6 Cal swimmers, 2 coaches headed to Olympics in Tokyo

Photo of US Olympic Swimming Trials
Aringo Photos/Creative Commons

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When the Olympics start July 23rd, six Bears will be in the water vying for gold. The U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials came to an end Sunday, and three more Cal swimmers qualified for the games.

Even before the second half of the Olympic trials began, three recent Cal graduates had already secured their spots on the team. Defending champion Ryan Murphy won the 100-meter backstroke. Katie McLaughlin and Andrew Seliskar both placed fourth in the 200-meter freestyle, earning them each a spot on the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.

In the finals of the men’s 200-meter backstroke Friday, four Cal swimmers were competing for the coveted spots on the Olympic team. Murphy won the event with a time of 1:54.20, adding a second event to his Tokyo repertoire. With wins in both the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke, Murphy will defend his Olympic titles in these two events.

Finishing second was Cal senior Bryce Mefford, who earned a spot on his first Olympic team with a time of 1:54.79. Mefford also swam the 100-meter backstroke earlier in trials, finishing fourth with a personal best. Freshman Destin Lasco and senior Daniel Carr finished fifth and eighth in the 200-meter backstroke, respectively.

Recently graduated Abbey Weitzeil won the 100-meter freestyle Friday with a time of 53.53, earning a spot in her second Olympic games for the individual event and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay. Furthermore, Weitzeil placed second in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 24.30, giving her another chance at the Olympic event after she did not qualify for finals in the 50-meter freestyle in Rio. During her 2016 campaign, she also won a gold medal after swimming in the prelims of the 4×100 medley relay and silver after swimming in the finals of the 4×100 freestyle relay.

“You race against each other at trials, and then you’re on the same team,” Weitzeil said at a press conference. “There is nothing like being on Team USA together, so it will be fun.”

Alumnus Tom Shields punched a ticket to his second Olympic games by placing second in the 100-meter butterfly with a time of 51.19. In Rio, Shields earned a gold medal after swimming the butterfly leg in prelims of the 4×100-meter medley relay. Shields has also been outspoken about his struggles with mental health, including his suicide attempt in 2018.

According to Dave Durden, the head coach of Cal’s men’s team and the Olympic squad, Shields’ advocacy has been an integral part of the team.

“He’s been fantastic with the guys on our team, by being open and helping the guys on our team through their own mental health struggles,” Durden said. “I think that even assuming that role has been one that has helped him navigate and work through some things in his own mental health journey.”

Durden is not the only Cal coach heading to Tokyo. Longtime women’s head coach Teri McKeever was recently named as a member of the coaching staff for the Olympic team.

Six weeks out from the Olympics, all six of Cal’s athletes and alumni will now prepare to make a splash in Tokyo.

Contact Rachel Alper at [email protected].