The United States Olympic Swimming Trials get underway on Saturday from Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League. The stadium has hosted prestigious events such as the Super Bowl and the Taylor Swift Reputation tour and will now host 1000+ swimmers in their pursuits of making the United States Olympic delegation for Paris in six weeks’ time.

Across the nine-day competition, all 28 finals will feature excitement and drama, and fast swimming. Here are five definitely can’t miss races throughout the week.

Women’s 100m Butterfly - World Record Watch?

Image Source: Claire Curzan and Torri Huske compete in the Women's 100 Butterfly Final at the World Aquatics Championships - Budapest 2022 (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

In April of this year, 2022 World champion Torri Huske rattled Sarah Sjostrom’s world record from 2016 (55.48) with a 55.68 at the TYR Pro Swim Series in San Antonio. After winning the bronze at last year’s World Aquatics Championships, Huske is one of the favorites to win the gold in Paris after she was leading the Tokyo final in 2021 for about 75 meters before getting out-touched to finish fourth and off the podium.

Huske, age 21, has shown no fear in the past and will take aim at the world record once more in Indianapolis in her pursuit of her second trip to the Olympics. When she is on form, she is as tough to beat as anyone in the world.

Image Source: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Lurking in the shadows is 21-year-old Gretchen Walsh, who blasted the fastest ever swim in short course yards in March. Walsh has yet to make an Olympic team, and this will be her first opportunity of the week to achieve that dream. Walsh swam 56.14 in that same race with Huske in April and she will definitely be a factor in chasing that world record as well. Walsh has been on fire all year, and she could definitely challenge for a medal in Paris if she can get through three rounds of the 100m butterfly at Olympic Trials.

Claire Curzan, who won silver at the Worlds in Doha this year at 56.61, was the second representative in this event in Tokyo, and will be a contender to make the team again for Paris. She is seeded fourth behind the likes of Regan Smith, who swam 56.36 back in March. Smith may not end up racing this event, but she will make it that much more interesting if she does.

Also ones to watch include Indianapolis natives Alex Shackell and Kelly Pash, who are seeded fourth and fifth on the psych sheet. Their best shots to make the team will come later in the week in the 200m butterfly but this event will be a good indication of where they are in their preparation and will certainly make the race interesting if they can get under 57 seconds.

Men’s 100m Backstroke

Image Source: Ryan Murphy reacts after competing in the Men's 200m backstroke final at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

At the World Aquatics Championships in 2023, the men’s 100m backstroke was the only Olympic event on the men’s side to feature two Americans on the podium as Ryan Murphy won his first-ever World title in the event to sing the national anthem alongside teammate and bronze medallist Hunter Armstrong.

Those two are the top two seeds this week in Indianapolis as the last two World champions - Armstrong took the gold in Murphy’s stead at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha in February. This event has long been dominated by the Americans, having won every Olympic gold medal between 1996 and 2016, with Murphy’s gold in Rio being the last one in a line of six straight.

The winner of the men’s 100m backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials will carry the expectation of a whole nation as the hunter in getting the Olympic title back to the United States, as well as the lead-off man in the pursuit of protecting a perfect streak in the 4x100m medley relay on the final day. Murphy has long been that man for the United States, but the tradition of excellence has lifted those around him.

Image Source: Hunter Armstrong competes in the Men's 100m Backstroke at the World Aquatics Championships - Doha 2024 (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Armstrong and Murphy have been the two representatives for the United States in this event at three of the last four major championships, and are the two favourites to make it again, but there’s a slew of guys that can shake up the party.

Armstrong has the fastest time in the United States this year at 52.68 from Doha in February, followed by Murphy at 53.16. 19-year-old Jack Wilkening is third, thanks to a 53.37 in Indianapolis in May, while 24-year-old Shaine Casas (53.54) is fourth, Jack Aikins (53.72) is fifth, and 50m back World champ Justin Ress (54.08) is sixth.

At the Tokyo Trials in 2021, Armstrong was a relative nobody and came out of the final as the second man behind Murphy to take down the likes of Casas and Ress. Wilkening, who trains at the University of Michigan, seems to be following a similar path to Armstrong, and could find himself on the team if one of the aforementioned big names falters in the final. It’s going to take a lot to crack the top two here, but there’s going to be some big names that will miss out on the top two in the final on Monday.

Women’s 200m Backstroke

Image Source: Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics

Last year, the United States had five of the six fastest performers in the world in the women’s 200m backstroke. Regan Smith was the national champion in 2023 and won silver at the World Championships, while Rhyan White was the second representative in Fukuoka.

This year, Smith is the class of the field, having swum 2:03.99 in March. She is the second fastest performer all-time in the event and will look to clash with Australia’s Kaylee McKeown where she will be looking to spoil her Olympic defense in the event.

Before Smith will race McKeown in Paris, she needs to take down the stacked American field in this event.

Image Source: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Currently second in the national rankings is Claire Curzan, who won this event at the Worlds in Doha this February, swimming 2:05.77 in the process to put herself 11th on the all-time list. Curzan made the Olympic team for Tokyo in the 100m butterfly, but has transformed into a backstroke specialist since, and could challenge for a medal in Paris if she can get through the gauntlet of the U.S. Olympic Trials before her 20th birthday at the end of this month.

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

The two representatives in Tokyo - Phoebe Bacon (2:07.24) and Rhyan White (2:07.38) are ranked third and fourth this calendar year, and will be searching for a return trip to the Games. It’s going to be difficult, but they’ve done it before. Bacon was the silver medalist at the Worlds in 2022, before missing the team in 2023. Now at age 21, she has a real chance to challenge the likes of Curzan and Smith for one of the two spots. Curzan’s 2:05 back in February came with some rest, something Bacon has yet to see in long course this year. Back in March, Bacon was the NCAA champion in short course yards, and is looking to get back on the national team after missing it last year.

Last year’s Pan American Games gold medallist Kennedy Noble, was ranked fifth globally last year, and could rise to the occasion in Indianapolis as well as she swam 2:06.54 at last year’s World Trials to finish fourth.

It’s going to be an intense race, and those wanting to make the team are not going to be able to take any chances in the final, as the third place finisher will likely be ranked fourth in the world coming out of this month.

Men’s 100m Butterfly

Image Source: World Aquatics

Defending Olympic champion Caeleb Dressel is searching for his third trip to the Games and is the fastest American this calendar year in the 100m butterfly at 50.84. Since winning gold and setting the World Record in Tokyo, Dressel has had a rocky road, and has been open about his struggles with his mental health in the wake of leaving the team at the World Championships in 2022. Dressel seems in a much better place now and is starting to look like his old self again in 2024.

Racing in his fourth Olympic Trials, Dressel will be a sentimental favourite as he strives to get back on the team after taking a long break at the end of 2022. Last year at the World Trials, he finished fifth in this event with a shortened preparation.

Image Source: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Last year’s World Championships bronze medallist Dare Rose will not go down without a fight. After a breakout 2023 which saw him swim butterfly on the golden men’s medley relay, Rose hasn’t generated a lot of chatter in this event this year, swimming as fast as 51.72 back in January. He is the top seed on the psych sheet however, and will certainly come ready to battle come the final in pursuit of his first Olympics. It may take under 51 seconds just to make the team, something Rose has done in the past when the pressure is on.

Also one to watch is rising star Thomas Heilman, who was fourth in the 200m butterfly in his Worlds debut at age 16 in 2023. Now 17, Heilman is one year stronger and one year wiser. Will he live up to the hype and be the first high school male swimmer to make the U.S. Olympic team since 2000? His best shot may be in the 200m, but he will certainly be a player in the 100m after gaining the second spot in 2023.

Image Source: Shaine Casas competes in the 2022 National Championships in Irvine, California (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Shaine Casas is another one not to be counted out here. Casas made the U.S. team at the 2022 and 2023 World Championships, but was third in this event at the Trials last year. He’s had success in short course meters at the World Championships and World Cup, but he has yet to make an Olympic team, which he was favoured to do in 2021 before finishing third in the 100m backstroke at Trials. Casas has had problems rising to the occasion in the big moments, and this could perhaps be his last shot to make the Olympic team on day eight. He will certainly be a favourite to make the team in the 100m backstroke and 200m IM, and he’s been 51.03 back in December in this event, it’s just a matter of doing it in the final on June 22.

Michael Andrew was fourth at the 2022 World Championships in this event and has the pedigree to make his second Olympics this year. But Andrew hasn’t been as sharp, swimming 51.83 in May to rank fifth in the United States this year. Andrew is a racer, though, and will definitely show up ready. It’s just a matter of if he can break 51 seconds in the final, something he hasn’t done in two years.

Women’s 200m IM

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

In what will be one of the more anticipated races at the Olympic Games, the women’s 200m IM will certainly be an exciting one at U.S. Trials. With the schedule shift, the event has gone from day 2 at the last three World Championships and day 4 at the last five Olympics, to day eight at this year’s Games in Paris.

That change may not hinder who is behind the blocks in Paris, but those taking on big programmes will certainly be under the test.

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

Two-time defending World champion Kate Douglass is the heavy favourite here as she will line up alongside the 2022 World champ and defending Olympic silver medallist Alex Walsh. The two train together at the University of Virginia and the winner in Indianapolis could join the exclusive sub-2:07 club that only holds five members.

Douglass was the World champ this year at 2:07.05 while Walsh was 2:07.63 in January. Torri Huske is seeded third and could play spoiler after she was 2:08.47 in April. 18-year-old Leah Hayes, who was the World Juniors champion in 2023 and will join Douglass and Walsh at Virginia next year, is seeded fourth with a season best of 2:10.62.

Image Source: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

At the last four U.S. Olympic Trials, the women’s 200m IM has come down to the last 15 meters between three swimmers, with the third place finisher an average one tenth of a second behind a berth to the Olympics. Oftentimes, the third place finisher in this event was left home as a medal contender and it’s oftentimes a showing of the brutal reality of the Olympic Trials.

In 2008, Ariana Kukors missed out on the Beijing team by 0.08. In 2012, Elizabeth Pelton was 0.25 away from her first team in London. In 2016, Caitlin Leverenz was out-touched by 0.05 to miss out on Rio. In 2021, Madisyn Cox was a heart-breaking 0.02 away from a berth to Tokyo. The women’s 200m IM has a history of close finishes, and it could play out that way again in 2024 with a big name missing out in third place.