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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22 days ago

Dahlia was robbed of a finals swim in 2016, so sad

Ol' Longhorn
22 days ago

I like her odds. First, she’s hungry and swimming better than ever focusing on the 100. Second, Huske is likely to have freshman adjustment period, like most superstar HS women do. Curzan looks tough.

22 days ago

Fun fact: Dahlia now has the most world records for women

Reply to  Ervin
22 days ago

She’s tied with Sjostrom. Sjostrom has four individual LC and one relay SC. Dahlia has one relay LC, three relay SC and one individual SC.

As soon as Sjostrom lost her sixth WR someone was on Wikipedia changing Sjostrom’s picture to Dahlia immediately lol. I think the person with four individual WR should probably have the picture over someone with four relays lol.

Last edited 22 days ago by Sub13
Reply to  Sub13
22 days ago

Dang I just checked the page you’re talking about. I totally agree, Sjostrom is still the face of women’s WRs

There's no doubt that he's tightening up
22 days ago

I’m surprised Dahlia won by such a big margin. I know she’s had a great short course season, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to the required improvement in long course to make the team. Especially as her competition is Huske (who’s a proven 55 point swimmer), Curzan (who’s knocking on the door) and Douglass.

I would have picked Leah Smith, becaue she “only” has to make top 6 in the 200 free (which also happens to be a relatively weak event for the US behind Ledecky, at least compared with backstroke/fly/IM).


Agree with this. Huske and Curzan are better than Dahlia in LCM and Douglass is only getting faster. And the 100 fly is her only opportunity to make the team.

Leah has multiple opportunities to make the team. It just seems like she had an off meet at Trials. She will be back.

Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris

Tbh I think she just had a bad trials because she’s good at so many events and I was shocked that she didn’t make even one

I’m not entirely sure if she could pull it off in the 4IM or the 800, but she certainly has a chance of taking back the 400 as well as being at least a prelims swimmer in the 2free relay

sticky rice
22 days ago

I picked Smith because of the 800 free relay. Not really a solid #2 behind Ledecky. Dahlia has really impressed me recently in SCM but I just think there’s too much young talent in 100 fly and 100 free.

22 days ago

Dahlia has 2 real shots with the 50 & 100 fly. I’m assuming they’ll only take the winner of the stroke 50s, so that’s 3 possible slots. With Smith’s events she’s got a lot more chances to qualify.

22 days ago

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

Last edited 22 days ago by Noah
22 days 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.

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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