During the 3rd finals session of the 2016 Japanese Olympic Trials, 21-year-old multi-event threat Kosuke Hagino showed the world he is back to form. Hagino missed the 2015 FINA World Championships due to a bike incident, which left him with an injured elbow and out of Kazan, but the stud has been throwing down fast times in his pet 200m IM, 400m IM and 200m free events since his return to competition earlier this year.
Specifically while competing in Tokyo at the Japanese Trials, Hagino scorched the field with a 1:45.50 200m freestyle, scoring the world’s new top-ranked time, just tenths off his own national record.
The fact that the Japanese squad has such a stand-out 200m freestyler in Hagino paired with the collective sigh of French relief when the FFN announced recently that Yannick Agnel would be able to defend his 200m freestyle gold medal from London should he choose to do so, simply put a spotlight on the fact that America lacks a stand-alone 200m freestyle stud.
Yes, America no doubt has freestyle talent that can compete on the worldwide stage in terms of depth and in fielding a dangerous 800m freestyle relay, but the squad of the stars and stripes has yet to render a true favorite, like a Hagino or Agnel, who stands out among the rest.
Options for a possible 200m freestyle break-out at U.S. Trials:
America’s go-to 200m freestyler in the past, Michael Phelps, has left the individual event off of his most likely schedule for Rio. In an interview back in January, Phelps’ Coach Bob Bowman was quoted as stating “ probably not” when asked if the 18-time gold medalist would indeed target the race individually for the 2016 Olympic Games. Bowman said “He’s probably going to be doing enough to show that he should be in the relays.”
Since his comeback Phelps’ most notable times include the 1:48.20 he clocked at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Santa Clara in 2014 along with the 1:48.87 he registered at the Austin stop earlier this year. The event is obviously not a priority on an individual level.
Dwyer was a member of the American 800m freestyle relay whose gold medal-winning streak at every World Championships since 2005 was snapped by a surprise win by the Great Britain squad in Kazan. GBR had a break-out star of its own at the Worlds meet in the form of 200m freestyle World Champion, James Guy, who somewhat surprisingly took the individual gold over Chinese powerhouse Sun Yang. In the American 800m freestyle relay, Dwyer split a solid 1:45.33, but a time that sits just .17 faster than Hagino’s flat start today at Japanese Trials.
Individually in Kazan, Dwyer scored a mark of 1:46.64 to finish 9th and out of the finals at Worlds. He earned essentially the same result last December at the U.S. Nationals meet, touching in 1:46.62.
Young champion Maxime Rooney shows promise, but at just 17 years of age, Rooney’s best time is the 1:47.10 he scored at U.S. Nationals, a far cry from the 1:45’s of the world. Rooney’s time from Winter Nationals was 1:48.00, so the teenager has yet to delve into the 1:46 territory, let alone the 1:45-and-below territory most likely needed to even get into the semi-finals in Rio.
But, there’s no denying Rooney is a rising star that continues to improve. A high-pressure, yet hugely rewarding meet such as U.S. Olympic Trials may be just the environment Rooney needs to knock out the 200m freestyle swim of his life.
Exploding in a big way at the NCAA Championships was Texas freshman Townley Haas, scored individual wins in the 500y and 200y freestyle events. After setting the pool on fire with a 1:30.52 for the fastest 800 free relay split in history on day 1 of the NCAA meet, Haas cranked out a new NCAA record in the individual version of the 200m freestyle event, wow-ing the college world with an eye-popping 1:30.46.
In an Olympic year, the gears start grinding as to what this could translate to in terms of a 200 freestyle meters swim for Haas, a young gun whose fastest 200m freestyle up to this point was the 1:47.55 he earned last summer. Riding the momentum of an unbelievable freshman year at Texas, could Haas be the one to establish himself as a worldwide threat in the 200m freestyle at U.S. Trials?
These are just a few of the male swimmers who enter the America 200m freestyle event conversation. Discuss who you think has a shot in the comments.