One year removed from a 30-medal showing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the United States selected a strong 41-member team for this summer’s FINA World Championships in Budapest. Last year’s Olympic team was peppered with many athletes that had never represented the U.S. at the Worlds or Olympics. With a tighter turnaround to this year’s marquee international aquatics event, 29 members of this year’s team have already swum at either an Olympics or a FINA World Championships, making this an experienced team with many medals on their minds.
The USA’s two biggest stars – Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel, now training in the same pool in Gainesville, Florida – were again the stars of the show in Greensboro as they each won four events – Ledecky in the 200m, 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle, while Dressel took wins in the 50m and 100m free, and the 50m and 100m butterfly.
Both Ledecky and Dressel won two individual gold medals each in Tokyo and could be in for a much bigger medal haul this summer in Budapest. Ledecky’s wins in the 800 and 1500 free in Greensboro were faster than what she swam in Tokyo to win those gold medals, while Dressel sits at the top of the world rankings in all four events he won last week. Dressel will lead a 4×100 free relay that will see the return of Ryan Held for the first time since 2016, as well as Brooks Curry, who got the individual spot at 48.04, ahead of Held at 48.18. The U.S. has won the last two gold medals in that relay and will look to continue that streak in 2022.
Interestingly, neither Ledecky nor Dressel were the ones to break the world record set last week, with that distinction going to 21-year-old Hunter Armstrong in the 50m backstroke. Armstrong broke Kliment Kolesnikov’s record with a 23.71, becoming the first American to break that record since 2008.
Currently, the United States men hold all three backstroke world records. Armstrong was also able to win the 100m backstroke in a minor upset over world record holder Ryan Murphy, as Armstrong is making his Worlds debut this summer in those two events, while he also finished fourth in the 100m freestyle, giving him a relay spot in the 4×100 free. Armstrong carried a quick field in the 50m back, with runner-up Justin Ress (23.92) also coming under 24 seconds as he and Armstrong sit in the top three all-time in the event.
Michael Andrew, who will be racing in his second long course Worlds, will be racing a number of events in Budapest as he was runner-up to Dressel in the 50m freestyle, and the 50m and 100m butterfly, while also winning the national title in the 50m breaststroke, where he broke an American record (26.52). Andrew also finished second to Nic Fink in the 100m breaststroke where they sit at No. 1 and 2 in the world rankings. Andrew has built up a reputation the last few years of being one of the most versatile swimmers in the world, reaching the final in all four 50s at the 2019 Worlds. He won’t repeat that feat in Budapest, due to not qualifying in the 50m back, but he has a chance to pick up individual medals in all of his events, something he was unable to do last summer in Tokyo or at his first Worlds in Gwangju three years ago.
Ledecky joins the Budapest group with long-time teammate Leah Smith, who is back on the Worlds team after not making last summer’s Olympic team. Smith finished second to Ledecky in the 400m and 800m free in Greensboro, where a podium appearance in Budapest is in the cards for the now 27-year-old making her fourth Worlds appearance. Smith was also third in the 200m freestyle but will swim it individually after Ledecky dropped it from her program shortly after the team announcement. Ledecky will be racing in her fifth Worlds at age 25, while 15-year-old Claire Weinstein picked up the second spot in the 200 freestyle for her Worlds debut. Weinstein is the youngest swimmer to represent the U.S. at the Worlds since 15-year-old Elizabeth Beisel in 2007.
The other five-time Worlds team member coming to Budapest will be Chase Kalisz, who won the 200m IM and finished second in the 400m, the event he won gold in last summer in Japan. Kalisz was the double IM world champ the last time the championships were in Hungary, but now at age 28, he has seemingly passed the torch to 20-year-old Carson Foster, who is making his Worlds senior debut after winning five medals at the 2019 World Juniors that were also in Budapest.
Foster swam faster than Kalisz’s gold medal-winning 400m IM time last summer at an in-season meet in Texas, and will now get a chance to prove himself at the global level after a win over Kalisz last week in the 400 IM, as well as a runner-up spot to him in the 200m. Both Kalisz and Foster will look to carry on the USA tradition in the men’s IM’s that has since been dominated by Japan’s Daiya Seto.
The U.S. men will also be led by four-time Worlds team member Nic Fink, who raced in 2013, 2015 and 2017, before getting back on the team in 2022 after missing in 2019. Fink won the 100m breaststroke in the world’s fastest time (even faster than Adam Peaty) as he is still improving even at the age of 28. Fink also tied for first in the 200m breaststroke with Worlds rookie Charlie Swanson (2:08.84) and also finished second in the 50m breaststroke to Andrew where both of them got under the existing American record.
Fellow four-time Worlds team member Ryan Murphy will be swimming in his fourth consecutive Worlds, having made his debut in 2015. Murphy won the 200m backstroke and was second in the 100, putting up the top time in the world in the 200m (1:55.01) ahead of fellow American Shaine Casa while he also sits second to the aforementioned Armstrong in the 100 (52.46) to Armstrong’s 52.20.
A few other swimmers will be making their returns to Budapest from the 2017 maiden voyage. 200 butterfly national champ Hali Flickinger, 100m backstroke champ Regan Smith, and 100 breast world record holder Lilly King will be swimming in their third Worlds this summer. In addition to their titles, Smith finished second in the 200m butterfly to Flickinger, and also picked up the option to race the 50m backstroke, while Flickinger was also fourth in the 200m freestyle to grab relay selection. King swept all three breaststroke distances in her pursuit of a triple that has never been done at a World Championships.
Joining King in Budapest are Worlds rookies Annie Lazor (100m) and Kate Douglass (200m), both of whom represented the United States in Tokyo albeit not in the events they qualified for here. Lazor won bronze last summer in the 200 breaststroke but was beat in Greensboro by Douglass in that event, who also won bronze in the 200m IM last summer but did not race that event this year.
Not to be forgotten, Olympic gold medalist Bobby Finke, who snapped the American’s longest gold medal drought last summer in the 1500m and also won the inaugural gold in the 800m, won both his gold medal events in Greensboro. Finke will be swimming in his second Worlds after finishing 21st in the 1500m at age 17 the last time the Worlds were in Budapest. Finke won both events ahead of Worlds rookie Charlie Clark, who trains in the same pool as new world record holder Hunter Armstrong.
Finke’s training teammate at the University of Florida, Kieran Smith, won the 200m freestyle (1:45.25) in the world’s fastest time ahead of Drew Kibler (1:45.32) as they look to lead the U.S. back to glory in the 4×200 free after shockingly missing the podium for the first time ever last summer in Tokyo. Smith also won the 400m freestyle (3:46.61) ahead of training partner Trey Freeman (3:46.93).
Mallory Camerford, who also competed in Budapest, qualified for her third Worlds team thanks to a sixth-place finish in the 100m freestyle.
The U.S. Worlds team will also be led by a number of teenagers, most notably 17-year-old Clarie Curzan, who won the 50m butterfly, and also finished second in the 100m freestyle, 100 butterfly, and 100m backstroke. Curzan will be racing alongside 19-year-old Torri Huske, who won the 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly ahead of Curzan, and also finished second in the 50m butterfly to her.
Huske did win the 50m freestyle on the final night as she set herself up for a big program in Budapest. Both Huske and Curzan raced at the World Juniors in Budapest in 2019 where Huske won six medals and Curzan four. They will lead a new-look 4x100m free relay team with the likes of Erika Brown and Natalie Hinds, who were third and fourth in the individual 100m, as they will take on Australia and Canada this summer for the gold medal.
19-year-old Phoebe Bacon swam the number one time in the world in the 200m back (2:05.08) just ahead of fellow Tokyo Olympian Rhyan White (2:05.13) as both of them will make their Worlds debuts as well. 16-year-old Bella Sims also returns to the team from Tokyo after a fifth-place finish in the 200m freestyle.
Also returning to Budapest after racing as a junior in 2019 will be 20-year-old Luca Urlando, who won the 200m butterfly. Urlando has long been one of the top juniors in swimming but was faced with a bout of injuries the last couple of years that hindered him to perform at his best.
Urlando will race alongside Trenton Julian in the 200m butterfly, as they will look to challenge for podium spots in that event, something the Americans haven’t done at the Worlds since Michael Phelps won gold in 2011. Both of Julian’s parents were members of the U.S. national team as he adds on to his family’s legacy after his mother Kristine Quance swam at the 1996 Olympics.
The same can be said for Katharine Berkoff, who broke the American record in the 50m back (27.12) as she adds to her dad David’s legacy where he swam in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.
A pair of 16-year-olds will also be racing in Budapest with Katie Grimes and Leah Hayes. Grimes makes the team after racing in Tokyo last summer with a win in the 400m IM (4:36.17) and runner-up in the 1500m (15:51.36), while Hayes finished second in the 200m IM (2:09.99) to make her national team debut, just behind Tokyo silver medalist Alex Walsh (2:07.84), who swam faster than the gold medal-winning time from last year. Grimes also finished ahead of Tokyo silver medalist Emma Weyant in the 400m as Weyant will swim in her first Worlds as well.