With Olympic Trials fast approaching, we’re taking a look at each of the eight days of competition, which will begin June 25 and conclude July 2. We break down who we see as the favorites entering the meet, preview each event, make our picks for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, and give you a list of current and former local area competitors. Read our Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four and Day Five Previews here.
Ever since Ryan Lochte took down Michael Phelps in the men’s 200-meter individual medley at World Championships last summer, setting the first World Record since the high-tech suit ban, swim fans have circled Day Six at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, eager for the rematch. Phelps wants to show that he is still the world’s greatest swimmer, and a world record and top seed heading to London in the 200 IM would be a big step in quashing his doubters. The Lochte-Phelps duel will be the marquee event on Day Six alongside two finals with world record potential — the women’s 200 breast and men’s 200 back.
Women’s 200-meter breaststroke
This event should be a very exciting race — for second place. Rebecca Soni – Olympic gold medalist, World Champion, American record holder — enters Day Six seeded nearly four seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. She has posted the top time in the world in each of the last three years, and is the runaway favorite to win gold in London.
That doesn’t leave a lot of room for error among her competitors, particular for 30-year-old Amanda Beard, who is trying to reach her fifth Olympic Games. Beard medaled in her first three Olympics, but failed to advance out of the heats in the 200 breaststroke in 2008. She has been plagued recently in this event because of a high arm recovery that sometimes breaks the surface, resulting in a disqualification. Hopefully this will not be distraction for the seven-time Olympic medalist as she takes to the water against two very fast, rising stars — Caitlin Leverenz and Micah Lawrence.
Caitlin Leverenz was on fire during the collegiate season where she led Cal to its second consecutive NCAA women’s championship with wins in the 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard IM. Equally as hot, Micah Lawrence touched first in the 200 breast at the Indianapolis Grand Prix last March in 2:24.62 — the fourth fastest time by an American in 2012. The top three times are owned by Soni.
2008 Olympic Champion: Rebecca Soni (United States) 2:20.22.
World record: Annamay Pierse (Canada) 2:22.12, set in 2009.
American record: Rebecca Soni (Trojan Swim Club) 2:20.22, set in 2008.
1. Rebecca Soni — 2011 FINA World Champion (2:20.69)
2. Amanda Beard — three-time Olympic medalist in event (2:24.30)
3. Micah Lawrence — 2011 U.S. National Championships gold medalist (2:24.62)
4. Caitlin Leverenz — 2012 NCAA National Champion in 200-yard breaststroke (2:25.63)
5. Andrea Kropp — 4th place at 2011 U.S. National Championships (2:26.18)
6. Gisselle Kohoyda — 5th place at 2011 Winter Nationals (2:26.56)
7. Haley Spencer — 2011 NCAA National Champion in 200-yard breaststroke (2:27.09)
8. Breeja Larson — American, U.S. Open, and NCAA record holder in 100-yard breaststroke (2:28.88)
Local competitors: George Mason’s Ashley Danner (Mason Makos) enters as the top seeded local swimmer at 37th. She is capable of dropping big chunks of time in a championship scenario, so don’t count her out for a semifinals berth. Curl-Burke’s Jennifer Wilson (Northwestern/Sidwell Friends) and RMSC’s Sarah Haase (Good Counsel) round out the field, seeded 50 and 99, respectively.
Picks for London: Soni, Lawrence. Soni breezes through this final on her way to Olympic gold. Lawrence edges Leverenz and Beard in a furious charge between the three 200 specialists. Unfortunately this leaves Beard on the outside looking in 16 years after her first Olympic Games.
Men’s 200-meter backstroke
Ryan Lochte is poised to defend his sole individual Olympic gold medal from Beijing as he enters this event favored to repeat in London. Second seeded is Tyler Clary, the World Championships bronze medalist, who could push the pace at Trials. Michael Phelps is listed third on USA Swimming’s Trials psych sheet, but Phelps will likely not swim this event if his preceding races go according to plan.
Lochte and Clary could face tough competition from two sprint backstrokers, Matt Grevers and Nick Thoman. Grevers won silver in Beijing in the 100 backstroke event, and also took gold in both the 100 and 200 backstroke events last summer at U.S. Nationals. Thoman is looking to make his first U.S. Olympic team. His best shot, like Grevers, is in the shorter distance, but if he misses out on Day Three, he could be motivated enough to swim a gutsy race that challenges the other three favorites from the start.
2008 Olympic Champion: Ryan Lochte (United States) 1:53.94.
World record: Aaron Peirsol (United States) 1:51.92, set in 2009.
American record: Aaron Peirsol (Longhorn Aquatic) 1:51.92, set in 2009.
1. Ryan Lochte — 2008 Olympic gold medalist; 2011 FINA World Championships gold medalist (1:52.96)
2. Tyler Clary — 2011 FINA World Championships bronze medalist (1:54.69)
3. Matt Grevers — 2011 U.S. National Champion (1:57.26)
4. Rex Tullius — 2011 U.S. National Championships silver medalist (1:57.48)
5. Nick Thoman — 2011 U.S. National Championships bronze medalist (1:57.71)
6. Ryan Murphy — 2011 FINA Junior World Championships bronze medalist (1:57.82)
7. Jacob Pebley –2011 FINA Junior World Championships gold medalist (1:58.30)
8. Jack Conger — 17-18 National Age Group record holder in 200-yard backstroke (1:58.54)
Local Competitors: 2011 and 2012 All-Met Swimmer of the Year Jack Conger (RMSC/Good Counsel) may benefit from a Phelps scratch, which would give him the eighth seed and a prime shot at the final heat heading into the event. Conger’s teammates Brady Fox (RMSC/U-Va.) and Garrett Powell (RMSC/Walter Johnson) will also be in the water for the Friday morning heats and are seeded 29th and 69th, respectively.
Picks for London: Lochte, Clary. This race may easily devolve into a low-drama, two-person coronation. But Lochte (and possibly Clary) will have to manage his energy wisely for another tough double.
Men’s 200-meter individual medley
It’s hard to argue against Ryan Lochte – the event’s world record holder — in Omaha or London, despite a quick turn around after the 200 backstroke final on the same night.
Lochte is no stranger to the 200 back-200 IM double. In Beijing, Lochte won bronze in the IM twenty-seven minutes after winning gold in the back. This year, the Trials and Olympic schedules are similarly unkind to Lochte. His main competitor, Michael Phelps, will have a chance to make a statement with this event — Phelps lost to Lochte at the 2011 World Championships, eliciting speculation about whether a changing of the guard had taken place. At the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, Phelps touched the wall under world record time with Lochte close behind. The tables could be turned this year.
The unfortunate reality for American IMers is that they could finish the year ranked top-20 in the world and still not have even an outside shot at making the U.S. Olympic team in this event.
2008 Olympic Champion: Michael Phelps (United States) 1:54.23.
World record: Ryan Lochte (United States) 1:54.00, set in 2011.
American record: Ryan Lochte (Gator Swim Club) 1:54.00, set in 2011.
1. Ryan Lochte — World record holder (1:54.00)
2. Michael Phelps — 2008 Olympic gold medalist (1:54.16)
3. Conor Dwyer — 2011 U.S. National Championships gold medalist (1:58.64)
4. Cory Chitwood — 2011 & 2012 NCAA Champion in 200-yard backstroke (2:00.46)
5. David Nolan — 2012 NCAA Championships bronze medalist (2:00.61)
6. Jack Brown — 4th place at 2009 U.S. Nationals (2:00.82)
7. Tyler Harris — 2011 U.S. National Championships silver medalist (2:00.91)
8. Clark Burckle — 2011 U.S. National Championships bronze medalist (2:00.94)
Local Competitors: Chuck Katis (Curl-Burke/Harvard) is Potomac Valley’s top qualifier and sits 56th on the Trials psych sheet. He and teammate Andrew Seliskar (Curl-Burke/Thomas Jefferson) will close out their week of racing with this event. Breaststroke specialist and former RMSC swimmer Eric Friedland (Longhorn Aquatics/Texas) is also slated to swim.
Final Picks: Lochte, Phelps. Another two-person race. If Lochte is willing to push the pace, fans may witness a world record-breaking classic. But which superstar walks away with that record may be anybody’s guess.
Women’s 100-meter freestyle
Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin represent the two sides of swimming — the young, rising star and the focused, savvy veteran. Earlier in the competition, Franklin and Coughlin will meet in what should be a very close final in the 100 backstroke — one of the five events each swimmer will compete in during the eight day meet. Round two could be even closer as swimmers vie for a spot on the 4×100 free relay.
Unlike the rest of the night, this is far from a two-person race. The top ten features an all-star cast with plenty of international experience and medals to keep even the toughest veterans like Coughlin on edge. Butterfly specialist Dana Vollmer and mid-distance freestyler Allison Schmitt enter tied for the third seed, just behind Franklin and Coughlin. In fourth sits a very dangerous Jessica Hardy, who has dominated the 50 freestyle in the Grand Prix series this spring. Also keep an eye on another teenage sensation, Lia Neal, who enters seeded eighth.
2008 Olympic Champion: Britta Steffen (Germany) 53.12.
World record: Britta Steffen (Germany) 52.07, set in 2009.
American record: Amanda Weird (SwimAtlanta) 53.02, set in 2009.
1. Missy Franklin — 2011 FINA World Championships silver medalist in 4×100 freestyle relay (53.63)
2. Natalie Coughlin — 2008 Olympic bronze medalist (53.67)
3. Dana Vollmer — 2011 FINA World Championships silver medalist in 4×100 freestyle relay (53.94)
3. Allison Schmitt — American record holder in 200 freestyle (53.94)
5. Jessica Hardy — 2011 FINA World Championships silver medalist in 4×100 freestyle relay (54.14)
5. Amanda Weir — 2004 Olympic silver medalist in 4×100 medley and 4×100 freestyle relays (54.14)
7. Megan Romano — 2012 NCAA Champion in 200-yard freestyle (54.16)
8. Lia Neal — 2011 World Junior Champships gold medalist (54.35)
Local Competitors: Amanda Kendall (Mason Makos) enters the meet seeded 10th. She will need to move up into the top six if she wants to earn herself a relay spot, which is well within reach if she has been able to regain the strength lost when she had hand surgery in March. She won this event at the 2011 Pan American Games and will be honed in on qualifying for the team in this event. Also representing the PVS will be Caroline McTaggart (All-Star Aquatic), seeded 66th, Janet Hu, seeded 69th, and Megan Waters (Princeton/RMSC), seeded 112.
Picks for London: Franklin, Coughlin. This is a safe pick considering the talent of the U.S. women in this event, but both swimmers are tested at the international level and won’t miss their shot at duking it out with each other in London in this event.
Tags: 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, Allison Schmitt, Amanda Beard, Amanda Kendall, Amanda Weir, Andrea Kropp, Andrew Seliskar, Brady Fox, Breeja Larson, Caitlin Leverenz, Chuck Katis, Clark Burckle, Conor Dwyer, Cory Chitwood, Curl-Burke, Dana Vollmer, David Nolan, Eric Friedland, Gisselle Kohoyda, Haley Spencer, Jack Brown, Jack Conger, Jacob Pebley, Janet Hu, Jessica Hardy, Lia Neal, Mason Makos, Matt Grevers, Megan Romano, Micah Lawrence, Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Natalie Coughlin, Nick Thoman, Rebecca Soni, Rex Tullius, RMSC, Ryan Lochte, Ryan Murphy, Tyler Clary, Tyler Harris