Record Watch for 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials

One of the big questions in Omaha in the next week will be surrounding “records”. The last time we saw this meet in the CenturyLink Center (then the Qwest Center) we were just grazing the tip of the record-breaking iceberg that was to come in the next 18 months, fueled by innovative new suits made out of a rubber-like substance called polyurethane.

And though in 2008, we were still only seeing the suits with select “panels” of this miracle substance, 9 World Records and 17 American Records went down in the 26 individual events at the Olympic Trials.

Unlike my colleague Mel Stewart, I’m not optimistic that we’re going to see anywhere near that many in Omaha. Still, I don’t think that the record books will look exactly the same coming in as they will going out. One of the biggest factors counteracting the fact that most athletes are trying to be faster at the Olympics than at the Olympic Trials is the fact that the elite group of American Swimming (Vollmer, Phelps, Coughlin, Franklin, Lochte) will have fewer relay swims to deal with, and therefore a little bit more rest and control over their event schedules.

For starters, there’s plenty of U.S. Open (swum on American soil by a swimmer of any nationality) and Olympic Trials Records that could go down in this meet. Many of those are surprisingly attainable (Allison Schmitt has already taken down the women’s 200 free record this month in Austin). I also think we could see plenty of American Records broken still (the Americans were not necessarily the ones putting up absurd times around the world), and of course there will be textile-bests snapped, meaning the fastest times ever swum outside of the rubber-suit era of 2008 and 2009.

One of the more notable things about this list is how often Missy Franklin’s name comes up. That’s not to say that there’s any more pressure or expectations on her than any of her more veteran teammates; rather, she simply happens to excel in a number of races where the records seem more vulnerable

Let’s talke a look at the 10 records we will be looking to definitely go down in Omaha.

1. Missy Franklin, 200 backstroke – The U.S. Open Record in this race is almost a given. Belonging to Margaret Hoelzer at 2:06.09, Missy doesn’t even really have to have a best swim in the race to get that one. Attacking her own 2:05.10 American Record from last year’s World Championships will be a little bit trickier, and will be more dependent on how much rest she puts into this meet, but if she’s well-rested and hits her taper, there’s no reason to expect that one to not go down as well. As such, if she’s going to be close-ro-or-better-than the American Record, then Kirsty Coventry’s 2:04.81 comes into play as well by default.

2. Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt, 200 free – If Allison Schmitt can break this U.S. Open Record, and come within a fraction-of-a-second of the American Record at a mid-season meet just before starting her taper, then imagine what she and Franklin can do in Omaha. Schmitt’s coach Bob Bowman hinted that she might not be at 100% taper, but we know that both women can go under 1:55 even without it. Expect this American Record of 1:54.96 to be busted.

3. Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, 200 IM – With this pair spurred on by the media-driven rivalry, a full-strength Phelps, a fully-healthy Lochte, and the bright lights of Omaha, I think we see the U.S. Open Record go down in this race, which currently belongs to Lochte at 1:54.56 from the 2009 National Championship meet. The American and Record has an outside chance (1:54.00) as well, but methinks that will have to wait until the bigger show.

4. Cammile Adams, Kathleen Hersey, 200 Fly – Fact: the Americans don’t (as of yet) have a wow’ing 200 butterflier who can compete for the gold medal at the Olympics. But they do have a pair in the Lone Star State (Kathleen Hersey and Cammile Adams) who are absolutely capable of moving to that level, and the U.S. Open Record in this event is one that desperately needs to be broken. The younger of the two, Adams, was a 2:06-high in Austin at the Austin Grand Prix meet in January, and this U.S. Open record standing from 1981 by Mary T. Meagher when she was still in high school is only at a 2:05.96. I think the American coaches will be disappointed if it doesn\t take better than a 2:05.96 to win this event.

5. Ariana Kukors, Caitlin Leverenz, Natalie Coughlin, et al., 200 IM – The American and World Record held by Kukors isn’t going anywhere at this meet, but remember that when she swam that time at the World Championships in 2009, she was over three seconds faster than anyone was at that year’s Nationals three weeks prior. This U.S. Open Record currently sits at 2:09.34, belonging to Julia Smit who retired early this year. Still, with so many names who are so close to that mark, whoever emerges from the fray for the top two spots would have to be close to it one would imagine. This race has so much quality and quantity, that it’s not just counting on one or two swimmers to have a good race and break the record.

6. Nathan Adrian, 100 free – Up until a few months ago, it would’ve been a stretch to see Adrian attack on Lezak’s 47.58 U.S. Open Record. It would be even more heinous to propose that he might go after Dave Walters’ American Record of 47.33 from the World Championships. But we were in a new era of sprinting. It seems as though it will certainly take a 47.58 to place at the top two in London on the basis of what James Magnussen and James Roberts did at Australia’s Trials (47.1, 47.6 respectively). He needs to be a 47-something if he wants to convince that he’s a contender at the Olympics.

7. Missy Franklin, Natalie Coughlin, Rachel Bootsma, 100 back – The American Record (58.94) and U.S. Open Record (58.97) are nearly identical in this race, but different. Expecting someone to break one, though, effectively implies expecting someone to break both. Russia’s Anastasia Zueva has already been under 59 seconds this year at her country’s Olympic Trials meet, and if we think the Americans can earn a gold, there’s no reason why one of them can’t do the same. If anybody hits the wall at under 29 seconds, then it’s ‘game on’ with these records.

8. Dana Vollmer, 100 fly – Vollmer set the American Record in this 100 fly at last year’s World Championships in textile at 56.47, so there’s no reason to pull it off of the table, but I’m not sure she gets it just yet. However, it’s the U.S. Open Record that American swim fans would really like to see go down. It’s one of only four Olympic events where the U.S. Open Record is held in foreign hands with a 56.67 from the Netherlands’ Inge de Bruijn in the year 2000 having been on the books for almost 12 years. With how good Vollmer has looked this season specifically in this event, she could be close.

9. Rebecca Soni, 200 breastRebecca Soni, I believe, has a 2:19 200 breaststroke in her this summer. That would make her the first woman to ever clear the 2:20 barrier in the event. But all she would need to do to take down her own U.S. Open Record in this race that has stood since 2009 is a 2:20.38. That seems do-able for a swimmer who is the best in the world even without much rest in the 200 breaststroke.

10. The surprise event – If there weren’t a monster swim that surprised us at this meet, then it wouldn’t be the meet that it is. There’s always a surprise, and always a big one that nobody sees coming. There’s a few records at this meet that seem like they’d be reachable if they were a half-second slower. Maybe the 53.30 U.S. Open Record in the 100 free held by Australian Cate Campbell. Or the 4:31.12 American and U.S. Open Record in the 400 IM that belongs to Katie Hoff from this same meet in 2008. But if I had to pick one surprise record to go down (and maybe it’s not even that big of a surprise), it would be Hoff’s 400 free of 4:02.20 from the Columbus Grand Prix in early 2008. This was the one that really put her in the next stratosphere ahead of those infamously-challenging Olympics for her. Based on times we’ve seen from international swimmers like Federica Pellegrini of Italy, Rebecca Adlington of the UK, and Cammille Muffat of France this season, Schmitt getting to a 4:01 already in Omaha could make this event the best Olympic race ever.

Happy record-hunting!

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Mostly Agree with you Keith, but I Think you (many other US bases sites) are being OVERLY optimistic about Adrian and his 100 free time (maybe because of how far now the Australia 400 free relay are). Can´t see he going 47 mid..

But any of the other is feasible, but I would like to see Phelps hunting Crocker Textile best.

I believe the reason about everyone cheering Adrian’s because its the first season he ONLY made LCM training.Nowadays, with better start, turns and more endurance, i dont think is impossible for him to go from 48.0 to 47.50.And dont be surprised with him swimming faster than his PanPacs 21.55 in 50 free.
The big question is:Phelps is fully tapared/rested/shaved for trials?He dont need to best crocker textile now.A 50.8 will be enough.Same in 200IM.1.55 must qualify.Of course, doing 400IM take a lot of a swimmer.


I agree, when I consider 100free times now, I think to myself if James Magnussen hadn’t come onto the picture, what would a 47.5 mean? Well, it would be as surprising as Magnussen’s relay lead off last year. Although such a time probably doesn’t mean as much now that someone has done it twice, in the grand scheme of things, it would be an EXTRAORDINARY swim if you look at it objectively. The time I was expecting to win in Shanghai last summer was 47.7. With my best attempt to be unbiased, this sort of time would probably already be somewhat optimistic at trials. Don’t get me wrong, seeing the Americans putting up times on some sort of parity with… Read more »

Swim Argentina

You seem strangely confident that an awful lot of swimmers are not going to be fully rested for this meet. I think you are mistaken. This is not Argentina Olympic Trials. This is US Olympic Trials. Anyone could miss out if not rested… maybe not Phelps in his best event, but certainly in another.


Swimmers cannot rest their body for one event vs. another. They can change the practice distance or intensity of an event, but that does nothing for the body’s overall state of rest. Phelps cannot taper for the 400 IM but not for 100 fly. Phelps, and a few others, have the speed, confidence, and experience to make the team at 98% instead of 100%.

Swim Argentina

yeah, that was my point. everyone will be fully tapered.



I think Schmitt can take down the 400 free AR.
And I think Soni will have easier time breaking the 200 in Omaha rather than in London, just because (for her) Omaha is less pressure.In London she will be a runaway favorite.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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