Michael Andrew poses during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympic shoot on November 23, 2019 in West Hollywood, California.
Potential Breakout Stars
With a unique training method called Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT), Michael Andrew broke over 100 national age group records when he was younger and turned pro in 2013 at age 14. But he missed making the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, and his first medal at an international long-course meet was a gold in the 50 free at 2018 Pan Pacs. At the 2019 world championships, Andrew’s best finish in an individual race was fourth (50 free), and he only won one medal: a silver in the 4x100 free relay. This year will likely be a different story for 22-year-old Andrew. At a TYR Pro Swim Series meet in mid-May, Andrew became the top ranked U.S. swimmer this year in the 100 breaststroke, 100 butterfly, and 200 IM. And his 100 fly time put him second in the world ahead of reigning world champion Caeleb Dressel.
As a freshman at the University of Wisconsin this year, 18-year-old Bacon became the 2021 NCAA 200-yard backstroke champion. Then at a meet in mid-May, she swam the third-fastest 200 back time in the world this year, making her the top-ranked American in the stroke going to trials ahead of world record holder Regan Smith. Bacon will also likely contend in the 100 back as well; she’s the 2019 Pan Am gold medalist at that distance, and she finished third at 2021 NCAAs in the 100-yard back. This will be Bacon’s second trip to trials. In 2016, as a 13-year-old, she was reportedly the youngest swimmer competing at U.S. Olympic Team Trials—Swimming. Bacon is also a friend of Katie Ledecky’s. The two attended the same elementary schools in Bethesda, Maryland, with Ledecky serving as Bacon’s “big buddy” in pre-school. But the two swam for different clubs in Maryland.
A senior at Texas A&M, Shaine Casas is ready for a breakout performance at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials—Swimming. The 21-year-old has never competed in an international swim meet, but he won the 100-meter backstroke at 2019 nationals with the fifth fastest time in the world that year, just 0.38 of a second behind Olympic champion Ryan Murphy. Most recently, Casas won 2021 NCAA titles in the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes, as well as the 200 IM. His time in the 200-yard backstroke was the second fastest in history—behind Murphy’s time set at 2016 NCAAs. At trials, look for Casas to challenge in both the 100 and 200 backstroke races, the 200 IM, and even the 200 freestyle. One day soon, he would like to compete on the men’s 4x200 freestyle relay. With such versatility, Casas is on course to become one of the next great American swimming champions.
Madisyn Cox, 25, is perhaps the best American swimmer who has never swum at an Olympic Games (she finished fourth in both the 200 and 400 IMs at 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials—Swimming). An all-arounder, she is currently ranked first in the world in the 200 IM, fifth in the world (and second in the U.S.) in the 400 IM, and she could very try for a relay spot in the 200 freestyle as well. A 2017 world championship bronze medalist in the 200 IM, Cox was suspended for six months after failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs (the Court of Arbitration for Sport determined that the substance was in her multivitamins, so she ingested it unknowingly), so she missed the 2019 world championships. With that debacle behind her, Cox is on track to qualify for the Tokyo Games and be a medal favorite ther. She swam her best 200 IM on May 22, 2021—in 2:08.51, third best ever for an American and over two-tenths faster than Maya DiRado’s bronze-medal-winning time in Rio.
Had covid-19 not postponed the Tokyo Olympic Games, Curzan might have made the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team. But then as a 15-year-old, the teenager might have chalked the Games up as experience. Now, Curzan is a favorite to qualify in the 100 butterfly and to medal in Tokyo in that event. Swimming in her home pool in North Carolina in April, she clocked 56.20 in the 100 fly—the eighth fastest time ever and second fastest by an American swimmer behind Dana Vollmer, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the 100 fly and 2016 bronze medalist. A four-time medalist at the 2019 world junior championships, Curzan will likely also challenge in the 50 and 100 freestyles (she currently holds the fourth fastest time in the world this year in the 50 free and is currently ranked No. 2 for the U.S. in the 100 free behind fellow teen sensation Torri Huske). Curzan is also on the list of 100 backstroke favorites. Since April, Curzan, now 16, has dropped over a second off her personal best in the 100 back. But it will be one of the tougher races at trials, with several favorites battling it out for the two Olympic spots. And currently Curzan is the fourth-ranked American in the 100 backstroke in 2021.