id love to have a silver and 2 bronze medals to my name!


More dreamy Omaha times i see…hmmm


I am too lazy to look but I want to know if this event conflicts with the 200 or 400Im at the olympics or trials cause if it does Biesel and Dirado may not even go all the way to the final here. If they cant break 208 they should just forget it. The rest of the field is pretty weak on an international level. Harty and Voss should be in the top 8 they just recently swan 210s unrested. Remove Pelton. The real question is how fast can Missy go this summer? Its the only relevant question worth discussing. Where is she really at in her training? No idea I will predict 2:06.5 at Omaha and maybe a little… Read more »

bobo gigi

Olympic trials
400 IM final on June 26
200 IM final on June 29
200 back prelims and semifinals on July 1
200 back final on July 2

Olympic games
400 IM final on August 6
200 IM final on August 9
200 back prelims and semifinals on August 11
200 back final on August 12

The schedule is perfect for girls like DiRado, Beisel or Hosszu who swim the 3 events.


Thanks Bobo so its clearly a “bonus event” for them to swim so I keep them on the list.


At day 12 we will also have the medley relay prelims..which may affect some of the swimmers.. Missy standing on 100 back will be important to see how “rested” she will be on 200 back..

Gold Medal Meldonium

Trials schedule: the women’s 200 free and the women’s 200 IM are the same days (June 28-29). That’s unfortunate for DiRado because I think she has as good a chance as anyone to be the fourth 200 swimmer on the women’s 4 x 200 relay. If she were to make the relay, I assume she’d have to a coaches’ selection, i.e., not picked as a result of finishing in the top 6 of the 200 free at Trials.


It’s enough to swim in prelims of the 200 free and make a good time.


Then she can go a 2.13 prelims in the 200 IM and qualify for the semis. There she goes 2.10

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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