Note: The opinions of individual writers do not reflect the views of SwimSwam as a whole.
On Friday, we published our way-too-early predictions for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. We received overwhelming feedback about many of our predictions, so as promised, all seven writers who picked their Olympic teams will be breaking down some of their selections. And to start things off, I’ll be presenting what I have.
I understand that some of my opinions are controversial—after all, with over a year to go before the competition actually happens, there’s no such thing as a “correct” take. So if you disagree with anything I say, please feel free to let me know in a respectful, civilized manner in the comments below. And if any swimmer I’m writing about happens to read this, please take my words with a grain of salt, as my predictions now shouldn’t determine your performances in over a year’s time.
- In case you forgot, all of our Olympic Trials picks can be found here.
As a refresher, here were my picks:
|50 Free||Caeleb Dressel||David Curtiss||Matt King|
|100 Free||Caeleb Dressel||Ryan Held||Brooks Curry||Matt King||Zach Apple||Shaine Casas|
|200 Free||Kieran Smith||Luke Hobson||Carson Foster||Henry McFadden||Luca Urlando||Jake Magahey|
|400 Free||Kieran Smith||Jake Mitchell||Jake Magahey|
|800 Free||Bobby Finke||Will Gallant||David Johnston|
|1500 Free||Bobby Finke||Alec Enyeart||David Johnston|
|100 Back||Hunter Armstrong||Daniel Diehl||Ryan Murphy|
|200 Back||Ryan Murphy||Jack Aikins||Daniel Diehl|
|100 Breast||Nic Fink||Max McHugh||Josh Matheny|
|200 Breast||Matt Fallon||Nic Fink||AJ Pouch|
|100 fly||Caeleb Dressel||Dare Rose||Thomas Heilman|
|200 fly||Luca Urlando||Carson Foster||Gabriel Jett|
|200 IM||Carson Foster||Shaine Casas||Michael Andrew|
|400 IM||Carson Foster||Chase Kalisz||Bobby Finke|
|50 Free||Gretchen Walsh||Claire Curzan||Abbey Weitzeil|
|100 Free||Gretchen Walsh||Torri Huske||Kate Douglass||Claire Curzan||Abbey Weitzeil||Simone Manuel|
|200 Free||Katie Ledecky (scratch)||Erin Gemmell||Bella Sims||Claire Weinstein||Paige Madden||Leah Smith|
|400 Free||Katie Ledecky||Erin Gemmell||Paige Madden|
|800 Free||Katie Ledecky||Katie Grimes||Leah Smith|
|1500 Free||Katie Ledecky||Katie Grimes||Erica Sullivan|
|100 Back||Katharine Berkoff||Claire Curzan||Regan Smith|
|200 Back||Phoebe Bacon||Claire Curzan||Regan Smith|
|100 Breast||Lilly King||Lydia Jacoby||Kaitlyn Dobler|
|200 Breast||Kate Douglass||Lilly King||Lydia Jacoby|
|100 fly||Torri Huske||Gretchen Walsh||Kelly Pash|
|200 fly||Dakota Luther||Hali Flickinger||Regan Smith|
|200 IM||Kate Douglass||Alex Walsh||Leah Hayes|
|400 IM||Katie Grimes||Leah Hayes||Emma Weyant|
In Defense Of Gretchen Walsh
After the majority of SwimSwam writers picked Gretchen Walsh to win both the 50 and 100 free at Trials, we got a lot of criticism for this move—many commenters cited that Walsh was unproven in the big pool.
And I’d just like to say, for the umpteenth time, that Walsh is not solely a short course specialist.
Sure, Walsh is arguably better in short course than long course right now. But it’s absolutely feasible to say she has the potential to become America’s top sprint freestyler. In the 50 free, her best time of 24.47 is less than a tenth of Erika Brown‘s best time of 24.38, which medalled individually at Worlds and made her the top American performer of 2022. Walsh’s best of 53.74 in the 100 free is still a bit off Torri Huske‘s 52.92 (the U.S. leading time of 2022), but it’s not that far from the 53.35 Huske swam to win at Trials.
And it’s not just that Walsh’s times are close to the top right now, it’s her potential for the future. When she went 24.7/53.7 long course as a sixteen-year-old, her best times in yards were 21.82/47.49. Would you have called her a short course specialist then? Probably not—her long course times were what drew more attention, meaning she was never meant to be pigeonholed as a short course specialist. After she improved to a 20.94/46.05 in short course over the last four years, and knowing that many of her struggles to drop in long course were likely a mental block that she got over at nationals last summer, what’s stopping her from making big long course improvements headed into 2023 and 2024? I don’t know about you all, but I’m convinced that a swimmer who split 53.01 long course on a relay as a sixteen-year-old and has also dropped over a second in her best short course events is certainly capable of being America’s top sprinter.
Dare Rose and Alec Enyeart
In total, there were two swimmers that I had picked to make the team individually which not a single other writer had even mentioned. Those two swimmers were Dare Rose in the 100 fly, and Alec Enyeart in the 1500 free.
Let’s start off with Rose, who has seen tremendous improvement in butterfly over the last year. He finished fourth at 2022 Trials in a time of 51.40, dropping over a second from the 52.99 he swam at the 2021 Olympic Trials. But it’s not just Rose’s improvement curve. It’s also the fact that the second spot behind Caeleb Dressel in the 100 fly could possibly be wide open.
Let’s take a look at all the swimmers who were picked over Rose. Michael Andrew and Shaine Casas, the two other active Americans who have been sub-51 in the 100 fly, will have to choose between the event and the 200 IM if they don’t want to deal with a double—and I personally think both swimmers will opt for the 200 IM. Trenton Julian‘s 51.10 personal best is faster than Rose’s, but his performances lately have been inconsistent. Luca Urlando‘s personal best is 0.24 seconds slower than Rose’s. Thomas Heilman, a SwimSwam favorite (5/7 writers have him making the team), is only fifteen, and so much can happen in two years for a swimmer his age. Don’t get me wrong, I think Heilman will make several international teams in his lifetime, but when we are talking about the near future, I think I’d still pick an older and more experienced but also fast-rising swimmer like Rose (who is still very young!) over a high schooler.
Now, Enyeart. I had him second in the 1500 free, but I think he’s going to be a contender in both the 800 and 1500 come time for 2024. Like the 100 fly, the second spot in behind Bobby Finke the men’s distance races are still wide open, and there hasn’t really been anyone that has seriously set themselves apart. In 2022, Enyeart was ranked fifth in the country for the 1500 free as a high schooler, dropping from a personal best of 15:22.66 to 15:05.10 in one year. He’s since then moved to train at Texas, a well-established program that has produced countless Olympians, and he’s only going to get better in the future.
Claire Curzan‘s Backstroke Transition
One thing you may have noticed is that I left Claire Curzan out of the top three in the 100 fly. That’s not because I think she’ll finish fourth, but because I think she’s going to drop butterfly in its entirety.
Curzan swam her fastest times in the 50 free, 1o0 free, and 100 fly at local TAC Titans meets in early 2021, and hasn’t beaten those times since. Meanwhile, she has seen a surge in great backstroke performances recently—she won her first-ever individual long course medal in the 100 back, and nabbed silvers in the 50 and 200 back at short course worlds (in the 50 back, she became the second-fastest performer of all-time). In fact, at short course worlds, she did exactly what I’m predicting her to do at 2024 Trials—drop the 100 fly for the 200 back.
Overall, in the 100 fly, she hasn’t seen a whole lot of success—she missed finals in Tokyo, and then failed to podium in Budapest. At 2023 NCAAs, it might even make more sense points-wise for her to swim the 100 back considering her teammate Torri Huske‘s presence in the 100 fly. Sometimes, you have to try new things in order to excel, and why be hung up on something that’s remained stagnant for you when you has so much momentum trending in another direction? I still think Curzan will pursue freestyle for relay opportunities, but fly is a whole other story.
Where Curzan’s prospects are particularly interesting are in the 200 back, where I have her finishing second in at trials. She’s currently the top performer in the 200 back by two seconds for this current NCAA season, and won a medal in the event at short course worlds. Clearly, she has long course potential too—her best time of 2:07.31 from a pro swim series ranked #5 in the country in 2022. In a race that she hasn’t really taken seriously until recently, her ceiling is sky-high.
Veteran Resurge In Men’s Sprinting
On Twitter, someone asked me why I had Ryan Held placing second in the 100 free. So I wanted to use this section to justify why I picked two veterans, Held and Zach Apple (a name that no other writer mentioned) to make the team in the 4×100 free relay.
With the exception of maybe Brooks Curry, U.S. men’s sprint free doesn’t have the same surge of young collegiate-aged talent that their female counterparts have. On the other hand, which two names have been the most standout male sprinters aside from Dressel in the last two years? In my opinion, that’s Held and Apple.
Ever since his 2021 Trials mishap, Held has been on fire for Team USA. He won silver medals in the 50 and 100 free at 2021 Short Course Worlds, and was the fastest swimmer on multiple American relays at long course worlds last summer. In fact, during Worlds last year, he swam his quickest relay split ever (46.99) at age 27. Given that he’s the third-fastest American ever in the 100 free (his best time of 47.39 is faster than any active American aside from Dressel), has a streak of momentum going, and doesn’t have any obvious young up-and-comers ready to stop him, for now I think the second spot in the 100 free is his.
I also feel the need to defend Apple. After missing the Worlds team by just 0.14 seconds and having a relatively quiet 2022, many seemed to have forgotten that just a year ago he earned an individual spot in the 100 free at the Olympics, anchored a world record relay, and split 46-point multiple times. Trials last year was just a slightly off meet for Apple (and not even by that much), but it shouldn’t justify overlooking all that he’s done for Team USA.
I’ve gotten a few questions about why I left Kibler out of the top six for the 200 free, and the simple answer to this is the uncertainty of his training situation. While Carmel is a great club that has produced many incredible athletes, we just haven’t seen much recent success with postgrads going back to training with their old club teams. The matter of fact is that leaving a place like Texas, which is known for training great 200 freestylers like Kibler and helped him to where he is now, in favor of swimming with high schoolers 6-7 years younger than him looks like a risky move on paper.
In addition, with the men’s 200 free becoming increasingly competitive in the United States, Kibler could still swim a very decent time (1:46-low?) and still miss the team.
Right now, it’s too early to determine the effects of Carmel’s training on Kibler—his 2022 Short Course Worlds results were a mixed bag, as he was just a step off the podium in the 200 free but missed semifinals in the 100 free. Hopefully, he’ll prove me wrong and have a successful 2023 and 2024, and I’d be glad if my remarks on his training situation get turned into a Freezing Cold Take™. But for now, I’m still a bit wary.
Simone Manuel‘s Qualification Prospects
There are a lot of people who have said that we are “writing off” Simone Manuel for not picking her to make the team in any individual events. But I actually think this decision is fairly reasonable. She’s almost four years removed from her days of winning world titles in the 50 and 100 free, spent a year away from competition, and is training with a completely different coach than she has in the past. Sure, I’m happy that she’s found a way to overcome overtraining syndrome and develop the courage to get back into competition again, and I truly believe that she can push her way through to get a finalsrelay spot. But with so many unknown variables right now, as well as younger sprinters like Claire Curzan, Torri Huske, Kate Douglass, and Gretchen Walsh being on a clear upward trend (plus, Abbey Weitzeil, who has been faster than Manuel in the last two years, is in very good shape right now), the prospect of Manuel returning to her 2019 glory days still seems a bit far-fetched.
Why Are We Doubting Jake Mitchell?
Out of all seven writers, I was the only one who had Mitchell making the team in the 400 free. I’m genuinely confused by the lack of confidence in Mitchell, considering that his best time of 3:45.38 is faster than the likes of Jake Magahey (3:46.36) and Ross Dant (3:47.11), two swimmers that were picked to by many writers to qualify over him. Even in a year where Mitchell’s performances were affected by being out of the water due to mono, he still produced a formidable season-best of 3:46.59 at nationals, only losing to Magahey by 0.23 seconds and still being faster than Dant has ever been. In addition, with Mitchell training alongside America’s top 400 freestyler Kieran Smith every day at Florida, the best mid-distance freestyle program in the country, I’m almost certain that he’s going to get better.
Another important factor that people seem to have ignored is Mitchell’s experience under pressure. Olympic Trials is swimming’s biggest pressure cooker, and even some of the best athletes will fall victim and fail to perform. But Mitchell has already been through one of the most stressful moments of swimming, when he raced all by himself in an empty pool with qualification on the line. So if there’s anyone I’m banking on pulling through when it matters the most, it’s him.
These picks did get me thinking about ZApple and to a lesser extend, Held – for some reason I thought both of them were a bit older than they were. (Like, early 30s for trials vs late 20s.)
Which makes me a bit more bullish on both of their prospects. That’s potentially a sweet spot.
MA 50free 100breast 100 fly
agreed. maybe not to make all 3 but to go for them
I appreciate anyone who doesn’t go overboard for Regan Smith based on coaching change and winter races. She has a demonstrated tendency to get tense and tie up. But I’m not sure Claire Curzan is the correct vehicle. I can’t shake the image of Curzan jetting away from McKeown on every short course turn only for McKeown to methodically reel her in before the wall. Now translate that to half as many turns and double the midstream.
Somebody deep in this thread had the correct emphasis on Gretchen Walsh. She needs to get stronger. Much stronger. Those long soft subtle limbs may look nice in swimsuit photos but they don’t maximize in long course freestyle. Somehow we always talk about… Read more »
…. your assessment of Gretchen’s body is kind of creepy
Picks are meant to be surprising, but I’m more surprised there’s no discussion of Regan Smith being 3rd in 3 events and missing the team in the article.
Reagan makes the team in 3 events.
The argument you make for G Walsh is the same argument you’re making against Simone; results from 4 years ago. They both posted great times 4 years ago but that helps Walsh but is irrelevant for Simone? I understand Walsh is on a tear in SC but her American records at NCAAs last March didn’t seem to translate to the big pool… she didn’t even qualify on relays in a reduced field. I have a hard time thinking she can do it in an Olympic year when everyone is primed to throw down.
The difference is that Gretchen had neared her times from 2019 last summer and Simone did not. In fact, she even went a best time in the 50. In addition, while Walsh has seen tremendous improvements in short course over the last year, Manuel hadn’t competed in a single meet in that same time frame.
Yeah, she is in better shape than Simone and I agree it would be a long shot for Simone to win with what we have seen from her. I just don’t think Walsh has given us enough to believe she will WIN 2 events. There are a half dozen women who have been far more consistent right in that 53 mid range. She has a chance in the 50 but Weitzel and Douglass are right there too and far more consistent in the big pool.
G. Walsh has beaten Douglass in the long course 50 free at the last two trials, and her PB is faster.
Yeah, I think her best chance is in the 50 for sure.
I don’t see Luca making the team. Unfortunately having 3 dislocations to do a fly stroke its going to be held together with rubber bands and screws.. risk of it happening again is high.
And a proper correction might keep them from being able to do the stroke effectively.
He might be able to make team as part of the 4×200 as top 6… maybe.
I also wonder if Calaeb will cut his schedule and remove the 100 free individually and just do the relays? I can see him winning trials and declining the spot like Phelps did in the 200.
3 less swims might be the stress reducer he needs.
I don’t agree with your shutting out Regan and MA from the team. So hurtful.
Yanyan is fueled by coffee and commenters’ tears.
I’m actually more of a tea person but the statement still holds true 🙃
I don’t understand the rationale behind Max McHugh beating Matheny. Matheny has always been a better LC swimmer and he’s been beating Max in LC for a little while. Max relies on pullouts while Josh has better over-water speed.