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.
Today would have been the start of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.
The worldwide coronavirus pandemic obviously had different ideas, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate – and speculate on – the swims that would have been.
Without further ado, our projections for what would have happened today in the COVID-free timeline:
Men’s 400 IM Final
It’s an exact re-run of 2016, with Georgia alums Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland claiming the first two preliminary spots on the U.S. Olympic team. Kalisz bounces back from a rotten 2019 (season-best: 4:13.07) with a return to the 4:07s, and we all immediately start wondering just how tapered he was or wasn’t.
Litherland hits a lifetime-best in the 4:08s, powering away from top challengers Charlie Swanson and Carson Foster with his notoriously bruising freestyle leg.
Men’s 400 free final
It’s a much less eventful men’s 400 free, with Zane Grothe patiently wearing down the field to earn his first Olympic berth. 4th in this event at the last Olympic Trials, Grothe presses into the 3:44s for just the second time in his career and wins by a landslide.
There’s a lot of jockeying back and forth in the rest of the field. 200 free standout Townley Haas and youngster Jake Mitchell push the pace early, but Florida Gator Kieran Smith charges like a freight train through the middle 200 and powers away with a huge drop to 3:45 and his first Olympic bid.
Women’s 400 IM final
Coming off a huge in-season lifetime-best from the Des Moines Pro Swim Series, Melanie Margalis continues what has been an Olympic sweep for SEC-affiliated swimmers on night 1. Margalis shaves a few tenths off her lifetime-best.
Experience and strategy clearly pays off in a tough and talented field. 18-year-old Emma Weyant has a great prelims swim and is the top seed into the final, but Stanford’s Brooke Forde beats her out in the final for the second Olympic spot. Coming off a breakout NCAA title in the yards version of this event, Forde pops a 4:35 for second place at Trials.
Other events today:
- Women’s 100 fly semifinals – NAG records are dropping like flies. Regan Smith breaks her own 17-18 NAG (57.34 from March). Claire Curzan breaks the 15-16 NAG (57.48 from Torri Huske, who also goes under Smith’s old NAG in the 17-18 age group).
- Men’s 100 breast semifinals – it’s breaststroke, so someone has to break the American record in semifinals, right? This time, it’s Andrew Wilson, who clips the American record 58.64 that has stood since 2017.
Olympic Team As Of Tonight: