By Sharon Robb
July 3, 2016—The U.S. Olympic swim team, one of the youngest in USA Swimming history, was finalized Sunday night, the eighth and final night of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
The U.S. will have 30 first-time Olympians, two more than the 2012 team, and 15 veterans led by five-time Olympian Michael Phelps, 31, and Katie Ledecky, 19, named Swimmers of the U.S. Olympic Trials Meet. Dave Durden of California was named top coach of the meet and will be an assistant on the Rio coaching staff.
Phelps won the 200-meter individual medley, 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter butterfly. Ledecky won the 200, 400 and 800 freestyles.
National team director Frank Busch said this year’s Trials were more surprising because several top name swimmers did not qualify including Natalie Coughlin, Jessica Hardy and Matt Grevers. Plus, Missy Franklin qualified for only two individual races and Ryan Lochte, because of a nagging groin inury, qualified in one individual event.
Many of the times turned in were slower than the 2012 Trials, no world records were broken and only one American record was broken. The average age of the men’s team is 23.9 with Anthony Ervin the oldest at 35. The women’s team averages 22.3 years with Ledecky the youngest.
The U.S. may be hardpressed to repeat its 2012 medal haul of 31 total medals including 18 gold.
“We are going to have to improve for sure,” said U.S. women’s head coach David Marsh of SwimMac. The U.S. team will hold training camps in San Antonio and Atlanta before heading to Rio.
Said U.S. men’s coach Bob Bowman: “I feel like we have seen some guys step up that we haven’t had before and I can’t wait to see them go to the Games and step up again. I feel very good about where we are now, but going forward we are going to have to step up to a new level.”
In Sunday night’s finals:
As expected, top-seed American record holder Connor Jaeger won in 14:47.61, fourth fastest time in the world this year. Jaeger also won the 400 freestyle. Jordan Wilimovsky, already on the team in the open water 10K, was second with a personal best 14:49.19. No one was close in the chase pack, more than a half-lap behind the leaders.
In a 1-2 repeat of the 100-meter freestyle finals, first-time Olympian and top seed Abbey Weitzeil swept the sprint events by winning the 50 in a best time 24.28. It was the second fastest American textile time for the second time in a row. Simone Manuel of Stanford out-touched Madison Kennedy for second in 24.33. Kennedy missed making the team by 15/100ths of a second.
“I am super excited, I have been working hard for this,” Weitzeil said.
“I was pretty nervous,” Manuel said. “Just making the team is a great accomplishment.”
SUNDAY FINAL RESULTS
50-meter freestyle: 1. Abbey Weitzeil, Canyon Swimming 24.28, 2. Simone Manuel, Stanford 24.33, 3. Madison Kennedy, SwimMAC 24.48; FLORIDA GOLD COAST: 19. Marta Ciesla, Pine Crest Swimming 25.59, 25. Harper Bruens, Boca Raton/Tennessee 25.70, 75. Megan Moroney, Cavaliers 26.21, 145. Kyla Valls, Miami Swimming 26.70.
1500-meter freestyle: 1. Connor Jaeger, Club Wolverine 14:47.61, 2. Jordan Wilimovsky, TSM 14:49.19, 3. Michael McBroom, TWST 15:06.60; FLORIDA GOLD COAST: 53. Blake Manganiello, AquaKids Sharks 15:46.77, 65. Joey Pedraza, Race 15:52.42.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org