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 to pick which hypothetical race that never happened they’d most love to go back in time and see how it would’ve played out.
Question: In a dream scenario, which of these races would you go back in time to see what would’ve happened?
- Michael Phelps, 200 back at the 2008 Olympics – 31.5%
- Caeleb Dressel, 200 free at the 2018 NCAAs – 23.9%
- Caeleb Dressel, 200 free (relay split) at the 2021 Olympics – 22.9%
- Katie Ledecky, 400 free at the 2012 Olympics – 11.0%
- Kaylee McKeown, 200 IM at the 2021 Olympics – 9.0%
- Ryan Lochte, 200 free at the 2008 Olympics – 1.7%
It seems to be a bit of a common theme at major championship meets: I wish (blank) was entered in this event to see what they could go!
Busy event schedules have played a prominent role in preventing some of our favorite swimmers from racing all the events they could at certain competitions, so this poll was intended to get a feel for which race fans would’ve most liked to see from the past.
Leading the way at 31.5 percent was a potential 200 backstroke for Michael Phelps at the 2008 Olympic Games, where he won a historic eight gold medals and was on the best form of his career.
The 200 back was an event Phelps was always elite in, but it never really emerged as a focus for major championship meets due to his loaded lineup.
In 2004, Phelps qualified to swim the 200 back at the Olympics by placing second to Aaron Peirsol at the U.S. Trials, but ultimately opted to drop the event and instead turn his focus to Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband in the 200 freestyle.
In the summer of 2007, Phelps dropped a 1:54.65 in the 200 back at U.S. Nationals, a time that was just three-tenths shy of the world record set by Ryan Lochte (1:54.32) at the World Championships earlier in the year.
In 2008, Phelps was never going to swim the race due to the event schedule, with the 200 IM final and 100 fly semis taking place during the same session as the 200 back final. But it’s certainly interesting to think about how he might’ve done had the schedule worked more favorably.
First Phelps would’ve had to qualify for the event at the Trials, where Peirsol (1:54.32) and Lochte (1:54.34) threw down some big-time swims. But had Phelps gotten through there, given his form in Beijing, it’s easy to imagine him being faster than Lochte’s gold medal-winning world record of 1:53.94.
Filled-up-goggle 200 fly aside, Phelps improved by nine-tenths of a second from 2007 to 2008 in the 200 free, and three-quarters of a second in the 200 IM. His 200 back time from 2007, which was also not done at the World Championships and therefore might’ve been even faster if it had, was only 71 one-hundredths shy of Lochte’s winning time.
While Phelps’ 200 back led the poll, there were two options related to Caeleb Dressel swimming the 200 free, which combined for close to 47 percent of votes.
The top option was Dressel swimming the event at the 2018 NCAA Championships, the meet where he went off as a senior and rewrote the record books in the 50 free (17.63), 100 free (39.90) and 100 fly (42.80).
There was a rumor that never came to fruition that Dressel was going to lead-off Florida’s 800 free relay at the meet, and his absence there, coupled with his amazing performances throughout the competition, left everyone wondering what might’ve been.
Finishing just behind that swim in the poll was a potential appearance by Dressel on the U.S. men’s 4×200 freestyle relay this past summer in Tokyo.
Dressel addressed his absence from the relay on the SwimSwam Podcast, saying he and coach Gregg Troy ultimately decided that he was more valuable to the American team later in the meet and that it was unlikely the team would win the race anyway (they ended up fourth), but it clearly still intrigues fans what he might’ve split there.
Also receiving votes was a potential 400 free for Katie Ledecky at the 2012 Olympics, though she failed to qualify in the event after placing third at Trials. However, Ledecky dropped more than five seconds from Omaha to London to win gold in the 800 free, and her Trials time (4:05.00) was less than two seconds outside of what took bronze (4:03.01).
Kaylee McKeown dropped the women’s 200 IM from her Olympic program this past summer, focusing on the backstrokes and Australian relays, and nine percent picked that race as the one they would’ve liked to have seen. McKeown’s best time, 2:08.19 from the Australian Olympic Trials in June, was more than three-tenths quicker than what Yui Ohashi went to win gold in Tokyo (2:08.52).
The other option was Lochte swimming the 200 free in Beijing, which justifiably didn’t get a ton of votes because Phelps was always going to win that race.
But Lochte had said after the fact that he regretted not swimming the final of the event at Trials (his semi-final time of 1:45.61 would’ve placed second to Phelps and qualified him individually), and he clearly would’ve given Park Tae Hwan (1:44.85) a run for the silver medal given his 1:44.28 split on the 800 free relay.
Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Poll, which asks: Which swimmer has most exceeded your expectations so far in ISL Season 3?
The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner.