SwimSwam Tokyo Olympics Awards: Dressel and McKeon Swimmers of the Meet

With the Olympic closing ceremony completed in Tokyo, it is time to announce SwimSwam’s meet awards, recognizing pool swimmers who had incredible performances.

Female Swimmer of the Meet: Emma McKeon, Australia

McKeon became the most decorated female swimmer at a single Olympics with a total of 7 medals (4 gold, 3 bronze.) She is the 4th most decorated swimmer at a single Olympic Games, period, behind Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi. She won gold in the 50 free, 100 free, 4×100 freestyle relay, 4×100 medley relay and won bronze in the 100 fly, 4×200 free relay, and 4×100 mixed medley relay. McKeon was the 2nd most decorated Olympian in Tokyo overall.

Honorable Mention

  • Kaylee McKeown, AUS, swam the 2nd fastest 100 backstroke in history (behind her own World Record time) to win gold. She came home with a total of 3 gold medals and a bronze medal.
  • Katie Ledecky, USA, first swimmer ever to win a distance event at the Olympics 3 times in a row (the 800 freestyle)
  • Ariarne Titmus, AUS, overthrew 2016 Olympic champion Ledecky in the 400 freestyle by swimming the 2nd fastest 400 free time in history (3:56.69) to win gold. She went on to win another gold medal, 1 silver, and 1 bronze.
  • Zhang Yufei, CHN, won 2 gold medals in the same finals session. First, in the 200 fly and then as part of China’s World Record-setting 4×200 freestyle relay. She also came home with two silver medals. 

Male Swimmer of the Meet: Caeleb Dressel, United States

Dressel swam 6 events in Tokyo (100 fly, 50 free, 100 free, 4×100 free relay, 4×100 medley relay, mixed 4×100 medley relay) and brought home a gold medal in all but one (the mixed medley), while posting World Records in 2 events (the 100 fly and 4×100 medley.) On the medley relay, he swam the fastest relay split in the event in history, 49.03, on the fly leg. Only 3 other swimmers have won 5 gold medals at one Olympic Games before and they are Phelps, Spitz and Biondi. Dressel was the most decorated athlete in any sport at the Tokyo Olympics.

Honorable Mention

  • Kristof Milak, HUN, won gold in his World Record holding event, the 200 fly, by setting a new Olympic Record of 1:51.25. He won with a commanding lead of nearly 2.5 seconds and went on to win silver in the 100 fly with the 2nd fastest time in history. In the 100 fly, Milak powered home in 26.03 compared to Dressel’s 26.45 to finish .23 after him and win silver.
  • Evgeny Rylov, ROC, won Russia’s first Olympic gold medal since 1996 in the 100 backstroke by breaking the American’s 6-consecutive-Olympics gold medal streak in the event. He then became the first Russian in history to sweep both backstroke events at the Olympics by winning gold in the 200 back.
  • Duncan Scott, GRB, anchored Great Britain’s 4×200 freestyle relay with the 5th fastest split in history (1:43.45) to help earn GBR’s first Olympic title in this event since 1904 and his first Olympic gold medal. He also won silver in the 200 free behind teammate Tom Dean. They both cracked Scott’s British National Record.

Male Breakout Swimmer of the Meet: Ahmed Hafnaoui, Tunisia 

Before Tokyo, only two swimmers had ever won an Olympic final out of lane 8. Tunisia’s Hafnaoui is now the 3rd. He surprised everyone by winning the 400 free final with a blistering lifetime best time of 3:43.36 to out touch  Australia’s Jack McLoughlin by .16. McLoughlin had a slight lead of about .35 with 100 meters to go, but 18-year-old Hafnaoui ran him down for the gold.

Female Breakout Swimmer of the Meet: Lydia Jacoby, United States

17-year-old Jacoby became Alaska’s first Olympic swimmer and stunned the world by winning gold in the 100 breast over both World Record holder Lilly King who won bronze and South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker who earned silver. Jacoby’s time (1:04.95) was a huge lifetime best time; she lowered her personal best twice in the U.S. Olympic Trials with a 1:05.71 and then a 1:05.28.

Female Swim of the Meet: Tatjana Schoenmaker, South Africa, 200 breast

Schoenmaker clocked a World Record time of 2:18.95 to win gold in the 200 breast, crushing the previous World Record set by Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen in 2013 by .16. She battled American King who was out in front with an early lead at the 50-meter and 100-meter marks, but Schoenmaker split a 35.42 on the 3rd 50 and finished strong for the win.  This was 24-year-old Schoenmaker’s Olympic debut, and a historic accomplishment for South Africa who sent no female pool swimmers to the Rio Olympics.

Team South Africa celebrated her victory when she returned to the Olympic Village later:

Honorable Mention

  • Kaylee McKeown of Australia came within .02 of her World Record in the 100 back to win gold with the 2nd fastest time in history.
  • Titmus and Ledecky had a phenomenal race in the 400 free final where Ledecky led slightly for the first 300 meters with Titmus on her hip. The Australian really made her move on the last 50 where she posted a 28.67 compared to Ledecky’s 29.12 to win gold.
  • Emma McKeon 1got out front at the start of the 100 free and she stayed there, barreling down the pool to a new Olympic Record time of 51.96 to win gold by one-third of a second.
  • Maggie Macneil swam the 2nd fastest 100 fly time in history, 55.59, to out touch silver medalist Zhang Yufei by .05 and win the gold.
  • China’s team of Yang Junxuan, Tang Muhan, Yufei, and Li Bingjie took down Australia’s 4×200 free relay World Record from the 2019 World Championships by 1.17 seconds with a time of 7:40.33. 

Male Swim of the Meet: Caeleb Dressel, USA, 100 fly 

Dressel swam the fastest 100 meter butterfly in history with a time of 49.45 to undercut his own World Record from the 2019 World Championships by .05.  Dressel exploded off the start and was ahead for the whole race, but he had to fend off Hungary’s Milak who was gnawing away at his lead on the 2nd 50 meters. Dressel split a 23.00 on the first 50, more than half-a-second ahead of the entire field. Milak blasted a 26.03 compared to Dressel’s 26.45 on the last 50, but it was not enough to overcome Dressel’s unbeatable start. 

Honorable Mention

  • USA’s Ryan Murphy, Michael Andrew, Dressel, and Zach Apple took down USA’s men’s 4×100 medley relay from 2009, before the supersuit ban. Going into this Olympics, none of the men’s long course relay World Records had been broken since the supersuit ban in 2010. Great Britain came within .03 of the record during prelims, though.
  • Great Britain’s Adam Peaty defended his 206 Olympic title in the 100 breast with a time of 57.37, winning the race by .63 and coming within half a second of his own World Record.
  • Zac Stubblety-Cook of Australia chased down the Netherlands’ rno Kamminga who led by 1.6 seconds at the halfway point of the 200 breast. Stubblety-Cook powered home in 32.21, 1.8 seconds faster than silver medalist Kamminga to win the god and set a new Olympic Record.
  • Evgeny Rylov won gold in the 100 back by setting a new European Record time of 51.98, earning Russia’s first Olympic gold medal since 1996. He fended off his teammate Kliment Kolesnikov on the last 50 meters, splitting a 27.02 to Kolesnikov’s 27.10 to touch first by .02.
  • Great Britain’s team of Kathleen Dawson, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Anna Hopkin shattered China’s  4×100 mixed medley relay World Record with a time of 3:37.58. They won the race with a 1.28 second lead over the field.

Moment of the Meet: Dean Boxall Celebrating Ariarne Titmus‘ gold medal win in the 400 Free

Titmus’ coach Dean Boxall went viral for his celebration after Ariarne Titmus won gold in the 400 freestyle final, out touching World Record holder Katie Ledecky by.67.

“Katie [Ledecky] was so far in front of us that in the beginning when I started to coach [Titmus] I couldn’t even have this conversation,” Boxall told The Guardian.  “When Arnie came to me she was a 4.12 [in the 400m]. At that stage Katie went 3.56. That’s 16 seconds. We just started chipping away, we started to believe.”

“I can’t help it. I bleed with my athletes,”  Boxall said about his reaction to her win. “When they leave the pool deck with me – whether I’m having a chat with them for an hour if it has to be – but when they leave, they have to start the recovery process and go home. They switch off; I don’t… I go home and dream for them.

“That’s probably why I let it out, why I got emotional. It’s not just a 9-5 job; it’s 24/7. I wake up at night and I’m thinking of how can Arnie get better, how can Mitch [Larkin] get better, how can Elijah [Winnington] get better.”

Honorable Mention

  • Xu Jiayu of China giving his mixed medley relay silver medal to Lou Xia, the wife and assistant of his coach who died in July 2020.
  • Power couple Pernille Blume and Florent Manaudou making the 50 free podium back-to-back. Denmark’s Blume won bronze in the women’s final and France’s Manaudou won silver in the men’s final a few minutes later.
  • Swedish World Record holder Sarah Sjostrom made the podium in the 50 free final, only a few months after breaking her elbow and undergoing surgery on it. She won silver.
  • Four-time Olympian Emily Seebohm awarding her Australian countrymate McKeown the 200 back gold medal after she won bronze.
  • After winning his first individual gold medal in Tokyo in the 100 free, Dressel was hit by a wave of emotions. Then, he was able to video call his family in the post-race interview (families were not allowed to travel to Tokyo due to COVID-19 safety protocols) and the tears started flowing.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Let me remind people that Lilly King was criticized for swimming past Schoenmaker to congratulate teammate Jacoby for winning without also congratulating Schoenmaker for also beating her out for second place. What Swimswam did in declaring the Australian coach’s celebration t be the highlight of the Olympics, would be like declaring a celebratory sack dance to be the highlight of a football game. As far as Schoenmaker is concerned, why does Swimswam omit the c every other time they list her name?

1 year ago

It would be considered Bad Sportsmanship if a video went viral of an American coach celebrating an American victory over an Australian swimmer.

Reply to  jim
1 year ago

Haha, are you for real.

Reply to  Robbos
1 year ago


1 year ago

The meet? The Olympics Invitational? Maybe The Meet?

1 year ago

These Games had everything- new arrivals, old timers, dead certs delivering, upsets, mighty racing (all the expected match ups lived up to expectations), a male and female superstar and lots of good sportsmanship. A Games to remember, despite the odds!

Last edited 1 year ago by torchbearer
1 year ago

Seebohm’s 200 back was bloody impressive she’d swam the event at both London and Rio and failed to make the final, had success as 2x world champ 2015/2017, then dropped off a bit missing 2019 worlds but she fought back for Tokyo. To be able to medal at 29 after in the event was outstanding and she still came home in a 31 something I think with only McKeown out splitting her. IMO it’s definitely the most impressive medal of the games.

1 year ago

Yui Ohashi deserved an honourable mention for doing the 200/400IM double. I suspect she was overlooked because her times weren’t very fast. Many would say that if Kaylee McKeown had swum the 200IM she would have won the gold given that her trials time was faster than Ohashi’s winning time. Still, you can only beat the competition thrown at you and winning two gold medals is no mean feat.

1 year ago

While Dean Boxall’s “celebration” may unfortunately be viewed as just amusing and admirable by some, award-worthy here, and merely as over-enthusiastic self-promotion by others, IMO it needs to be placed in the context of Boxall’s own previous statements regarding the militarism and violent imagery used in his coaching. He has previously spoken about his pre-meet talks to his young swimmers about “war”, “warriors”, “Gallipoli”, and “killing something.” Five coffees before sunrise… that’s what fuels Australia’s next super coach – 2GB Also, Boxall’s recent statements (made twice) on a post-Olympics podcast about taking Ariarne Titmus to “a dark place” and “a dark place of pain” as her coach are IMHO hard to dismiss as just… Read more »

Reply to  Knight
1 year ago

Ariarne said she never asked him to stop putting her through pain. Isn’t every swimmer put through pain when training for the Olympics? I know many that vomit occasionally. Aldo runners, rowers etc etc.
I think you may be reading too much into the war stories too.

Reply to  Joel
1 year ago

Seriously? A 20-year old female swimmer, already under the care of an ex-rugby trainer (for whatever reason) for a shoulder subscap issue, asks a 43-year-old male coach to continue to bring the pain, and you are alright with that? I listened to Boxall’s “kill something” comments and watched his video “celebration”, and personally I would not allow my child to be on a swim deck with him.

Corn Pop
Reply to  Melanie
1 year ago

Sad sack . .Football trainers across all codes are top of the crop.

Reply to  Melanie
1 year ago

You don’t think Ledecky didn’t go thru the same pain to get to this level & maintain it over the years.
Even Ledecky admitted her admiration of Titmus, because she knew the level of training it takes to get to this level.
Perhaps you should be less salty.

Reply to  Joel
1 year ago

Titmus gives her opinion on the celebration on Brett Hawkes podcast I’d check that out for the story behind some of her training and the mentality she has

Reply to  Swimmer
1 year ago

Did Brett H ask Titmus about the ex-pro rugby trainer, Jeremy Hickmans, who Boxall brought in for the “extraordinary treatment and rehab” of Titmus’ shoulder per sportswriter Julian Linden’s article in The Australian in March entitled “Arnie Calls In Big Guns For Tokyo”? https://youtu.be/7j5NFC8kyso

Reply to  Rivas
1 year ago

Why do people keep harping on about brining in an expert to help with her shoulder? are you implying that she is receiving some illegal treatment?

Hickman is a strength and conditioning coach that has worked for multiple Rugby League premiership winning teams – a sport that has an insane amount of shoulder injuries. Rehabbing and preventing further shoulder injuries would be his bread and butter.

Reply to  stubs
1 year ago

That’s exactly what they’re insinuating.

Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

They are salty.
Ash Barty took 2 years off the tennis circuit & played cricket & came back & has won 2 grand slams & world no 1 for 80 weeks, some dodgy there.

1 year ago

If you’d told me on day 1 that male swim of the meet would be Dressel going 49.45 I’d have probably thought it was going to be a bit of a meh Olympics. But it wasn’t, it was awesome.

Shows fast swimming’s great, but racing’s where it’s really at.

About Annika Johnson

Annika Johnson

Annika came into the sport competitively at age eight, following in the footsteps of her twin sister and older brother. The sibling rivalry was further fueled when all three began focusing on distance freestyle, forcing the family to buy two lap counters. Annika is a three-time Futures finalist in the 200 …

Read More »