World Record Holder And Olympic Gold Medalist Kelsi Dahlia Announces Retirement

Kelsi Dahlia, a 2016 Olympian and the world record holder in the short course 100-meter butterfly, announced her retirement Saturday morning via Instagram.

Thank you swimming 💕 this sport has given me all I could dream and more, and I’m so thankful for my last 20 years in the water. The people I have met along the way are what have made the blood, sweat, and tears all worth it.

Thank you to my family: growing up in a family of six swimmers was a challenge at times, but my rockstar parents found ways for each of us to pursue our goals. @Toma_dahlia has been the best husband, cheering me on every practice and every meet.

Thank you to my friends and supporters: you’ve cheered me on around the world and stuck by me through thick and thin. I wouldn’t be here without you (you know who are are).

Thank you to my teammates: Tarnsfield Torpedos, Jersey Storm, @uoflswim_dive, USA swimming, and @calicondors_isl. I’ve learned so much from each of you and couldn’t be where I am today without your encouragement at practice and meets.

Thank you to my coaches: Jeremy, Ryan, Amy, Garrett, Rachel, @Kevarakaki@Arthuralbiero@Stephjuncks@ndcoach_Chris_lindauer_@kameron_chastain and @jasondierking. Thank you for believing in me, giving me a chance, and challenging me to get a little better every day.

Thank you to my sponsors: @TYRsport@Prorehablou@Usanainc, Park Community and my agent @Stefanlackner1 at @Proplayersports. Our partnerships have allowed my full focus to go towards my training and competing, and I’ll be forever grateful.

Most importantly, I’m so thankful God gave me this gift to compete and for the community in which he has surrounded me. My church has consistently reminded me I am loved not for what I do, but for who I am in Jesus. And I’m so excited for what He has for me next ✨

Dahlia first broke out onto the international scene at 2015 U.S. Nationals, in which she won the 100 fly by over a second in a time of 57.27, beating out defending Olympic champion Dana Vollmer. She once again beat Vollmer at the 2016 Olympic Trials, swimming a huge personal best time of 56.48 in the 100 fly to make her first Olympic team.

At the Rio Olympics, Dahlia just missed the final of the 100 fly by finishing ninth with a time of 57.54, just 0.03 seconds behind eighth-place finisher Chen Xinyi. However, Xinyi ended up failing a doping test prior to the competition and after the competition, resulting her getting a in a two-year ban from swimming. In addition to her individual swim, Dahlia also swam the butterfly leg in preliminary heats for Team USA in the 4×100 medley relay, which went on to win a gold medal in the finals.

From 2017 to 2019, Dahlia was the best female butterflier in the United States. At the 2017 FINA World Championships, she won her first international medal by placing third in the 100 fly with a new best time of 56.37. That time still stands as her lifetime best today. She also took fourth in the 50 fly, and won gold medals by being a part of Team USA’s 4×100 free and medley relays.

At the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, Dahlia took silver in the 100 fly (56.44) behind Rikako Ikee, and once again swam on the 4×100 free and medley relay that also both took silver. Dahlia’s first international gold medal came at the 2018 FINA Short Course World Championship, where she won the 100 fly (55.01), took second in the 200 fly (2:01.73), and third in the 50 fly (24.97). She also was apart of Team USA’s relays that broke the world record in the 4×50 women’s medley realy and the 4×50 mixed free relay that meet.

A year later, at the 2019 FINA World Championships, Dahlia failed to defend her bronze medal in the 100 fly, instead taking sixth. She also finished fourth in the 50 fly and was a part of Team USA’s 4×100 free relay that one silver. Dahlia broke her long course first world record at this meet. Alongside Regan Smith, Lily King, and Simone Manuel, Dahlia helped break the world record in the 4×100 medley relay, which still stands today.

Dahlia’s reign as America’s best female flyer came to an end at the 2021 Olympic trials, where she finished fourth in the 100 fly behind Torri Huske, Claire Curzan, and Kate Douglass and failed to make the Olympic team. In addition, she also did not get out of the semifinals in the 100 free, finishing 15th. A similar disappointing result occurred at the 2022 U.S. International Team trials, where she finished third in both the 50 and 100 fly behind Huske and Curzan.

One of Dahlia’s best swims came in the final stages of her career. Just last December, Dahlia broke Sarah Sjostrom‘s short course world record in the 100 fly, swimming a time of 54.59 during the International Swimming League grand finale match. She represented Cali Condors in the ISL for both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Dahlia also helped break the short course 4×100 medley relay world record alongside Olivia Smoliga, Lily King, and Erika Brown during the 2020 ISL season.

Collegiately, Dahlia had a very accomplished career swimming for the University of Louisville. She won both the 2015 and 2016 NCAA Championship in the 100 yard butterfly, and also broke the NCAA, US Open, and American record in the event three times. She first broke the record by swimming a time of 49.89 in prelims at 2015 NCAAs, becoming the first woman under 50 seconds in the event. She then lowered it to 49.81 in the finals, and did so once again at 2016 NCAAs in a time of 49.43. Her record stood for four years, until Erika Brown broke it in 2020 with a time of 49.38.

Born as Kelsi Worrell, Dahlia started to go by her married name after she wed her husband Tom Dahlia in 2018.

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Philip Johnson
3 months ago

Olympic gold, individual world record, a ton of international medals, a great career.

tea rex
3 months ago

As motivation for the good-not-great high school swimmers out there, Kelsi’s times in high school (most came from junior year), and in college:
50 fr – 23.44 –> 21.57
100 fr – 50.84 –> 47.30
100 fly – 54.56 –> 49.43 *American Record
200 fly – 2:01.28 –> 1:50.61

Guimaraes Cayley
3 months ago

Great career. Good luck on the next phase.

On a side note: too many people retiring – could it be the stress of the pandemic?

Bobo Gigi
3 months ago

Great career. Great smile. Looks like she’s a very nice person. She has represented US swimming very well.

3 months ago

Next assistant at Notre Dame!

ACC fan
3 months ago

You are a class act Kelsi! All the best!

B1G Daddy
3 months ago

Thank you for waiting over an hour after the Chicago PSS stop a few months back to sign an autograph for my son. She smiled and exchanged with him when I told him it was his first swim meet. She blushed when I told him this was a real world record holder, just like in his Guinness Book.

A great career by someone who seemed to really do it the right way.

Swimmer Tucson
3 months ago

What an awesome career. Besides her magnificent butterfly and underwaters, I always loved that 100 megawatt smile. She would be a great interviewer or grand ambassador.

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming through scoring countless dual meets, being a timer, and keeping track of her teammates' best times for three years as a team manager. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in …

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