In some ways, Tom Shields will be racing pressure-free on Saturday night. With a berth to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro collected earlier in the week in the 200 butterfly, the ARENA athlete knows he’ll represent the United States on the biggest stage in sports. Shields, though, doesn’t want to make the trip to South America without the chance to contest his best event.
On Night Six of the United States Olympic Trials in Omaha, Shields easily advanced to the final of the 100 butterfly when he covered his semifinal in 51.49, good for the third seed heading into the final. At the beginning of the week, Shields’ best chance of going to Rio was considered the 100 fly. Since he made the American roster in the 200 fly, Shields is carrying a great deal of confidence.
Adding a second event to his summer workload won’t be an easy task for Shields, coached by Dave Durden with Cal Aquatics. The final of the 100 fly will include Michael Phelps, the three-time defending champion in the event, and Jack Conger, a standout for the University of Texas. Shields’ Cal teammate, Seth Stubblefield, will also be in contention.
“Tom has gone about balancing life in the last couple years in the right way from a swimming perspective, but also from a life perspective,” Durden said. “He took the time at the end of 2014 to be married, to enjoy that and go on a honeymoon with his wife. You don’t get that opportunity again. Over the 18 months, he has put himself in the position that he is in now,
While Shields earned a spot in the final of the 100 butterfly, fellow ARENA athlete Haley Anderson qualified for the final of the 800 freestyle. Already on the Team USA roster for Rio as an open-water swimmer, Anderson will be the fourth seed in the 800 free after producing a time of 8:30.96 in prelims.
Because Katie Ledecky is the top seed and overwhelming favorite to win the 800 free, Anderson will be battling for the other Olympic spot in the event. It will take a perfect performance, but nothing that is impossible.