U.S. Olympic Swim Trial Day 8: Nathan Adrian falls just short of going to Tokyo

Abbey Weitzeil and Nathan Adrian will race in the final day of the 2021 USA Olympic Swim Trials

Day 7 saw one more Cal Bear book his spot on Team USA. Tom Shields became the 6th Cal Bear to become a 2021 Tokyo “Calympian” at this Swim Trials from Omaha, Nebraska. Shields placed 2nd in Men’s 100m Fly. Because the top spot of that event went to Caeleb Dressel who had already qualified, ALL of the second-place individual finishers including Shields for 100m Fly and fellow Cal Bear Bryce Mefford for 200m Back have officially become 2021 Olympians.

On the last day of this long meet, can Cal legend Nathan Adrian become the 7th and final Cal Bear on 2021 Team USA Swimming? Cal alum Abbey Weitzeil will also be looking to finish her own sprint doubles (AKA Women’s Freestyle events that are not won by Katie Ledecky) and claim the 50m Free title to go with her 100m Free title.

Tom Shields places 2nd in Men’s 100m Fly, is an Olympian for the 2nd time

Five years ago, Tom Shields was able to qualify by finishing second behind a legendary Olympian in Michael Phelps. This year, he finished second behind a Caeleb Dressel who is expected to have a phenomenal Olympic, almost on the level of a more human (so no record-breaking 8 Golds) Michael Phelps.

By touching the wall just behind Dressel, Cal alum Tom Shields will again get to race in 100m Fly and attempt to improve on his 7th place finish in Rio. Shields will also likely get to swim in the prelim (if not somehow the final) of Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay; he should be able to add to the Gold medal that he got from that relay.

Shields credits his wife to get him mentally through this past tough year. Shields was able to best a field that includes a younger Cal alum in Trenton Julian to claim this precious Olympic berth.

Nine years ago, Shields was that young up-and-comer who had just missed out on going to the Olympics. I am sure that the Team USA veteran will encourage all the young Cal swimmers, including Trenton Julian whose bid to become a second-generation Olympian will have to wait, who only made the finals this week.

Tom Shields had also been a big part in pushing for the formation of the International Swimming League (ISL). He was involved both in participating in it as a part of the LA Currents team (that includes several Cal alum) for both seasons as well as legally challenging FINA that led to the formation of the ISL. It is still too early to tell if the ISL can indeed be successful in keeping swimming in the sports fans’ consciousness in the years between Summer Olympics, but Shields will forever be a big component of that league’s legacy.

Nathan Adrian earns a spot in the 50m Free final, can he make his 4th Olympic Games?

The sentimental favorite of all US Olympic fans, not just those with ties to Cal, Nathan Adrian’s bid for a 4th Olympic Games is not yet done. Adrian earned a spot in Sunday’s 50m Free Final where he has as good of a shot as anyone to earn a top-2 finish and the opportunity to represent Team USA in Tokyo.

Adrian looked strong in finishing either 1st (in the prelim) or 2nd (in his semifinal heat) so far. Somewhat concerning is that Adrian had only been 3rd best time-wise in both of those swims. Nonetheless, Nathan Adrian has had over a decade of experience in rising up in the clutch, both on the International stage including the Olympics, and also in the collegiate stage in leading Cal to NCAA team championships. Just like how he overcame testicular cancer, no one should be surprised if Nathan Adrian can earn that trip back to the Olympic games with a good Sunday night swim.

Abbey Weitzeil go for a 2nd win this week in Women’s 50m Free Final

Touching the wall first with the top time in both the prelim and the semifinals, Abbey Weitzeil looks like the top American women sprinter. Nonetheless, given the incredibly short nature of the 50m Free final where the time difference is so tiny, anything could still happen until Weitzeil has touched the wall either first or second (as expected).

Weitzeil should be the top American who will go up against a tough international field in the sprint events. Weitzeil appears to be stronger and smarter than five years ago when she was an Olympian before even taking a class at Cal (one cannot argue against her decision to defer since it did result in her going to Rio). There has been a history of American female sprinters who were successful until their late 30s (if not 40s), we shall see just for how many years can Weitzeil stay on top as one of the best American sprinters.

While her chance to win multiple medals will come from the relays where she will need to depend on other American swimmers, Abbey Weitzeil is arguably the “Calympian” across all sports and nations who can have the largest haul of Olympic medals, if she also qualifies for the 50m Free.

Isabelle Stadden and Kathleen Baker fell just short in Women’s 200m Back Final

The Women’s 200m Backstroke Final produced one of the biggest shocks this week. Stanford-commit Regan Smith who broke Missy Franklin’s World Record just last year was expected to win this event. She ended up 3rd.

Both Isabelle Stadden and Kathleen Baker were in the tight group of leaders in this race. Yet, Stadden and Baker touched the wall 4th and 5th, respectively.

2016 Rio Calympian Kathleen Baker will have ample time to recover from her right foot injury to regain her form as a top swimmer in three events (100 Back, 200 Back, 200 IM) again.

One would hope that the experience this week will inspire the rising Cal sophomore Isabelle Stadden to be that much better over the next few years and her Cal team can benefit. Stadden concluded this meet with a 5th place in 100m Back and a 4th place in 200m Back with times that good enough to be top-8 in the World. Unfortunately, the majority of the best female backstrokers in the world are all Americans.

Day 8 Schedule and Cal Bears to watch

Sunday, June 20

Evening session only, 5 PM PT, LIVESTREAM

Men’s 50 freestyle final

3: Nathan Adrian (21.73)

Adrian will miss out on making the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Just like Anthony Ervin showed in Rio, 35 (Adrian’s age in 2024) is not too old to win Gold at the Olympics.

Women’s 50 freestyle final

2: Abbey Weitzeil (24.30)

Weitzeil was edged by Stanford alum Simone Manuel by 0.01 of a second.

Men’s 1,500 freestyle final

Cal Bears who have qualified for Team USA at this meet (as well as the Olympic events that they will likely compete in)

  1. Andrew Seliskar - Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay, 1st-time Calympian

  2. Ryan Murphy - Men’s 100m Backstroke, Men’s 200m Backstroke, (very likely Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay and possibly Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay), 2nd-time Calympian

  3. Katie McLaughlin - Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay, 1st-time Calympian

  4. Abbey Weitzeil - Women’s 100m Freestyle, Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay, Women’s 50m Freestyle, (very likely Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay and possibly Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay), 2nd-time Calympian

  5. Bryce Mefford - Men’s 200m Backstroke, 1st-time Calympian

  6. Tom Shields - Men’s 100m Butterfly, 2nd-time Calympian