Competing in the butterfly events is not an easy chore in the United States, not with Michael Phelps ruling the stroke for more than a decade, and looking to maintain that dominance through the end of the summer. But Tom Shields has never been daunted by the specter of Phelps, and he showed fortitude at the United States Olympic Trials on Saturday night.
A few days after qualifying for the Olympic Games in the 200 butterfly, Shields added his prime event, the 100 fly, to his program for Rio de Janeiro. At the back of the field at the midway point, Shields put together a back-half charge that enabled the Cal Aquatics star to move up to second place in 51.20. Only Phelps eluded Shields, as the 22-time Olympic medalist prevailed in 51.00.
Shields’ time moved him up to third in the world rankings and set the stage for a busy week in Rio. In addition to the possibility of racing six times in the butterfly events, Shields will also race in the 400 medley relay. Shields is one of five Cal athletes coached by Dave Durden to earn a trip to the Olympic Games.
“I’m thankful to be done with this and get five weeks to figure out what comes next,” Shields said. “…I don’t want to take away from what anyone else has done, but I don’t think anyone in particular would be too stoked with their performance here in the butterflies on the men’s side.”
Shields will be a medal contender in Rio, Phelps, South African Chad Le Clos and Hungarian Laszlo Cseh the biggest obstacles to a spot on the podium.
Shortly after Shields expanded his schedule for the Olympics, Haley Anderson finished seventh in the final of the 800 freestyle, off a time of 8:33.66. The race was won by Katie Ledecky in 8:10.32, giving her the chance to defend her Olympic title. Although Anderson did not qualify for Rio in the pool, she’ll be there in the 10K open-water event, a medal very much in reach.