SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side.
Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers which race on the women’s side they’re most interested in at the upcoming U.S. National Championships:
Question: Which women’s event (where the U.S. has 3+ world-class swimmers) is most intriguing at Trials?
- 200 IM – 37.4%
- 100 backstroke – 30.9%
- 200 backstroke – 18.1%
- 100 breaststroke – 5.6%
- 200 breaststroke – 4.9%
- Other – 3.0%
Every year, the United States will have a few events where they could realistically sweep the podium at the Olympics or World Championships if there wasn’t a restriction on the number of entries per nation.
We’ve certainly seen that in the men’s 100 backstroke for the better part of the last 15 years, and on the women’s side, the backstroke and breaststroke events have gotten increasingly competitive domestically, which makes for some marquee showdowns at the annual Trials meets.
Heading into the U.S. National Championships in just over one month’s time, there are a number of events where potential Worlds medalists will be left off the American roster with only so many spots to be had on the team headed to Fukuoka. We polled SwimSwam readers about which women’s event they’re most looking forward to in regard to the stacked nature of particular races, and the one that came out on top was the 200 IM.
It’s easy to see why. In 2021, University of Virginia teammates Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass went 2-3 in the Tokyo Olympic final, putting two U.S. swimmers on the podium in the event at the Games for the first time since 1984.
Then last year, Douglass opted out of the event at the International Team Trials, which opened the door for youngster Leah Hayes to snag a spot on the Worlds team, placing second to Walsh at Trials in a time of 2:09.99, a new 15-16 National Age Group Record.
Walsh went on to win the world title, while Hayes dropped more than a second in just two months to claim bronze in 2:08.91.
Now, with Douglass coming off obliterating the 200 IM all-time record in short course yards at the NCAA Championships, she appears to have turned her focus back towards the event in long course, setting up a must-see battle between the trio at Nationals.
While it would be easy to pencil in Walsh and Douglass as the favorites to go 1-2, Hayes is the fastest American so far this year at 2:10.03, and we also can’t overlook the likes of Torri Huske and Beata Nelson.
Finishing not too far behind the 200 IM in the poll was the 100 back, a supremely stacked race for the U.S. as they had four of the six fastest swimmers in the world last year.
Regan Smith is the defending world champion, Claire Curzan won bronze in Budapest, and both Rhyan White and Katharine Berkoff swam faster at the 2022 Trials than what was required to win a medal at Worlds.
That momentum has carried on into this season, as Smith, Berkoff, Curzan, Isabelle Stadden and Leah Shackley all rank inside the top 12 in 2022-23. We also can’t overlook Olivia Smoliga, who was third behind Smith and White at the 2021 Olympic Trials.
Next up was the 200 back, where Smith, White and Phoebe Bacon lead the way after having gone to battle at the last two Trials, with Curzan, Stadden and Shackley knocking on the door.
The 100 and 200 breast events both trailed by a wide margin in the poll, though both are extremely competitive at the top with Lilly King, Lydia Jacoby and Annie Lazor racing for two spots in the 100 breast, and King, Lazor and Douglass (and maybe Jacoby again) fighting it out in the 200 breast.
Last year, King (2:21.19), Douglass (2:21.43) and Lazor (2:21.91) all swam faster at Trials than what King went to win the world title (2:22.41).
Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Poll, which asks: Which men’s event is the most interesting as we head into U.S. Nationals (World Trials):
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The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner.
This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I think it would be better for Douglass to focus on sprint freestyle than the 200 IM, because the US needs her more there.
Kate Douglass won’t even swim the W 200 IM at the 2023 Phillips 66 National Championships.
Day 1 – W 100 FR
Day 2 – W 200 BR
Day 3 – W 100 FL
Day 4 – W 100 BR
Day 5 – W 50 FR
Kate Douglass qualifies for the W 4 x 100 FR-R and the W 200 BR. After qualifying for two events (individual, relay), Kate Douglass opts out of the W 200 IM (talk about deja vu) and swims her favorite event.
You are very confident about this.
What does Chat GPT-4 think?
Kate is in striking distance of a gold medal in the 100 fly, both at worlds and Paris. She has the speed to beat maggie, Hufei, sjostrum, Huske, and Curzan.
Define “within striking distance”. Her PB would be 0.97 off gold in Tokyo and 0.92 off gold in Budapest. I wouldn’t say a full second in a 100 is “striking distance”.
she’s clearly a faster swimmer than when she swam her PB. She also smoked Maggie (who has better underwaters) in the 100 fly. But cool, doubt her butterfly abilities.
Douglass beat MacNeil by 0.05. So in the universe of Chris, losing by 0.05 = “got smoked”, but failing to qualify and having a PB a full second slower than the winner = “basically won gold”. What an interesting life you must lead.
And since when has MacNeil been considered better than Douglass at SCY? Douglass has more SCY success while MacNeil has MUCH more LCM and SCM success, especially in the 100 fly (Olympic champion, LCM world champion, 2nd fastest LCM 100 fly, SCM 100 fly WR).
You don’t have to take it as a personal attack whenever someone doesn’t agree with a wild prediction you made about LCM based off SCY results lol.
Are there events the US could sweep? Maybe 50 back with Ress, Murphy, and Armstrong. And that’s about it.
At this stage, men’s 50 back is the only one that could potentially sweep. Even then, that’s only because the two fastest times of the year are from Russians who are banned.
Also IMO the third swimmer would be Casas, not Murphy. Casas swam a 24.00 last year which is faster than Murphy’s PB. But Murphy hasn’t swum a 50 back this year and Casas has only swum it once and was a fairly slow 25.20.
The 200 IM between Walsh and Douglass hinges on the backstroke. I don’t think Kate has beaten Alex in the LCM race anytime recently. Kate usually falls behind in the backstroke and then tries to catch up.
Kate’s backstroke was better this year in the SCY race at NCAAs. So we’ll see if she’s better LCM. If the race is very close after the backstroke, then Kate will be in perfect position to win the race.
I hope we’ll see them race each other. Alex was spectacular winning the WCs last year in 2:07.1.
Hayes has a faster PB than Douglass. Are you sure she won’t be too 2?
Hayes has also been faster in season this year than last.
These are fair observations. But when is the last time KD swam a rested LC 200IM?
Arguably in Tokyo was the last time. But to my knowledge the last time Hayes swam one was in Budapest. I’m certainly not saying Hayes definitely beats Douglass, but being younger and having a faster PB and faster season best for this season has to point the needle towards Hayes over Douglass.
lol “be younger?”. KD is 21 and in her prime, and arguably stronger than she’s ever been. That 2:12 she swam recently was her either testing something out or whatever reason she had to not be even close to 100%
I didn’t say “be younger”. If she wants to win my advice would be “be faster”.
Progression in swimming is not linear. But when you have a swimmer who is younger, faster this season and faster overall it would be odd to not even consider her a threat.
My opinion is not impacted at all by the 2:12. Anyone with a brain knows that doesn’t reflect her ability.
she beat Alex in backstroke I believe at SCW and of course, at MCAAS
Better check those splits again.
Nope. Walsh outsplit Douglass on back by 0.72 at SCW
well, she was ahead so there’s that. Plus she destroyed the field just like she did at NCAA’s.
It’s gonna be fun. Douglass, Walsh the favorites. Hayes the “dark-horse”, Nelson, Huske, and Sims the ones who may spoil it, and even throw Regan Smith and Tegan O’Dell in there.
Nelson and Sims have no chance.
If you’ve got a lane you’ve got a shot
In a 50, sure. Not the case in a 200 IM. Shanteau and Dwyer were great 200 IMers that didn’t have a shot for a 12+ year stretch except for a couple cases where one of two guys in front of them dipped out.
That’s a swell pep-cliché. But let’s get real. This isn’t short track speed skating.
Sims isn’t beating any of them in a 2 IM
I would not describe Hayes a “dark-horse”. At most she is a slight underdog. Hayes has a better PB than Douglass and has been faster this season. She’s also at an age where big improvement is more common.
I miss 2019-2020 when the easy answer to this question was men’s 100 free