2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
Sunday morning’s session marks the curtain call of the 2020 Olympic swimming competition in Tokyo, with medals up for grabs in the final five events of the program as some swimmers look to bolster their tallies and some aim to reach the podium for the first time.
The men’s and women’s 50 freestyle finals will lead things off, with Caeleb Dressel in position to win his third individual gold of the meet and fourth overall in the men’s event.
Dressel, the reigning two-time world champion, paced both the prelims and semi-finals in the 50 free, but he certainly will have to be on his ‘A’ game to secure victory.
2012 gold medalist and 2016 runner-up Florent Manaudou has looked powerful through the first two rounds of the event, and managed to swim his fastest time in five years in the semis, 21.53, which was only 11 one-hundredths slower than what Dressel went.
A second victory would put Manaudou in elite company, as he would join Alexander Popov, Gary Hall Jr. and Anthony Ervin as the only men to win the event on two occasions. The Frenchman could also become the second swimmer to medal in the event three times, joining Hall.
In the women’s 50 free, Emma McKeon comes in with the hot hand after lowering the Olympic Record in both the heats and semis, finishing in a time of 24.00 on Saturday morning.
McKeon is on track for a record-setting medal haul if she manages to reach the podium during the final session (also with a chance to do so on the women’s 400 medley relay), having already won five medals in Tokyo, including an individual gold in the 100 freestyle. A sixth medal would give her the most won by an Australian at a single Olympic Games.
Even more so than Dressel, McKeon will need to be at her best to win, with a competitive field lining up next to her that includes defending champion Pernille Blume, world record holder Sarah Sjostrom and McKeon’s teammate Cate Campbell, who holds the Australian Record.
Next up will be the men’s 1500 freestyle, which projects to be a mano a mano duel between reigning world champion Florian Wellbrock of Germany and 2019 world silver medalist Mykhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine.
Defending champion Gregorio Paltrinieri will throw himself into the battle, coming off of winning silver in the 800 free, but he still hasn’t looked quite at his best over the course of the meet.
The Italian went out hard in the 800 and barely held on at the end, a strategy that likely won’t work out in the 1500.
Of course we can’t count out Bobby Finke, who upset the vaunted European trio to win the 800 free. If Finke emerges with another win, he would become the first American champion in the event since Mike O’Brien in 1984.
As always, the meet will be capped off with the 400 medley relays, where the American women aim for a third straight title and the U.S. men put their undefeated Olympic record on the line.
In the women’s race, the Americans and Australians are pretty well even on backstroke and butterfly, with the U.S. holding the advantage on breaststroke and the Aussies better on freestyle. Australia will potentially concede over 1.5 seconds on the breast leg, which could be enough for the U.S. to win three in a row.
The Canadians are the top seeds, with 100 fly champion Maggie MacNeil, 100 back silver medalist Kylie Masse and 100 free fourth-place finisher Penny Oleksiak in the lineup. However, similar to Australia, the Canucks lack a top-tier breaststroke option.
For the men, we’ll likely see a replay of the 2019 World Championships, where the United States and Great Britain traded leads throughout the race before an epic anchor leg battle.
The U.S. is favored, led by backstroker Ryan Murphy and flyer Caeleb Dressel, but Great Britain has game-changer Adam Peaty, the much-improved James Guy (he split 50.00 on fly in the mixed relay!) and the clutch Duncan Scott.
Two years ago at Worlds, Scott had to run down Nathan Adrian to win gold. This time, based on the way Guy has been swimming, the two teams could very well be even at the last exchange. That would set up an epic head-to-head showdown between Scott and Zach Apple. Scott has performed better at the meet as a whole, but Apple came up big in the 400 free relay (46.69 anchor), so who knows.
Anything can happen.
MEN’S 50 FREESTYLE – FINAL
- Caeleb Dressel (USA), 21.07 OR
- Florent Manaudou (FRA), 21.55
- Bruno Fratus (BRA), 21.57
- Michael Andrew (USA), 21.60
- Ben Proud (GBR) / Kristian Gkolomeev (GRE), 21.72
- Lorenzo Zazzeri (ITA), 21.78
- Thom De Boer (NED), 21.79
Caeleb Dressel launched himself off the blocks and into the lead in the men’s 50 freestyle final, gaining an advantage he would never relinquish as the American blasted his way to a gold medal victory in a time of 21.07.
That showing marks Dressel’s third-fastest of his career, and obliterates the Olympic Record of 21.30 set by Brazilian Cesar Cielo in 2008.
Dressel’s time of 21.07 registers as the sixth-fastest in history, giving him three of the top-six of all-time.
Dressel’s margin of victory was a staggering 48 one-hundredths of a second—larger than the difference between gold and silver at the last six Olympics combined.
This was Dressel’s fourth gold medal of the meet, and he’ll have a shot for five later in the men’s 400 medley relay.
Frenchman Florent Manaudou looked to be in second the entirety of the race, landing on the podium for the third straight Olympics with a silver in 21.55. Manaudou swam his fastest time since returning to the sport after brief hiatus in the semis at 21.53.
WOMEN’S 50 FREESTYLE – FINAL
- Emma McKeon (AUS), 23.81 OR
- Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), 24.07
- Pernille Blume (DEN), 24.21
- Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED), 24.30
- Katarzyna Wasick (POL) / Wu Qingfeng (CHN), 24.32
- Cate Campbell (AUS), 24.36
- Abbey Weitzeil (USA), 24.41
That time marks a third straight Olympic Record for McKeon, who brought the initial mark of 24.05 down to 24.02 in the heats and then 24.00 in the semis.
McKeon’s 23.81 also ties for the ninth-fastest swim in history and moves her up from seventh to fifth among the fastest performers ever, with her previous best time sitting at 23.93.
With her sixth medal of these Games, McKeon becomes the most decorated Australian Olympian at a single Games.
Sweden’s Sjostrom had a phenomenal swim to get herself on the podium for the first time in Tokyo, having battled hard just to get here after undergoing elbow surgery in February. The world record holder’s time of 24.07 matches her fastest from 2021, having also hit that time at the beginning of the year prior to her injury.
2016 champion Pernille Blume was a touch slower than she’d been in the earlier rounds, clocking 24.21 for a second straight podium finish in third.
Cate Campbell, one of the pre-race favorites, ended up back in seventh place (24.36).
Kromowidjojo and Campbell were two of just three swimmers (McKeon being the other) that entered the Games having gone sub-24 this year.
MEN’S 1500 FREESTYLE – FINAL
- World Record: Sun Yang (CHN) – 14:31.02 (2012)
- Olympic Record: Sun Yang (CHN) – 14:31.02 (2012)
- World Junior Record: Franko Grgic (CRO) – 14:46.09 (2019)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) – 14:34.57
- SwimSwam Event Preview – Men’s 1500 freestyle
- Bobby Finke (USA), 14:39.65
- Mykhailo Romanchuk (UKR), 14:40.66
- Florian Wellbrock (GER), 14:40.91
- Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA), 14:45.01
- Daniel Jervis (GBR), 14:55.48
- Kirill Martynychev (ROC), 14:55.85
- Felix Auboeck (AUT), 15:03.47
- Sergii Frolov (UKR), 15:04.26
The men’s 1500 free final quickly turned into a chess match, as the top four swimmers broke away from the field and paced with one another for the majority of the race.
Germany’s Florian Wellbrock held the slight edge most of the way, with Ukrainian Mykhailo Romanchuk and American Bobby Finke sitting right behind him, while defending champion Gregorio Paltrinieri lingered on their heels.
Wellbrock, the 2019 world champion, started to make a move on the third-last length, and held an advantage of about seven tenths at the final turn.
But coming off the last wall Finke powered up the turbo, and used a motorboat-like kick to take hold of the lead and storm his way to victory, finishing in a time of 14:39.65 to smash his previous best of 14:46.06. The 21-year-old split an astonishing 25.78 on the last 50.
Finke is also the first American winner in the event since 1984, and completes the distance double after claiming the 800 free earlier. He also lands a spot in the men’s 1500 free all-time top 10, now ranking 10th-fastest among performers in the event after entering the meet outside of the top 20.
Romanchuk had a better finishing kick than Wellbrock, winning the silver in 14:40.66 to the German’s 14:40.91. Both men have been about four seconds faster in their careers.
Paltrinieri, who posted a world-leading time of 14:33.10 in 2020, couldn’t hold on to the pace over the last 150, settling for fourth in 14:45.01.
The remaining four swimmers all added time from the prelims, which is a common theme for the athletes that essentially have to go all-out in the heats in order to qualify, having to swim two 1500s within 36 hours (at the end of an eight-day meet, no less).
WOMEN’S 4×100 MEDLEY RELAY – FINAL
- World Record: USA (Smith, King, Dahlia, Manuel) – 3:50.40 (2019)
Olympic Record: USA (Franklin, Soni, Vollmer, Schmitt) – 3:52.05 (2012)
- World Junior Record: Canada (Hannah, Nelson, Oleksiak, Ruck) – 3:58.38 (2017)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: USA (Baker, King, Vollmer, Manuel) – 3:53.13
- SwimSwam Event Preview – Women’s 4×100 medley relay
- Australia, 3:51.60 OR
- United States, 3:51.73
- Canada, 3:52.60
- China, 3:54.13
- Sweden, 3:54.27
- Italy, 3:56.68
- ROC, 3:56.93
- Japan, 3:58.12
MEN’S 4×100 MEDLEY RELAY – FINAL
- World Record: USA (Peirsol, Shanteau, Phelps, Walters) – 3:27.28 (2009)
- Olympic Record: USA (Murphy, Miller, Phelps, Adrian) – 3:27.95 (2016)
- World Junior Record: Russia (Zuev, Gerasimenko, Minakov, Shchegolev) – 3:33.19 (2019)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: USA (Murphy, Miller, Phelps, Adrian) – 3:27.95
- SwimSwam Event Preview – Men’s 4×100 medley relay