SwimSwam Pulse: 48% Think Dahlia Has Best Shot To Rebound and Make 2022 Worlds

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, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers which American female swimmer that made the 2016 Olympic team but missed in 2021 has the best chance of rebounding and making the 2022 Worlds team:


Question: Which 2016 US Olympian that missed the team in Tokyo do you think has the best chance of qualifying for the 2022 World Championships?

The 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials saw several up-and-coming young swimmers take advantage of the one-year delay and come out of nowhere to make the Olympic team over established veterans, particularly on the women’s side.

We saw teenagers such as Torri HuskeLydia JacobyClaire Curzan and Katie Grimes (to name a few) breakthrough and make the team, leaving several well-known names on the outside looking in.

Five swimmers who were U.S. Olympians in 2016, three of which were medalists and another that finished fourth individually in Rio, missed the team in Tokyo but have continued racing since the Games with eyes likely on another shot at the Games in 2024.

But first, we’ll have the 2022 LC World Championships (also delayed by a year), which will see swimmers race a Worlds Trials meet in late April.

The poll questioned readers on who had the best chance of bouncing back from missing the 2021 Olympic team and qualifying for Worlds, keeping in mind they’ll have to face the same swimmers that bumped them out in Omaha (plus more rising youngsters), just with one more year to grow.

Kelsi Dahlia was the top selection, gaining nearly half of the votes at 48.8 percent. This came as no surprise, as Dahlia has been one of the best American swimmers, period, since the 2021-22 season commenced in September, highlighted by her world record swim in the 100 fly (SCM) in the ISL Final at the beginning of December.

Dahlia, 27, missed the final of the 100 fly at her debut Games in Rio, placing ninth in the semis while Chinese swimmer Chen Xinyi, who later had her results stripped due to a positive doping test, swam in the final.

Nonetheless, Dahlia won a gold medal as a prelims swimmer on the American women’s 400 medley relay, and has stacked up World Championship medals in the years since, including an individual bronze in the 100 fly in 2017.

However, an off-meet at the 2021 Trials in Omaha saw her place fourth in the 100 fly final, and she’ll have to face the swimmers that finished ahead of her there—Huske, Curzan and Kate Douglass—at next year’s World Trials.

Still, given the resurgence she’s had in recent months, it’s tough to bet against her if she keeps riding this momentum. At the same time, Huske and Curzan have been on fire since the Games as well, setting up what should be an excellent showdown in just four months’ time.

Dahlia has also proven she’s capable of qualifying for major international teams in the 4×100 free relay, though she was only 15th in the 100 free in Omaha last summer.

Leah Smith was the second-highest vote-getter at just over 20 percent, having produced some promising swims recently after moving to Austin to train with the University of Texas women.

Smith, now 26, won a pair of medals in Rio, including an individual bronze in the 400 free, but finished third in that event at the 2021 Trials. She was also a 2016 Olympic finalist in the 800 free, but failed to earn a second swim in that event in Omaha, placing 10th.

Smith was incredibly close to making the team in the 400 IM, however, taking fourth in a time less than six-tenths outside of second. She also made the 200 free final, finishing eighth, showing she was in the mix for the 800 free relay.

With such a wide range of events she can swim at a high level, Smith seems like she’ll break through and get back on the U.S. team in 2022 somewhere, especially if the Texas training is working.

Melanie Margalis, fourth in the 200 IM in Rio, earned 17 percent of votes. She was .12 off of making the team (or tying for second place) at Trials in the 400 IM, and was in the running in the 200 IM but faltered in the final. A return to form could easily see her back in the top-two domestically, though University of Virginia swimmers Alex WalshEmma Weyant and Douglass are going to be tough for anyone to beat in the coming years.

Receiving over 12 percent of votes was Kathleen Baker, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 backstroke. With the women’s backstroke events proving to be ridiculously stacked in recent years, Baker’s best shot at the team this year appeared to be in the 200 IM, but a fractured foot in the lead-up to Trials essentially squashed her chances.

Still, she’s proven she can go 2:08 in the 200 IM, which would’ve made the podium in Tokyo.

We’ll likely revisit a male version of this poll in the near future, with Ryan Held emerging as a top early candidate after a strong showing at SC Worlds.

Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks: Who was the biggest breakout performer of the 2021 SC World Championships?

Who was the biggest breakout performer of the 2021 SC World Championships?

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A3 Performance is an independently-owned, performance swimwear company built on a passion for swimming, athletes, and athletic performance. We encourage swimmers to swim better and faster at all ages and levels, from beginners to Olympians.  Driven by a genuine leader and devoted staff that are passionate about swimming and service, A3 Performance strives to inspire and enrich the sport of swimming with innovative and impactful products that motivate swimmers to be their very best – an A3 Performer.

The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner.

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He Said What?
11 months ago

After listening to her interview with Brett Hawke, Kelsi made it clear that changes were needed in her training. Going into ISL, she was concerned her “new” training regiment would fail, but she surprised herself by getting faster and faster through the ISL season culminating with the world record. Long course will be very interesting as far as times and placement.

Stewart 100 back gold in Fukuoka
11 months ago

Dahlia was already 54.84 in 2018. She only improved her PB by 0.25s despite setting a world record. I doubt this amount of improvement will be enough for her to make the team next year. Long course is a different thing from short course.

Mr Piano
11 months ago

She’ll get in the 50 fly but not the 100 I think. Curran and Huske will only get faster.

11 months ago

I think everyone is forgetting that Worlds has 50fly… I can see her beating Huske for a spot

Reply to  Splash
11 months ago

Do trials have the 50 also?
I can’t see her beating Curzan thought. It will be close between Huske and her, since Huske’s first 50 is always so fast.

Reply to  Noah
11 months ago

They do. I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that for the US they take the winner of the 50 for one of the spots, and then the winner of the 100 (or 2nd place if the winner declines)

11 months ago

Is Manuel retired? If not, I think she has a huge chance to get a spot in the 100! Also, I think that Mallory Comerford (not an Olympian, but a world champion), has a chance to make it again in the 4×100 Free Relay or individual 100! Leah Smith probably has the best chance in the 400 IM, or 4×200 Free Relay, but I think Grimes and Sims will be up there in the 400/800 and probably won’t be touchable. Also, Grimes will probably make the 1500, and Erica Sullivan will probably be just an open water swimmer. Also Charlotte Hook will probably challenge Regan Smith for that 200 Fly spot.

Reply to  Eli
11 months ago

Manuel isn’t on this poll because she did make the team.

However, I think jury is still out on her. I’m not aware of any of her results since Tokyo. If she gets back to her top form she’ll make the team, but it’s anyone’s guess if that will happen.

11 months ago

Picked Louise for the next poll. While she was already good and has established herself in World and Olympic finals, her 100 backstroke is the breakout that is absolutely vital for Sweden’s relays. They have four top notch girls, but none of them could do backstroke, which always made the medley relays a little lopsided. However, we saw them put on some crazy performances in the medleys, and while S. Hansson, Sjostrom, and Coleman swam well, they would not have won without Louise’s new and improved backstroke. If Sjostrom and Coleman stay strong and Louise can translate that backstroke into LC, they will be dangerous at World Champs.

11 months ago

I don’t think any of these ladies are going to be able to overcome the youngsters again. And by 2024 there will be even younger swimmers trying to make the team.

11 months ago

Easily Joshua Liendo or Tang Qianting for the new poll. The other swimmers were very well known before worlds.

Last edited 11 months ago by Noah

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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