USA Swimming News

Monday, June 14, 2021

View From the Trials Stands - Day One


It was great being back at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Swimming in Omaha, a town from which I live just across the river. It’s my fourth Trials here, and each one has had a different yet familiar vibe. 

However, because of COVID safety precautions and the year delay, this time around definitely feels unlike any before it. 

One of the differences is in the media operations side of the meet. Along with wearing a mask everywhere but the Media Workroom, there is no free-for-all mixed zone – where media was able to interview athletes as they came off the deck post-race. Instead, the mixed zone is being conducted via zoom to understandably keep everyone safe, especially the athletes.

With that being said, some things stay the same – and that’s really fast, exciting races. Sunday night brought that and a whole lot more, including a very unique opening to the night’s festivities. 

Here are few observations from Day 1 of Wave II Olympic Trials. Maybe you noticed some of these same things. 

Opening Ceremony Did Not Disappoint 
Flashing lights. Red, white and blue batons floating and often rolling in the air. Thundering, electrifying music. 

The intro for the first evening of U.S. Olympic Trials – Swimming did not disappoint. 

Considering the crowd is considerably smaller this year due to COVID, it was a great way to motivate those in attendance and get everyone up and excited for Trials. 

Stayed tuned to find out if there’s something different Monday night. 
Signing the Drum 

In 2012, athletes who won events and made the London Olympic team signed the iconic English “red box” phone booth. In 2016, it was a surfboard representing the “amazing waves” of Rio de Janeiro. For this year’s Olympics in Tokyo, athletes are signing a drum, or Taiko. Taiko’s were often used to motivate troops, call out orders or announcements and set a marching pace. 

On Sunday night, it was Chase Kalisz, by virtue of his win in the 400 individual medley (he also won in 2016), who was the first to sign the Taiko. Kieran Smith (400 freestyle) and Emma Weyant (400 IM) also signed it as the first three members of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team – Swimming. 

Wave I Update
After enjoying the limelight of finishing among the top two and even winning events last weekend at Wave I Trials, all of the first-day swimmers from that meet failed to advance past prelims Sunday.

Tyler Kopp, who won the 400 individual medley at Wave I, came closest to advancing beyond morning prelims when he finished 18th in 4:22.99. If he had swum his time from Wave I finals – 4:21.50 – he would have finished 14th, still missing Sunday evening’s finals. 

Among the women who advanced from Wave I races, Katie Trace had the best result Sunday, finishing 24th in the 400 IM in 4:48.63 – which was .13 faster than her time in the Wave I final. 

Loaded Breaststroke
After setting the 100 breast American record in prelims, Michael Andrew took his racing to another level by setting a second American record in the event in Sunday evening’s semifinals. 

His morning time of 58.19 was eclipsed by his new record – 58.14 – despite him saying his evening race was “messy” compared to the morning and where he wants to be for Monday night’s final. 

Andrew is one of the busiest athletes at Trials this year–swimming multiple events–and he didn’t disappoint during day one. His semifinal included 2016 Olympians Kevin Cordes and Cody Miller, 2019 World Championship finalist Andrew Wilson and 2015 World Championship semifinalist Nic Fink. 

Considering the 100 breast finals field includes Fink, Wilson and Cordes, Andrew may need to take a swing at a third American record. 

Along with Andrew and his new American record, the rest of the field went 1:00.36 or faster – include the top five all finishing under 1 minute. Miller finished 11th in 1:00.66 – considerably slower than the 59.26 he recorded in 2016 to finish as the runner-up behind Cordes at Trials. 

Sunday night’s men’s 100 breaststroke semifinals were so loaded that Miller – the bronze medalist in Rio five years ago – didn’t even qualify for Monday’s finals.

Along with Andrew and his new American record, the rest of the field went 1:00.36 or faster – include the top five all finishing under 1 minute. Miller finished 11th in 1:00.66 – considerably slower than the 59.26 he recorded in 2016 to finish as the runner-up behind Cordes at Trials. 

Not the Only Record
Andrew’s 100 breaststroke American record wasn’t the only one set Sunday night. 

Eighteen-year-old Torri Huske set a new American mark in the first semifinal of the 100 butterfly. Her time of 55.78 bettered 2012 Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer’s eight-year-old mark of 55.98. 

“I just wanted to make it back to top 8,” Huske said. “I was just really excited more than nervous (prior to the race). I tried to look at it like this was any other meet – just a little bit bigger.”

She’ll be the top seed in Monday night’s final that also includes 16-year-old Claire Curzan, who bettered her prelim time by almost a second (57.61-56.81), and 2016 Trials winner Kelsi Dahlia, then known as Kelsi Worrell.

Not a bad way to celebrate your high school graduation!

Sister Act
Emma Weyant earned a spot on her first Olympic team with her win in the 400 IM Sunday, and attributed part of her excitement to race this year to her younger sister, Grace, who won the 200 breaststroke during Wave I to qualify for Wave II. 

“I’m so glad to be here with my sister,” Weyant said after winning the 400 IM Sunday. “She keeps my nerves in check, and I’m glad we get to race together.”

Smith Headlines 400 Free
Kieran Smith’s 3:44.86 was heads and shoulders above the rest of the field in the 400 freestyle. Jake Mitchell’s 3:48.17 was the second-best time of the final. 

Interesting enough, not one athlete who swam in the 400 free final in 2016 was present for Sunday night’s event. 

During morning prelims, Townley Haas and Zane Grothe, who were third and fourth behind Olympians (and now retired athletes) Connor Jaeger and Conor Dwyer in 2016, were left out of the final. Grothe finished 12th in 3:50.80 and Haas was close behind in 12th (3:50.89). Both swam 3:45 in the 2016 final. 

If day one told us anything, it is to hold on to your hats. This is going to be an exciting week of racing.

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