19TH ASIAN GAMES
- Sunday, September 24th – Friday, September 29th (swimming)
- Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Aquatic Sports Arena, Hangzhou, China
- LCM (50m)
- Meet Central
The pool has been on fire at the 2023 Asian Games. In the first finals session, Pan Zhanle scared the 100 freestyle world record by becoming the 5th man to break 47 seconds (46.97), setting the tone for the meet. It seems that every finals session, there’s multiple times swum that would’ve medaled at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka.
With the Olympic year fast approaching, these swims are setting the stage for a dramatic race on the Paris 2024 medal table. There was already controversy at this year’s Worlds about how the table should be sorted–by golds or total medals–as the U.S broadcasters struggled with the realization that the U.S. was not the winningest team at the meet.
Below, are all the times (through four days of competition) that would have medaled at 2023 Worlds. The list also includes if a swimmer would have improved a medal time that they actually won in Fukuoka. So, for example Siobhan Haughey‘s 100 free from Asian Games is on the list, but Qin Haiyang‘s 100 breast time is not, as he went slower than he did when he won gold.
- 100 Freestyle: Pan Zhanle, China — 46.97 (4th ⇒ Gold)
- 200 Freestyle: Hwang Sunwoo, South Korea — 1:44.40 (improves Bronze time)
- 50 Backstroke: Xu Jiayu, China — 24.38 (improves Bronze time)
- 100 Backstroke: Xu Jiayu, China — 52.23 (4th ⇒ Silver)
- Xu has also beaten the gold medal winning time (52.22) twice leading off relays at Asian Games. He was 52.05 on the men’s medley, then 51.91 on the mixed medley.
- 200 IM: Wang Shun, China — 1:54.62 (11th ⇒ Gold)
- 4×200 Free Relay: South Korea — 7:01.73 (6th ⇒ Bronze)
- 4×100 Medley Relay: China — 3:27.01 (Silver ⇒ Gold)
- 100 Freestyle: Siobhan Haughey, Hong Kong — 52.17 (improves Silver time)
- 50 Breaststroke: Tang Qianting, China — 29.96 (6th ⇒ Bronze)
- 100 Butterfly: Zhang Yufei, China — 55.86 (improves Gold time)
- 200 Butterfly: Zhang Yufei, China — 2:05.57 (NS ⇒ Bronze)
- 200 IM: Yu Yiting, China — 2:07.75 (Bronze ⇒ Silver)
- 4×100 Medley Relay: China — 3:37.73 (improves Gold time)
Asian Games and Worlds are swum in two different formats, so it’s hard to do a direct comparison between the two medal tables at this point in the meet. However, these results still have direct implications for what the Paris 2024 medal table could look like, especially for the U.S.
If you count either of Xu’s 100 back leadoff times, as well as the men’s 4×100 medley relay, China would’ve won two more gold medals at 2023 Worlds. Those golds were both won by the U.S., so China would have moved ahead of them on the medal table, 7 golds to 5.
Even if you leave out Xu’s 100 back leadoffs, China still moves ahead of the U.S. in gold medals thanks to Pan’s 100 freestyle and Wang Shun‘s 200 IM. Americans didn’t win either of those races, though Jack Alexy earned silver in the 100 free. For this exercise, that makes these events slightly different than the 100 back or 400 medley relay, where the medals are essentially getting flipped from the U.S. row to China’s.
A big part of our sport is going fast at the right time, at the big meet. What the “big meet” was this year depended on which swimmer you asked, but next year everyone’s answer is the Olympics. And there’s a bit of extra pressure on the U.S team.
With few exceptions, their stars had an off 2023, which was especially evident against a surging teams from Australia and China. As fans, things only get more interesting when there are more countries in the mix, but the U.S. will be looking to reassert themselves as the top swimming nation.
But, is there a path for them?
On the men’s side, both the 100 backstroke and medley relay golds are tight races. China’s medley relay especially showed that it is a threat for Olympic gold and the U.S. will need more than a return to form from Caeleb Dressel in order to counter a relay that’s only “weak” stroke is butterfly.
An on-form Dressel also gives the Americans a stronger chance in the 100 freestyle, but that race is shaping up a tense race between Pan, David Popovici, and Kyle Chalmers, with Alexy as a dark horse.
At the 2020 Olympics, the U.S. won 11 gold medals. When projecting the 2024 table, the only two you can realistically pencil in for the U.S. is Katie Ledecky‘s 800/1500 freestyle wins. All the others are under threat, and at least one (men’s 400 IM) is likely gone entirely.
The American men won gold in four freestyle events, and added a bronze in the 400 free, meaning the 200 free is the only freestyle event where they didn’t earn a single medal in Tokyo. But in Paris, none of those golds is assured; in fact, there’s a non-zero chance that they don’t medal in either sprint event.
A lot of their chances for winning the medal table come down to Regan Smith. She’s a versatile swimmer with (if everything goes well at Trials) a shot at three individual gold medals. In Fukuoka, she didn’t win any. Realistically, the U.S. needs Smith to win at least one gold to have a chance at topping the table. If she wins one, then the Americans need other races to break their way: Katie Ledecky taking the 400 freestyle rematch, a female breaststroker winning either the 100/200 breast, Bobby Finke winning a distance race.
Essentially, the answer is yes, there’s a path for the U.S. to win the Paris 2024 medal table. But with both Australia and China at the top of their game, the path is a difficult one that requires multiple close races to go in their favor.