2016 US Olympic Trials: Ranking Phelps’ +1 In the Men’s 100 Fly

One of the most anticipated events of the Olympics this summer is the men’s 100 butterfly. Most expect Michael Phelps and one other to swim the race in Rio, but no one’s ticket will be punched until the race is finished at Trials.  In addition to Phelps, the USA boasts a strong roster of athletes that could post medal-worthy performances if given the opportunity to race in Rio.

_Phelps_Michael 29 Michael Phelps North Baltimore Phelps-TBX_6724-

Photo courtesy of Tim Binning, The Swim Pictures

Michael Phelps is the man to beat this summer.  His performances last summer rocked the world, despite taking place in San Antonio at US Nationals and not at the World Championships in Kazan.  Had Phelps been allowed to compete in Kazan his remarkable time of 50.45 would have won him the gold medal.  Phelps’ time at the 2015 Summer Nationals was the second-fastest textile 100 fly in history behind Ian Crocker’s 50.40 swum in 2005, and 0.76 faster than his winning time in London at the 2012 Olympics.  Phelps‘ 50.45 was also faster than his winning times in the Beijing and the Athens Olympics, and his winning times at the World Championships in 2007 and 2011.

Taking second to Phelps in San Antonio was Texas Longhorn Jack Conger,

Jack Conger (courtesy of Tim Binning, theswimpictures.com)

Jack Conger (courtesy of Tim Binning, theswimpictures.com)

who swam a 51.33, which would have been good enough for 7th in Kazan. Conger placed 3rd at the NCAA Championships in March with a yards time of 44.87, though his fastest yards time is from NCAA’s in 2014 with a 44.55, which got him a narrow second-place to teammate Joseph Schooling.  Conger is also the American Record holder in the 200 yard butterfly (1:38.06).

While Phelps and Conger swam at US Nationals last summer, Tom Shields was in Kazan where he helped Team USA win gold in the 400 medley relay and also took 4th in the 100 fly.  Shields swam a 51.03 in the semifinals to secure himself the top seed in finals, though couldn’t hang on with Chad le Clos, Laszlo Cseh, and Schooling to make the podium.  Shields split of 50.59 on the relay should be indicative of great things to come, and his performances at last December’s Duel in the Pool where he set new American Records in the short course meters 100 and 200 flies project an upward trajectory for Shields.

Tom Shields finally make an A-list USA Nationals Team, but not in 100 fly as he expected. He did it the hard way, suffering through a tough 200 fly…and a brutal final 50 meters. (courtesy of Tim Binning)

Tom Shields. Courtesy of Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures

Phelps, Shields, and Conger all have a magnificent shot of breaking 51 in Omaha–some even expect Phelps to break 50.  Giles Smith and Matthew Josa should be in the 51-mid range or faster if they continue to improve as they have the past couple summers, and Tim Phillips, though he hasn’t gone a best time since 2014, could be in the mix with them.

Matthew Josa, Division II record holder from Queens University in the 100 fly (44.89), 200 fly (1:42.96), 200 IM (1:41.94), and 200 back (1:40.74) had a huge year in 2015.  At US Nationals last August Josa posted a 51.68 in a time trial.  In the actual race Josa swam a 52.21, which could probably earn him an outside lane in the finals at Trials.

Giles Smith posted a very impressive 52.10 in March at the PNW Sectionals, barely off his best time of 51.92 which he registered last summer.  Smith has less international experience than most in the field, but in 2012 he placed 8th at US Olympic Trials in the 100 fly.

Michael Andrew, age group phenom and posterboy of USRPT, has proven time and again that he should not be underestimated.  Last summer Andrew took on a grueling trifecta of competitions, first swimming at Junior Nationals in late July where he set a new NAG record in the 100 fly (52.57).  Andrew stayed in San Antonio for US Nationals in early August, and finally wrapped up the season in Singapore at the FINA World Junior Championships at the end of August.  In Singapore Andrew won gold in the 50 back and picked up silvers in the 50 fly and 50 free.  One year more mature and swimming only a few hours away from his home base in Lawrence, Kansas, Andrew will be far more confident and mature this summer.

Michael Andrew by Mike Lewis

Michael Andrew Photo Courtesy of Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography

David Nolan will have his work cut out for him Friday night, when he will potentially swim the 200 IM final and the 100 fly semifinal, with only the finals of the women’s 100 free between.  Phelps will have this same double, though he has more experience swimming these two races basically back-to-back than anyone else in the field and has proven his competency many times.

Phelps, Shields, Phillips, and Smith all swam in the final of the 100 fly at Trials in 2012.  Ryan Lochte placed 3rd in that heat, though it’s doubtful he will swim it again this year.  Eugene Godsoe placed 7th in 2012, but will likely be pushed out of the final 8 by young talent like Conger, Josa, and Andrew.


Place at OT Name Best Since London Predicted Time in Omaha Training Base
1 Michael Phelps 50.45 50.2 NBAC at ASU
2 Tom Shields 51.03 50.6 California Aquatics
3 Jack Conger 51.33 50.8 University of Texas
4 Giles Smith 51.92 51.5 Phoenix Swim Club
5 Tim Phillips 51.49 51.6 SwimMAC Elite
6 Matthew Josa 51.68  (Time Trial) 51.7 SwimMAC Elite
7 Michael Andrew 52.57 52.0 Indie Swimming
8 David Nolan 52.15 52.2 NBAC at ASU

Wild Card: Caeleb Dressel, University of Florida, 52.96, 2015 FL Southern Zone Sectionals

_Dressel_ Caeleb Caeleb Dressel Florida SO-TBX_8812-

Caeleb Dressel Photo courtesy of Tim Binning, The Swim Pictures

Were it not for scheduling and the proximity of the 50 free and the 100 fly, I would predict Dressel to swim this race and make the final 8.  Unfortunately, the finals of the 50 free and the 100 fly are separated by only one event.  Granted that race is the women’s 800 freestyle, this is the Olympic Trials and those ladies are going to be in and out of the pool rather quickly.  Though Dressel and coach Gregg Troy have not officially decided what he will swim in addition to the 50 and 100 free, for now Dressel is entered in the 100 fly in Omaha.

Dressel’s 44.40 in the 100 yard fly at NCAA’s is the third-fastest yards performance ever.   Ian Crocker, owner of the fastest textile 100 long course time in history (50.40), never swam a 100 yard fly as fast as Dressel did at NCCA’s this year.


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There is no way Michael Andrew makes the final in this.


Why wouldn’t he?

Arthur S

MA only has the 12th fastest time during olympic qualifying in this event. He is also extremely inconsistent although partially due to usually swimming too many events at most meets.

He does look stronger than a year ago though so if he has been doing weights and does his first taper of the year he might have some faster times in him.

tea rex

He could be money in 2020 if he does some more strength training. Right now, I don’t think MA has the upper body strength to keep up with the older guys.

Billy B.

Less Muscle and similar power… means he won’t fatigue as hard depending on how much he has in the tank from other events. I’d say this is on hit list… less taxing than 200M IM


And if he did some training geared towards excellence in Long Course. So far, the USRPT seems to only be effective in scy and 50s lcm, along with Michaels primary stroke 100 (breast-1:00.6)

ice age swimmer

Please remember he did a 1:59.8 200IM longcourse last summer- at 16!!!!


I remember it well. Ever since then, we have had to endure countless stories about when David Nolan will break 2 minutes for the 200IM. When a 16yr old is already faster than 24yr old “phenom”, either the 16yr old is very special, or the 24yr old is not a “phenom”. I going with the later.

Irish Ringer

I don’t think strength is his issue. He has plenty of front end speed it is the back half that he doesn’t have. He doesn’t need to build strength but rather endurance.


His endurance really isn’t that bad though for the 100’s. He needs to develop his underwaters off of the turn. Off of the start they are pretty good but he gets crushed off the turn wall by the elites. His actual stroke is up there with the best in the US. I still think fly is his best stroke. Part of the reason why he is closer to the top in the breast is because his pull outs aren’t as far behind as his underwater dolphins are. In fly, the top guys are over a second faster from 50-65 meters. If you take that into account than 28.2 is really good. Schooling was 27.4 on the way to bronze in… Read more »


My predictions:
Omaha 1. Michael Phelps 50.6-50.7
2. Tom Shields 50.9
3. Jack Conger 51.2
Rio: very hard to predict. My heart chooses MP but my mind goes to Chad LeClos !!!


Another one that’s virtually impossible to predict. For Rio, if I had to say, I’d go with Phelps-Schooling-LeClos. Cseh and one of the Americans could be in there, even the Chinese kid. No one with more than a 35-40 percent chance of winning.


Which Chinese kid is there in th 100 fly?


Li, zhuhao


I think it will be MP, cseh and LeClos. Schooling in final but not in top 3.


I am still going for youth over experience/greatness.
1. Le Clos 50.25
2. Schooling 50.30
3. MP (GOAT) 50.35
4. Cseh 50.65
5. Shields 50.75

Bill mates

Very ballsy to put MP barely medaling. He went 50.45 last summer, I can’t see him barely beating that with a whole other year of training under his belt.


Great call.
Think you could be bang on.
Phelps lacks a 23 first 50 which could hurt him.


I have to say, for the most part I agree with these predictions in terms of people picked and their order. Although I have noticed a trend lately where the top 3 times predicted are super fast, and the end of the top 8 is surprisingly slow, which to me is kind of backwards. Over the last few years, no mega star has emerged (or completely emerged, a couple people could be there after Rio) but the competition is close nonetheless. Depth is improving. When has U.S. Nationals/Trials ever had the potential for an entire champ final to be under 52? I think this could be the year. So what point am I trying to make? Because we all “know”… Read more »


Agree with you on Nolan, although if I had to guess he’ll scratch 100 fly to do an all-out IM, where I think he’ll get to 1:57 or even a high-1:56, land somewhere between 3rd and 6th. Guessing the rest of his program will be limited to 100-200 free.

1. The last place or two in the finals tend to swim slower than they did in semis, which I think at least accounts for the trends in the time predictions for finals.
2. Regarding Nolan, you’re right — those times aren’t unreasonable, but there are plenty of other guys with more consistent track records in long course who can do the same. I’ll be the first to say I wouldn’t bat an eye if Nolan goes faster than 1:58. But there are probably going to be 10 guys in the semis who’ve been faster than him.

SamH – part of it is that most of the projected winners are the type of swimmers you can’t really bet against for major performances. Phelps, Ledecky, Adrian, etc. are swimmers who consistently show up in crunch time and often make even conservative predictions look silly in hindsight. That’s probably part of why we feel more comfortable projecting big swims for them in Omaha compared to spots 5-8, which typically go to swimmers who haven’t yet proved themselves in those situations over a length of time.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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