SwimSwam Pulse: 58% Say Titmus & Ledecky Had The Better Showdown In Tokyo

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers what the best showdown of the Tokyo Olympic Games was:


Question: What was the best head-to-head Olympic showdown of 2021?

While we could’ve added several other options to the poll, the women’s 400 free and men’s 100 free were the two clear picks as the best two head-to-head showdowns of the Games, both in terms of the hype coming in and the way the races transpired.

The women’s 400 free battle between Ariarne Titmus and Katie Ledecky came out on top with over 58 percent of votes, a race that saw Titmus take down the defending champion with the second-fastest swim in history (3:56.69).

Titmus had beaten Ledecky head-to-head in the event at the 2019 World Championships, but after we later learned Ledecky was ill in Gwangju, the anticipation for their clash in Tokyo was immense and the battle lived up to the billing.

Despite losing the first individual Olympic final of her career, Ledecky still swam the second-fastest swim of her career (3:57.36), only trailing her world record set at the 2016 Games of 3:56.46.

Relative to the men’s 100 freestyle, one of the reasons voters may have leaned towards the Titmus/Ledecky clash was the fact that the race had many twists and turns as it played out over nearly four minutes. That’s not usually the case in a 47-second event.

Caeleb Dressel edging out Kyle Chalmers in the men’s 100 free picked up over 38 percent of votes, with the American edging out the Australian by just six one-hundredths of a second, 47.02 to 47.08, after winning by 12 one-hundredths at the 2019 World Championships (46.96 to 47.08).

In terms of one-on-one battles for gold, the other individual event in Tokyo that could be argued to be in the same realm as these two is the men’s 100 fly, where Dressel needed to dip under his world record to hold off Kristof Milak for gold. The only thing detracting from that event was the fact that it lacked the same type of hype coming in, as Dressel was expected to dominate, and then Milak dropped half a second to make things close.

Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks: Which 2016 U.S. Olympian that missed the team in Tokyo has the best chance to qualify for the 2022 World Championships (men’s edition):

Which 2016 US Olympian that missed the team in Tokyo do you think has the best chance of qualifying for the 2022 World Championships?

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A3 Performance is an independently-owned, performance swimwear company built on a passion for swimming, athletes, and athletic performance. We encourage swimmers to swim better and faster at all ages and levels, from beginners to Olympians.  Driven by a genuine leader and devoted staff that are passionate about swimming and service, A3 Performance strives to inspire and enrich the sport of swimming with innovative and impactful products that motivate swimmers to be their very best – an A3 Performer.

The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner.

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Corn Pop
1 year ago

AT basically negatively splitted 1 58 / 1 58.6 . A 400 neg split to win an Olympic final is stunning visually , tactically & mindset.

Last edited 1 year ago by Corn Pop
1 year ago

Both great races, while the Dressel v Chalmers was a straight shootout, between the fastest starter & the fastest finisher (kudos for Dressel, who also finished very fast). The 400 free was more tactical, it was amazing how it panned out, the Champion vs the contender.

Holden Caufield
1 year ago

I thought that the Ledecky/Titmus showdown in the 800 was also very exciting. Titmus was gaining at the end, and would have won had the race gone another 25 meters. Katie seemed genuinely happy to have “survived” that race with a victory. Nice swims by both ladies.

Reply to  Holden Caufield
1 year ago

Suffered a bit from the same problem as the men’s 100: not having the two top contenders in adjacent lanes.

Reply to  Holden Caufield
1 year ago

This is coming from an Australian it’s the 800 not the 825! Ledecky won the race I’m not going to justify the results by saying if it were this much more then Titmus would have won give both swimmers credit where credit is due they had a strong head-to-head rivalry across three events

There's no doubt that he's tightening up
1 year ago

Titmus v Ledecky is well clear, probably only Dressel hype made it less lopsided.

In terms of times, only supersuited Pellegrini has even been under 4 minutes. Meanwhile a decent number of swimmers have been 47 low: McEvoy, Magnussen, Kolesnikov, and throw in the supersuits you get Cielo, Bernard, Sullivan and Bousquet.

Then there’s the fact that the 400 actually involved a change of lead, which (at least for me) makes it a little more interesting.


I think it’s also the fact Titmus and Ledecky swam side by side that made it more intense.

1 year ago

After that 75 LOL

Awsi Dooger
1 year ago

The vote should have been a lot more lopsided than that. Reverse the genders of the two races and you’re looking at 80+% for the 400 outcome, even if everything else remained the same

Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
1 year ago

considering that the mens ncaa articles get way more comments than the womens one despite the womens competition having more rivalries, i cant say im suprised

Mr Piano
1 year ago

This was one of the great swim races in history, comparable to the race of the century in 2004, or the men’s 200 IM in Shanghai.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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