The Trials That Would Have Been: All The Stars Are Out For Incredible Day 7

It’s a bittersweet week. While the world, and by extension the sport of swimming, is starting to emerge from weeks of pandemic-related shutdown, we also face the absence of the season that would-have-been. With U.S. Olympic Trials originally scheduled for this week, we’re taking a day-by-day trip into the hypothetical, analyzing the events that would have happened each day, along with our predictions of how the Olympic roster would have formed, had the season not been halted in the pandemic.

These won’t be full-length previews, and won’t be exhaustive in naming every top contender for the U.S. Olympic team. Our picks will be what we expected to happen in June of 2020, had the season not been shut down at all amid the pandemic. Our 2021 predictions will almost certainly be different when we get closer to the Trials themselves. Feel free to add your own predictions – for both the 2020 Trials and the rescheduled Trials in 2021 – in the comments.

Men’s 100 fly final

Caeleb Dressel‘s 100 fly has always seemed to perform slightly better than his 100 free when he’s not fully rested. That holds up today, as Dressel blasts a 50.2 to erase a 2009 Michael Phelps U.S. Open record. With a 50 free semifinal coming up later in the session, fans are buzzing about just how much Dressel was holding back in this first swim.

His former Florida teammate Maxime Rooneynow training out of Texas after a huge senior year in the NCAA, joins him in the 50-points for the second Olympic spot in the only men’s final tonight.

Women’s 200 back final

If last summer was the breakout for Regan Smithyou could call this week her coronation. After an absurd 56.9 in the 100 back, Smith goes 2:02.8 in the 200 back, her second world record of the week. It’s been an incredible rise for Smith, who was 2:07.1 back in 2017, 2:06.4 the next year to earn a Worlds bid, then 2:03.3 last summer at Worlds.

Kathleen Baker had a bit of a disappointing showing in this event at 2019 Worlds, getting clipped out of contention in the semifinals. But she challenged her career-best with an in-season 2:06.4 at the Des Moines Pro Swim Series in early 2020 and parlays a season of good health into another Olympic berth with a solid second behind Smith.

Women’s 800 free final

What a whirlwind session of Team USA’s biggest stars. Katie Ledecky is the third world record-holder to lead an event on day 7. There’s really no reason for Ledecky to put the pedal to the metal here, but she cruises a pretty easy 8:13 and now owns the 23 fastest swims in history in this event. If she can best the former world record (8:14.10 by Rebecca Adlington in 2008) in both of her swims in Tokyo, Ledecky could own the entire top 25 performances in history list.

Leah Smith takes second, though 1500 free qualifier Erica Sullivan makes it more of a race than we expected.


Other events today:

  • Men’s 50 free semifinal – In the second half of his double, Caeleb Dressel wins a semifinal in a smooth 21.5. But his 17-18 NAG record is also under threat, as 18-year-old David Curtiss goes 21.7.
  • Women’s 50 free semifinal – Same story on the women’s side: Simone Manuel looks unstoppable with a pair of 24-lows in heats and semis. But Gretchen Walsh breaks Manuels’ 17-18 NAG record of 24.56.

Olympic Team As Of Tonight:


  1. Melanie Margalis (400 IM, 200 IM)
  2. Kelsi Dahlia (100 FL)
  3. Katie Ledecky (400 FR, 200 FR, 1500 FR, 800 FR, 4×200 FRR)
  4. Regan Smith (100 BK, 200 FL, 200 BK)
  5. Lilly King (100 BR)
  6. Simone Manuel (200 FR 100 FR, 4×200 FRR, 4×100 FRR)
  7. Katie McLaughlin (4×200 FRR)
  8. Paige Madden (4×200 FRR)
  9. Hali Flickinger (200 FL)
  10. Mallory Comerford (100 FR, 4×100 FRR)
  11. Abbey Weitzeil (4×00 FRR)
  12. Gretchen Walsh (4×100 FRR)
  13. Brooke Forde (400 IM)
  14. Torri Huske (100 FL)
  15. Leah Smith (400 FR, 800 FR 4×200 FRR)
  16. Kathleen Baker (100 BK, 200 BK)
  17. Annie Lazor (100 BR, 200 BR)
  18. Alex Walsh (200 IM)
  19. Erica Sullivan (1500 FR)
  20. Bethany Galat (200 BR)
  21. Gabby DeLoof (4×200 FRR)
  22. Erika Brown (4×100 FRR)
  23. Margo Geer (4×100 FRR)


  1. Chase Kalisz (400 IM, 200 IM)
  2. Zane Grothe (400 FR, 800 FR)
  3. Andrew Wilson (100 BR, 200 BR)
  4. Blake Pieroni (200 FR, 4×200 FRR, 4×100 FRR)
  5. Andrew Seliskar (200 FR, 4×200 FRR)
  6. Zach Apple (4×200 FRR, 4×100 FRR)
  7. Townley Haas (4×200 FRR)
  8. Ryan Murphy (100 BK, 200 BK)
  9. Luca Urlando (200 FL)
  10. Caeleb Dressel (100 FR 100 FL, 4×100 FRR, 4×200 FRR)
  11. Ryan Held (100 FR, 4×100 FRR)
  12. Jay Litherland (400 IM)
  13. Kieran Smith (400 FR, 4×200 FRR)
  14. Cody Miller (100 BR)
  15. Matt Grevers (100 BK)
  16. Nicolas Albiero (200 FL)
  17. Bobby Finke (800 FR)
  18. Will Licon (200 BR)
  19. Shaine Casas (200 BK)
  20. Michael Andrew (200 IM)
  21. Maxime Rooney (100 FL)
  22. Nathan Adrian (4×100 FRR)
  23. Dean Farris (4×100 FRR)


With just two individual qualifying spots left for the women (both 50 free spots), the roster will not go over the 26-person roster cap. That means everyone on the above list would be selected. The men will get all qualifiers in so long as one of tomorrow’s four qualifying spots (two in the 50 free, two in the 1500 free) goes to someone already qualified in a different event.

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6 months ago

I see Shields getting the 2nd spot in the 100 fly after his great swims this past early spring (1:38 200 fly time trial and 100 fly at the pro swim series). He seems like he’s in a good spot mentally and physically, and I’d love to see him on another Olympic Team.

He Said What?
Reply to  JCO
6 months ago

I hope you are right. No disrespect to the other great swimmers, but Tom is a wonderful human being and will bring that “light” to the team.

Reply to  JCO
6 months ago

Tom Shields was the Piano Man in the A Final of the men’s 200 meter butterfly (2:06.65) at the 2019 Pan American Games. Never before has a grand piano left such an impression.

Reply to  JCO
6 months ago

After seeing him become the first man under 44 in the 100 fly at winter nationals due to his underwaters, I can’t see his 200 fly Indicating anything other than incredible breath control coupled with crazy walls/underwaters, two things that are significantly more important in short course than long course. I can’t see him beating Maxime when it comes down to it.

The Original Tim
Reply to  JCO
6 months ago

I would LOVE to see Shields make the team again, but I think he’s got a better shot in the 200 than the 100.

Honestly, given his historical troubles with the LCM 200, that seems weird to say, but he was on a clear technical improvement upswing with the LCM 200 over the last few meets prior to the shutdown (last summer being a fluke as far as I’m concerned).

I’d likely go with Rooney for the #2 slot here, but Shields for #2 in the 200.

Reply to  The Original Tim
6 months ago

Fair enough. Rooney looked incredible last summer, and if he can replicate that next year, he’ll take the 2nd spot. And you’re right about the 200. Shields likely has a better chance in that event given how open that event is at the moment. I think Urlando, given he’s at 100%, takes the win there, but it’s pretty open for the other spot

Reply to  JCO
6 months ago

Doesn’t matter how good you are mentally when you can’t go 50.6

Woke Stasi
6 months ago

Poll: which is more likely? UPVOTE: Ledecky swimming in the FINALS of the women’s 4×100 free relay. DOWNVOTE: Manuel swimming in the FINALS of the women’s 4×200 free relay?

Reply to  Woke Stasi
6 months ago

Not even close

Reply to  swimfan210_
6 months ago

Especially with the emergence of Erika Brown and Gretchen Walsh in the women’s 100 meter freestyle.

6 months ago

Katie Ledecky swims a pedestrian 8:11.00 in the final of the women’s 800 meter freestyle which was also the case at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials (8:10.32).

He Said What?
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
6 months ago

You just know that in the back of her mind she remembers the 400 and 800 finals. She is going to be on fire in Tokyo.

Jonathan Charbroiled Steak
Reply to  He Said What?
6 months ago

To quote Rowdy Gaines: “You want to question that woman?!” Yeah I think she’s gonna bring it for Tokyo.

Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
6 months ago

Pedestrian but faster than anyone else by 3 seconds

Reply to  Klorn8d
6 months ago

Pedestrian needs to look like this …’pedestrian’

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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