2020 Olympic Previews: Dressel Upholding Phelps’ Legacy in Men’s 100 Butterfly

2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Men’s 100 Butterfly

When Olympic legend Michael Phelps retired following the 2016 Olympic Games, many were left wondering, “who’s going to take over the American butterfly legacy?” At the time, there were many contenders, but nobody seemed to be the apparent heir to Phelps’ throne. 

Then, at the 2017 NCAA Championships, Caeleb Dressel dropped a time of 43.58 in the 100 yard butterfly to shatter the US Open record. Traditionally a sprint freestyler, Dressel’s performance was eye-popping to many swim fans, who began to see him as America’s next butterfly superstar. However, many still held their doubts surrounding how he would translate that to a long course pool. Dressel again proved them wrong, dropping a time of 50.87 at the 2017 World Championships Trials, the fastest time in the world for that season. In his explosive performance at the 2017 World Championships, Dressel obliterated the field in the 100 butterfly, nearly taking down Phelps’ world record in a time of 49.86 to win his first World Championship’s title in the event. 

After an injury hindered his performances in 2018, Dressel entered the 2019 World Championships with a heavy weight upon his shoulders. He did not disappoint at the meet as he posted a time of 49.50 in the semi-finals of the 100 butterfly to take over 3 tenths of a second off Phelps’ World Record, later winning gold again. 

Coming into the Olympics, Dressel is the clear gold medal favorite in this event. No other active swimmer has been within .6 of Dressel’s world record, and he currently holds 7 of the 10 fastest swims of all time. At the 2021 US Olympic Trials, Dressel posted a time of 49.76 in the 100 butterfly for the 3rd fastest performance of all time. Considering that Dressel was probably not fully rested for Trials, his results in Tokyo could be on another level. 

Since 2016, only 15 swimmers have been 51.00 or faster in the 100 butterfly, including the aforementioned Dressel, with several of them not even contesting the event in Tokyo. 

Kristof Milak 58th Settecolli Trophy, Rome, Italy Courtesy of Mine Kasapoglu

Kristof Milak
58th Settecolli Trophy, Rome, Italy
Courtesy of Mine Kasapoglu

Hungarian Kristof Milak is the only swimmer to come within a half second of Dressel during that time period. At the 2021 European Championships, Milak swam to a final time of 50.18 in the event, making himself one of the fastest performers in history in the process. The current World Record holder in the 200m butterfly, Milak has great stamina, but lacks the opening speed to keep up with Dressel on the opening 50. However, if he is with Dressel at the end of the race, Milak will definitely find himself on the podium.

In 2017, Mehdy Metella appeared to be Dressel’s biggest threat in this event. However, he fell victim to several shoulder injuries that hindered his performance in 2018 and 2019. Despite this, Metella recently proved that he is still not out of contention for an Olympic medal, swimming a time of 50.87 at the French National Championships last month. For Metella, his time ranks him as the 5th fastest performer since Rio, and puts him at the 5th fastest swimmer in the world this year. Assuming he is still building back from his injuries, Metella may have more left to show when he arrives in Tokyo. 

Australia’s Matthew Temple is also ranked within the top 5 performers in Rio, placing 3rd with his time of 50.45 from the Australian Trials meet. Temple’s time from that meet shattered the Oceania Record in the event, making him the fastest Australian man to ever swim the race. At only 22 years-old, Temple is in his swimming prime, meaning he could feasibly improve his time even further over the course of the Olympic Games. If he is able to do so, Temple should push himself into medal contention. 

Another “young-gun” to watch for is 18-year-old Josif Miladinov, who won a silver medal in this event at the 2021 European Championships. At those Championships, Miladinov posted a time of 50.93, only coming in behind Milak. This currently ranks him as the 6th-fastest performer since the Rio Olympics, making him a definite contender for the final in Tokyo.

The nation of Japan has two strong entrants in this event via Takeshi Kawamoto and Naoki Mizunuma, who both will have a big advantage in competing in their own nation. The two swimmers, who hold best times of 51.00 and 51.03, respectively, will not be affected by travel requirements nor time zone differences, things that the other athletes will have to accommodate for. Although there will be no spectators at the Games to cheer for them, both swimmers should have a great opportunity to make the final in such a familiar atmosphere. 

Multi-time World Champion James Guy is another contender in this event, who could have a huge impact if he is “on-form”. Guy, the 2017 World Championships bronze medalist, hasn’t been swimming as well in this event over the past few seasons, failing to medal in any individual events at the 2019 World Championships. However, Guy has already been as fast as 50.96 this season, and holds the 6th-fastest time worldwide since Rio. If he hits his taper correctly, there is no doubt that Guy can charge into the wall for a spot in the podium. 

Two former Olympic Champions may also find their way into the final. In 2012, Chad le Clos shocked Phelps by out-touching him for olympic gold in the 200 butterfly. Although he was unable to repeat that feat in Rio, Le Clos did make the podium in the 100m butterfly, tying for a silver medal. During this Olympic quad, Le Clos’ best time stands at a 50.65 from 2018, but it may take much more than that to repeat his silver medal finish in Tokyo.

Joe Schooling (photo: Jack Spitser)

Just like Le Clos did in 2012, Joseph Schooling upset Phelps for Olympic gold in 2016, winning the 100m butterfly in a new Olympic record of 50.39. However, Schooling has not neared that time since 2016, and hasn’t made an international podium in any event since then. Having been relatively quiet over the past year, it is difficult to predict where Schooling will be in Tokyo, and if he’ll be able to shock the field once again. 

There are several other swimmers who have been between 51.0 and 51.5 over the past year, all of whom may push for a spot in the final in Tokyo. These include Andrei Minakov, Tom Shields, Jakub Majerski, and Federico Burdisso. Minakov, in particular, is a huge medal threat in this race. The reigning World Championship silver medalist, Minakov holds a personal best of 50.83, which puts him right in the thick of things in Tokyo. Plus, at only 20-years-old, Minakov most likely has room to improve upon that time. 

SwimSwam’s Picks:

Name Country
Best Time Since 2016 Olympics
1 Caeleb Dressel USA 49.50
2 Kristof Milak Hungary 50.18
3 Andrei Minkaov Russia 50.83
4 Mehdy Metella France 50.85
5 Matthew Temple Australia 50.45
6 Takeshi Kawamoto Japan 51.00
7 Chad le Clos South Africa 50.65
8 James Guy Great Britain 50.67

Darkhorse Pick: Noe Ponti (SUI)- NC State commit Noe Ponti has been on a tear recently, posting several 51 second performances in the 100 butterfly over the past few months. Prior to the pandemic, Ponti’s best time rested at a 52.70 from 2019. Since late 2020, he has managed to bring it down to a 51.15, putting him just outside of the top 10 performances in the world this season. Ponti just recently turned 20-years-old, meaning he could be in the position to drop significantly more time from his personal best in Tokyo. 

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Lopez
9 days ago

Loving the prediction with Minakov top 3 at 7to1.

Gambler
Reply to  Lopez
9 days ago

what sportsbook is offering podium odds?

swammer
Reply to  Gambler
8 days ago

I also would like to know this

Splashanddasher
Reply to  swammer
7 days ago

I need to know this

Charge
9 days ago

Note that Schooling did go 50.83 and tie for Bronze at 2017 worlds

Lex Soft
Reply to  Charge
9 days ago

He failed to reach even the semifinal at WC 2019. He is declining much. It’s time for new names to shine.

Charge
Reply to  Lex Soft
8 days ago

I don’t think he makes it to Semis, just noting the omission in the article

Lex Soft
Reply to  Charge
8 days ago

Oh Ok, I thought you would go beyond that.

reliable source
Reply to  Charge
9 days ago

heard from a reliable source that he went 49.6 not too long ago…

Tomek
Reply to  reliable source
8 days ago

at the end of practice

Charge
Reply to  reliable source
8 days ago

Dragsuit too

HJones
Reply to  reliable source
8 days ago

Give this joke a rest. Please.

Scotty P
Reply to  Charge
8 days ago

Schooling will go a 53 something. He’s done.

john26
Reply to  Charge
8 days ago

I’d be impressed if he beats Cody Simpson’s time

PVSFree
Reply to  john26
8 days ago

I’ll take “comments I didn’t expect to read 5 years ago” for $1600, Alex

Togger
9 days ago

Sadly I think one of the best races at Rio cost us one of the best potential races in Tokyo.

In a race which often favours older, stronger guys, a dialled in, mid-20s Schooling would be a juicy addition to the line up.

PFA
Reply to  Togger
8 days ago

The wake up call should have been 2017 for joe but maybe completely missing the Olympic final will help with that if he really wants to be a top butterflier again in the future.

Thomas
Reply to  PFA
8 days ago

He needs to serve after the Olympics. Will that mean the end of his swim career?

G force
Reply to  Thomas
8 days ago

Yeah he going to serve national military service after OG. Likely to retire from swimming.

IM FAN
9 days ago

Just seeing were Dressel was at Trials I honestly think he may have a 49.0 or maybe even the fabled 48.x in store. I really think his performance at Tokyo will be legendary.

I think Milak becomes the second man ever to break 50 in a textile suit and gets under Cavic’s European record, but Dressel’s early speed will leave him untouchable.

I like Minakov for third, though his performance in the fly hasn’t been stellar so far this year, I think it’s likely he’s been saving his best for Tokyo.

PFA
Reply to  IM FAN
9 days ago

Eh why not I believe Caeleb is gonna tie Maggie McNeil’s 48.89.

mcmflyguy
Reply to  IM FAN
8 days ago

seeing Dressel, and 48, 100 fly. doesn’t even phase me. yeah there’s a chance. This is the same guy that went 17 in the 50 free. you could tell me he will swim butterfly backwards and still win and I’d be like yeah that sounds like something Dressel could do.

sly
9 days ago

Miladinov will make the final

Lex Soft
9 days ago

“Having been relatively quiet over the past year, it is difficult to predict where Schooling will be in Tokyo, and if he’ll be able to shock the field once again.”
It is easy to predict him : he will not reach the semifinal, just like in WC 2019. With his current 52.93, he will only be able to compete in South East Asia (SEA) Games.

Eras
9 days ago

Dressel is gonna go fast, really fast. 49.2 for the win.

TeamDressel
Reply to  Eras
7 days ago

Ehhh I’m thinking 48.9

Sub13
9 days ago

Would love to see Matty hit a PB, which could see him on the podium. But yeah Dressel has got this in the bag. I give him a 75% shot of a new WR.

Lex Soft
Reply to  Sub13
9 days ago

Who is Matty ? Mathew Temple ?

Sub13
Reply to  Lex Soft
8 days ago

No, when I said “Matty” I clearly meant Takeshi Kawamoto.

Robbos
Reply to  Sub13
8 days ago

Haha!!!! They do call him the Japanese Matty.

Lex Soft
Reply to  Sub13
8 days ago

Interesting. 🙂 I pick the Japenese at 3rd in pick’em contest.

About Nicole Miller

Nicole Miller

Nicole has been with SwimSwam since April 2020, as both a reporter and social media contributor. Prior to joining the SwimSwam platform, Nicole also managed a successful Instagram platform, amassing over 20,000 followers. Currently, Nicole is pursuing her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is an active …

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