USA Swimming Olympic Trials Day 1: What Does It Take to Make It Back?

2021 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials

There are a lot of different facets of swimming that make it the great sport it is, but ultimately it is a time-based sport, and we swim nerds love comparing and discussing times. That’s especially true when it comes to comparing times over, well, time, and seeing how the sport continues to get faster.

After every prelims session this week, we’ll take a quick look at the times it took to earn a second swim in each event. Remember that for events that are 400m or longer, the top 8 swimmers from prelims go to straight to the final, while the top 16 in prelims go on to semi-finals in the 200m and under events. Specifically, we’ll be comparing the 8th/16th place prelims times to what it took to advance at the last three Olympic Trials, and sometimes trying to offer a bit of preliminary analysis to account for notable changes, or the lack thereof.

Here’s a quick glance at the 8th/16th place times from this morning, compared to what it took to advance at the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Trials.

EVENT 2008 2012 2016 2021
Men’s 400 IM 8th 4:21.05 4:19.33 4:15.41 4:17.60
Women’s 100 Fly 16th 59.97 59.87 59.87 59.05
Men’s 400 Free 8th 3:51.47 3:49.89 3:50.52 3:49.49
Women’s 400 IM 8th 4:43.20 4:43.17 4:42.04 4:42.63
Men’s 100 Breast 16th 1:02.36 1:01.80 1:01.41 1:00.81

In two of today’s five events, the times needed to advance were slower than they were in 2016. The 8th place time today in the men’s 400 IM was about two seconds  slower than it was in 2016, but the 4:17.60 Sam Stewart put up today to qualify 8th, would’ve put him 10th in prelims in 2016, so that’s not a huge shift. That’s especially true when you consider that, due to scratches, a couple swimmers who swam 4:19s in prelims in 2016 got bumped up to the final.

The women’s 400 IM was another event that was just a tad slower than it was 2016. The 4:42.04 that Lindsey Clary swam to qualify 8th in 2016 would’ve put her 7th today. Meanwhile, today’s 8th place time 4:42.63, swam by Brooke Forde, would’ve been 12th in prelims in 2016. In both the men’s and women’s 400 IMs, though, those 8th place times were faster than any other Olympic Trials other than 2016.

Meanwhile, led by a returning Olympian and two teenagers who have been burning it up this year, the time needed to make semi finals in the women’s 100 fly dropped from 59.87 to 59.05. At first glance, that may not seem like a huge drop, but consider this: in 2016, 59.05 would’ve been the 4th-fastest time in prelims. Today, that time tied Rachel Klinker and Rhyan White for 15th, with times of 59.17 and 59.18 finishing 17th and 18th. The 59.87 that earned a second swim in 2016 would’ve finished 33rd today.

While the top end of the men’s 400 free didn’t exactly overwhelm American swim fans, it was actually the fastest prelims in Olympic Trials history, at least by the measure of what it took to make it back to tonight’s final. Although, while the 3:49.49 that Mitch D’Arrigo swam today for that 8th-fastest time of the morning was over a second faster than 8th in 2016 (and 0.40s faster than in 2012), it still would’ve qualified 8th in 2016, as there was a fairly large gap between 7th (3:48.86) and 8th (3:50.51) last time around.

Finally, the men’s 100 breast took a leap forward this morning. Not only did Michael Andrew break the American Record by a wide margin, but the 16th placed time improved by 0.60s from 2016. That time of 1:00.81 swum by Jason Mathews today to just make the cut off for tonight’s semi-final would’ve finished 10th in prelims in 2016. Meanwhile, the 2016 16th place time of 1:01.41 would’ve finished 22nd today. Interestingly, despite the improvement at the top and the bottom of the top 16, there were actually less men under 1:00 today (4) than there were in 2016 (5). Four of those five from 2016 – Andrew, Kevin Cordes, Cody Miller, and Andrew Wilson – qualified for semis today, while Josh Prenot, who was 59.76 in prelims in 2016, faded to 24th with a 1:01.73 today.

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Doconc
1 month ago

The smith swim tonight will be a harbinger of the week

If really fast- the fuse is lit

GATOR CHOMP 🐊
Reply to  Doconc
1 month ago

I’m hoping smith can drag along some other soul with him

Thezwimmer
Reply to  Doconc
1 month ago

Hopefully he swims it smarter than the last Smith who tried to take it out

BearlyBreathing
Reply to  Doconc
1 month ago

Regan, Kieran or Leah?
tbh at first I thought yours was an intentionally vague joke post but in case it isn’t I’m giving you a chance to be specific.

Last edited 1 month ago by BearlyBreathing
swimmerfromcali
Reply to  BearlyBreathing
1 month ago

I think he is referring to Clark Smith from 2016 trials.

BearlyBreathing
Reply to  swimmerfromcali
1 month ago

comment image

Last edited 1 month ago by BearlyBreathing
ole 99
1 month ago

Aw, you can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forfty percent of all people know that.