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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The first session of Olympic swimming from Tokyo is in the books, meaning it’s time to overreact to what went down and theorize what it could mean for the rest of the meet.
Seto, Hosszu Fade Late In 400 IM Heats
Two of the biggest question marks coming into Day 1 came in the 400 IMs, where many wondered what kind of form defending Olympic champion Katinka Hosszu and three-time world champion Daiya Seto would show up in.
As it turned out, neither were great.
First up was the men’s event, and Seto was actually looking strong early, leading his heat by over a second through the breaststroke leg. But it all came crashing down on freestyle, as the Japanese superstar slowed coming home, splitting 1:00.72 to ultimately post a time of 4:10.52 which was only good enough for ninth overall.
4:10.5 is by no means a bad swim. The time would be good enough to advance to the final in essentially every other major international meet in history, and would’ve even won bronze in the World Championship final two years ago. But Seto didn’t look like he was holding much back through the early portions of the race, and he paid for it late.
He’s still a medal contender in the 200 butterfly and 200 IM later in the meet, but it’s clear he’s not on the career-best form he showed in early 2020, where a gold medal in the 400 IM seemed to be all but a lock.
As for Hosszu, she wasn’t as aggressive as Seto in her prelim swim, but still slowly faded back in the pack as she ended up clocking 4:36.01 for seventh overall. That will give her an outside lane in tomorrow’s final—somewhat reminiscent of the position Michael Phelps found himself in in 2012—though she’s still less than three-quarters-of-a-second outside of the second-place swimmer (4:35.28, Aimee Willmott).
What does this mean for Hosszu over the course of the next week?
While she could rebound with a strong 400 IM final, her heats swim showed she’s nowhere near where she’s been in previous years. She’ll still be the one to beat in the 200 IM, but other than that, her medal hopes have severely dimmed.
Americans Go 11-For-11
The U.S. team came flying out of the gates on Saturday night, advancing all 11 of their swimmers/teams through to the morning session.
Torri Huske had a great Olympic debut in the women’s 100 fly, qualifying fourth in 56.29, while Kieran Smith and Jake Mitchell came through in the clutch to qualify into the men’s 400 free final. Recently-turned 17-year-old Claire Curzan also advanced through in the women’s 100 fly, getting that first swim under her belt in 57.49.
Emma Weyant joined Mitchell as the only two Americans to go faster than their Trials times (or best times) in the women’s 400 IM, all of a sudden finding herself as one of the gold medal favorites after qualifying first by almost two seconds in 4:33.55.
If there was a weak spot it was in the women’s 400 free relay, as the U.S. was back in fifth with a time of 3:34.80. They’ll bring in their top-two finishers from the Trials in Abbey Weitzeil and Erika Brown, and with no one really asserting themselves in the prelims, Simone Manuel could potentially get a spot in the final despite finishing ninth in Omaha.
All told, we knew the women’s 4×100 free would be maybe the Americans’ weakest relay, and overall the team looks well prepared and well on their way to another big medal haul.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Australians looked strong as well, led by Brendon Smith‘s National Record to start things off in the men’s 400 IM (also qualifying first for the final). Emma McKeon followed with a Commonwealth Record in the women’s 100 fly, Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin were well in control in the men’s 400 free, and the women’s 400 free relay was superb despite missing their top-two legs.
Notable Finals/Semi Misses
- Men’s 400 IM: Daiya Seto (JPN), Wang Shun (CHN)
- Women’s 100 Fly: Farida Osman (EGY), Emilie Beckmann (DEN)
- Men’s 400 Free: Marco De Tullio (ITA), Lukas Märtens (GER), Danas Rapsys (LTU), Martin Malyutin (RUS)
- Women’s 400 IM: Fantine Lesaffre (FRA), Sydney Pickrem (CAN)*
- Men’s 100 Breast: Dmitriy Balandin (KAZ), Emre Sakci (TUR), Matthew Wilson (AUS), Shoma Sato (JPN), Zac Stubblety-Cook (AUS)
*Pickrem was a DNS in the women’s 400 IM