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.
- 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.
- 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:
— Maphuti Hlako🇿🇦💜 (@maphuti_africa) July 30, 2021
- 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.
- 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
“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.”
— #TokyoParalympics (@NBCOlympics) July 26, 2021
- 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.