There was a time in Tom Shields’ career when the little pool was his primary domain, the superb underwater skills of the California-Berkeley athlete a huge help in capturing NCAA championships. Greatness in the sport, however, is determined by what swimmers do in the 50-meter rectangle, and Shields has come a long way in proving himself.
As the Team USA roster continues to take shape in Omaha for this summer, Shields advanced to the final of the 200 butterfly at the CenturyLink Center. Shaking off a mediocre performance during the preliminaries, Shields was sharper in the semifinals, producing a time of 1:56.35 to earn the No. 3 seed.
Since Shields’ primary event is the 100 butterfly, the fact that the 24-year-old is in contention in the longer discipline is a testament to the work Shields has put in with coach Dave Durden, also a representative of the ARENA brand. Together, they’ve made Shields an all-around butterflyer, and not just a sprinter.
In 12th place after the prelims, Shields picked up the pace in the evening session and earned a middle lane for the final, where he’ll clash with 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps. After struggling to get into his stroke during the morning, Shields found a groove at night. Regardless of what unfolds in the 200 fly, Shields is looking sharp for the 100 distance.
“I was tired and lethargic in the morning. I had no rhythm,” Shields said. “Tonight (the semifinals) was much better. I was hurting, but I think there are a few tenths I can take off on the last lap. I have to watch some video to see what I did. I’m trying to treat the race like a 100 and two 50s.”
A scratch by Melanie Margalis from the 100 breaststroke served Breeja Larson well, as she was bumped into the final of the event after initially placing ninth in the semifinals. Larson took advantage of her surprise opportunity by placing fourth in 1:07.53, the event won by Lilly King in 1:05.20.