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.
Women’s 200 free final
It’s a Stanford 1-2: Katie Ledecky bruises her way to a win in 1:54-low, showing a solid commitment to speed coming off a 1:54.5 in season at Des Moines. Teammate Simone Manuel is 1:55-high to best a strong field for the second individual spot. That’s a career-best for Manuel, and starts to drum up some buzz for just how fast she could go in the sprint freestyles later this week.
Coming off a big relay split at Worlds last summer, Katie McLaughlin makes her first Olympic team here as a relay member, overcoming a narrow miss in the 100 fly. Rising collegiate star Paige Madden (who in this timeline won the NCAA title in March) rounds out the top relay foursome.
400 free qualifier Leah Smith chips in a prelims relay spot, and Michigan alum Gabby DeLoof grabs the final qualifying spot after winning this event at World University Games last summer and pulling double relay duty at WUGs and Worlds.
Men’s 200 fly final
We get our first 18-and-under man to make the U.S. Olympic swim team since an 18-year-old Larsen Jensen in 2004. Luca Urlando wins the 200 fly final, lowering his own NAG record to a 1:53-low. The recently-graduated high school senior wins by more than a second and a half.
The second qualifier is somewhat of a dark horse: Louisville’s Nicolas Albiero. The college junior had gone from 1:58.1 to 1:56.0 over the past two long course seasons, and dropped from 1:40 to 1:38.6 in short course yards in February, so a long course breakout tracks with that improvement rate.
Women’s 200 IM final
Coming off a 2:09.0 in Des Moines, Melanie Margalis is unstoppable in the IMs, winning her second event of Trials with a lifetime-best 2:08-low. After taking fourth at Worlds last summer, Margalis is on the warpath for her first individual Olympic medal.
18-year-old Alex Walsh is second, though she doesn’t quite best her own 17-18 NAG record (2:09.01) from U.S. Open.
Women’s 1500 free final
The newest Olympic event is a glorified victory lap for Katie Ledecky, who went after the 200 free earlier in the session and does only what she needs to to secure a win here, coming in a bit behind her prelims time.
Behind her, Erica Sullivan‘s decision to delay her NCAA career pays off, as the 19-year-old goes 15:49 to move into the top 12 performers of all-time and make her first Olympic team.
Other events today:
- Men’s 100 free semifinals – With no men qualified for more than one individual event so far, we’re all starting to worry that the U.S. might actually run up against the 26-person roster limit on the men’s side. But the 100 free promises to provide some relief there, with a lot of the 4×200 free relay qualifiers making it through to the final.
- Caeleb Dressel is impossibly fast, as always. He goes 47-low to break the U.S. Open record in semis, begging the question of just how much faster he’ll go in finals, and then in Tokyo. Prior to tonight, Dressel’s 9 fastest swims in the 100 free had all come at World Championships, so there’s no question he can perform in the spotlight.
- Women’s 200 fly semifinals – Hali Flickinger has quietly led both rounds of qualifying so far, going 2:06-mids in both heats and semis. Further back, Charlotte Hook moves to #2 all-time in the 15-16 age group in a low 2:07. She’s now just over a second away from a Mary T. Meagher NAG record from 1981.
- Men’s 200 breast semifinals – it’s a wild 200 breast. Nic Fink goes 2:07 out of one semi, then Will Licon beats him by a hundredth from the second semi. 17-year-old Josh Matheny sets a NAG record without going a personal best: his 2:09.40 NAG in the 15-16 age group is actually faster than the 17-18 NAG (2:09.73) in the bracket he’s now aged into.
Olympic Team As Of Tonight:
- Melanie Margalis (400 IM, 200 IM)
- Kelsi Dahlia (100 FL)
- Katie Ledecky (400 FR, 200 FR, 1500 FR 4×200 FRR)
- Regan Smith (100 BK)
- Lilly King (100 BR)
- Simone Manuel (200 FR, 4×200 FRR)
- Katie McLaughlin (4×200 FRR)
- Paige Madden (4×200 FRR)
- Brooke Forde (400 IM)
- Torri Huske (100 FL)
- Leah Smith (400 FR, 4×200 FRR)
- Kathleen Baker (100 BK)
- Annie Lazor (100 BR)
- Alex Walsh (200 IM)
- Erica Sullivan (1500 FR)
- Gabby DeLoof (4×200 FRR)
- Chase Kalisz (400 IM)
- Zane Grothe (400 FR)
- Andrew Wilson (100 BR)
- Blake Pieroni (200 FR, 4×200 FRR)
- Andrew Seliskar (200 FR, 4×200 FRR)
- Zach Apple (4×200 FRR)
- Townley Haas (4×200 FRR)
- Ryan Murphy (100 BK)
- Luca Urlando (200 FL)
- Jay Litherland (400 IM)
- Kieran Smith (400 FR, 4×200 FRR)
- Cody Miller (100 BR)
- Matt Grevers (100 BK)
- Nicolas Albiero (200 FL)
- Caeleb Dressel (4×200 FRR)