2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
- When: Pool swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Open Water swimming: Wednesday, August 4 – Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Where: Olympic Aquatics Centre / Tokyo, Japan
- Heats: 7 PM / Semifinals & Finals: 10:30 AM (Local time)
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It’s time to read way too much into what went down during Day 2 prelims in Tokyo, with a couple of notable British misses, a smooth looking 16-year-old, and a potential relay upset among the emerging storylines on Sunday evening.
Brits Miss 400 Free Relay Final
A pair of key misses from Great Britain on Day 2 is headlined by the men’s 400 freestyle relay, as the coaches opted to leave off both Duncan Scott and Tom Dean and paid for it as they finished .04 outside of a finals position in ninth.
The team finished in an overall time of 3:13.17, with the ROC team (Russia) 3:13.13 to eke into Lane 8 for the final.
Scott and Dean did have the men’s 200 free prelims earlier in the session, which certainly would’ve factored into the decision to leave both off the relay.
The British men have only become a player on the world stage in the 400 free relay recently, not even fielding a time at the either the 2016 Olympics or 2017 World Championships before finishing fifth at the 2019 Worlds.
That was followed by a silver medal and new National Record two months ago at the European Championships, as Dean, Matthew Richards, James Guy and Scott combined for a time of 3:11.56. That put them at least in the conversation to vie for a medal in Tokyo, but that chance is now lost.
Making the situation worse is the fact that Litchfield was held out of the men’s 100 backstroke heats in order to swim the relay, and his personal best time of 53.75 would’ve snuck him into the semi-finals.
The lone British entry in the 100 back was Luke Greenbank, who added four tenths to his PB and narrowly missed earning a second swim, clocking 53.79 to tie for 17th overall. A scheduled swim-off with Italian Simone Sabbioni was cancelled, and the start lists for Monday morning’s finals session indicate Greenbank has conceded the first alternate position to Sabbioni.
Greenbank is considered a favorite by many to win bronze in the 200 back later in the competition, and either he or Litchfield will be relied upon heavily at the end of the meet in the men’s 400 medley relay.
Popovici Smoothly Advances In 200 Free
Appearing to be almost immune to pressure, Romania’s David Popovici had a flawless Olympic debut in the men’s 200 free heats, putting together an effortless 1:45.32 to qualify fourth into the semi-finals.
The 16-year-old set a new Romanian Record earlier this month at the European Junior Championships in 1:45.26, but was only seeded with a time of 1:48.38, which placed him in the non-circle-seeded second heat.
That forced Popovici to take it upon himself to go fast enough to advance to the next round, but he had no problems at all, and any concerns of struggling with a double-taper after Euro Juniors have been quickly washed away.
He’s now a premier contender to medal in the 200 free, which several had forecasted after that 1:45.2 a few weeks ago, and the anticipation only builds for his eventual 100 free showdown with the likes of Caeleb Dressel and Kyle Chalmers. (Chalmers had a great start to the meet of his own, splitting 46.63 on Australia’s prelim 400 free relay.)
South Korea’s Hwang Sunwoo was the top qualifier out of the men’s 200 free, as the 18-year-old lowered his World Junior Record down to 1:44.62.
Italian Men In Prime Position In 400 Free Relay
The Italians were far and away the fastest team in the men’s 400 free relay heats, blasting a new National Record of 3:10.29 to qualify first for the final by over a second.
Italy has always been competitive in this event, usually in the final, but they’ve never won an Olympic medal in the men’s 400 free relay and have only claimed one medal over the previous six World Championships.
That all looks like it’s going to change on Monday morning, as Italy was spotless with all four of their swimmers splitting under 48 seconds, including lead-off man Alessandro Miressi missing his National Record by .01 on the opening leg (47.46).
The Americans sit second in 3:11.33, and will bring in two-time world champion Caeleb Dressel for the final. Exchanging Dressel for Brooks Curry, the U.S. could be up to two seconds faster than their prelim time if the rest of the teams holds steady, with Dressel owning a best of 46.96 and Curry having gone 48.84 in the prelims.
Nonetheless, the Italians look great.
Notable Finals/Semi Misses
- Women’s 100 Back: Anastasiya Shkurdai (BLR)*
- Men’s 200 Free: Katsuhiro Matsumoto (JPN), Ji Xinjie (CHN), Elijah Winnington (AUS), Ivan Girev (RUS), Dominik Kozma (HUN)
- Women’s 100 Breast: Kanako Watanabe (JPN), Reona Aoki (JPN), Jessica Hansen (AUS), Alia Atkinson (JAM), Kierra Smith (CAN), Tes Schouten (NED), Benedetta Pilato (ITA)*
- Men’s 100 Back: Luke Greenbank (GBR), Simone Sabbioni (ITA), Markus Thormeyer (CAN),
- Women’s 400 Free: Tamsin Cook (AUS), Ajna Kesely (HUN), Anastasiia Kirpichnikova (RUS), Anna Egorova (RUS), Merve Tuncel (TUR)
- Men’s 400 Free Relay: Great Britain
*Shkurdai was a DNS in the 100 back; Pilato was disqualified in the 100 breast