Following our “The Trials That Would Have Been” series, where we predicted how the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials would’ve played out had the event not been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, this week will feature a similar series for the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games.
Pool swimming was set to kick off on the evening of July 25 local time, with finals contested the following morning. Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of Eastern time, so finals were slated to run from 9:30-11:20 pm EST. For the purpose of this exercise, each session will be published on the corresponding day those finals would’ve happened in the United States.
This will be a day-by-day trip into the hypothetical, analyzing the events that would have happened, and how they might’ve played out. Forgive me as I try to reel in my imagination and keep the times *somewhat* realistic. Feel free to add your own predictions, picks, humorous quips and more in the comments below!
It’s been a fun ride, and we’re finally at the final day of the parallel universe 2020 Olympic Games. We’ve got the 50 freestyles, medley relays and the men’s mile to cap things off.
Day 8 Finals
Men’s 50m Freestyle Final
Having busted through the 50-point barrier in 2017 (100 fly) and 47-second mark in 2019 (100 free), the 21-second threshold in the 50 free was the last one left on Caeleb Dressel‘s list.
After a career-best 21.04 in Gwangju, he wasn’t quite able to crack the barrier in what is his 11th race of the meet, clocking 21.08 to add another gold medal to the tally. Dressel now has five golds (after sitting out the heats of the men’s 4×200 free), and has a shot for six with the men’s medley relay looming.
Gold in 2012 and silver in 2016, Florent Manaudou captures a third straight Olympic medal in the men’s 50 free, taking second once again in 21.21. The result is particularly impressive given that the Frenchman had taken some time off from the sport, only resuming his training in mid-2019.
Alabama alum Kristian Gkolomeev gets Greece on the board with its first swimming medal of the Games with bronze in 21.32, out-touching Vladimir Morozov (21.35), Bruno Fratus (21.42) and Michael Andrew (21.55).
Women’s 50m Freestyle Final
It was a long time coming, but Cate Campbell finally earns herself an individual Olympic gold medal in the same event she had won bronze in 12 years ago in Beijing.
Campbell appeared to have the best start of her career, and managed to top an incredibly close field in a time of 23.92. The swim marks the eighth time the 28-year-old Australian has been under 24 seconds.
World record holder Sarah Sjostrom (23.97), 2016 gold medalist Pernille Blume (24.06) and 100m winner Simone Manuel (24.18) were close behind in second, third and fourth. Manuel misses the podium after a long week that has seen her win four medals, along with an appearance in the 200 free final.
Men’s 1500m Freestyle Final
The final of the men’s 1500 ended up being a replay of sorts of the 2018 European Championships, where the three giants — Gregorio Paltrinieri, Florian Wellbrock and Mykhailo Romanchuk — went to battle.
Paltrinieri, the 2016 gold medalist, did as he usually does, and attacks the race from the front early. The Italian sets a scorching pace, turning in 7:45.92 at the 800, but Wellbrock and Romanchuk remain within contact in 7:47s.
Romanchuk begins to make his move after the 1350m turn, breaking free from Wellbrock as he begins hunting down Paltrinieri. The Ukrainian manages to pull even with the defending champ with 50 to go and then takes off, splitting 27.09 on the way home to win the gold medal in a time of 14:35.53.
Paltrinieri finishes just over a second behind in 14:36.58 for silver, and Wellbrock comes in for the bronze in a time of 14:38.33.
- Mykhailo Romanchuk, UKR, 14:35.53
- Gregorio Paltrinieri, ITA, 14:36.58
- Florian Wellbrock, GER, 14:38.33
Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay
Just as we saw in the two free relays, the women’s 4×100 medley had three countries clearly ahead of the others in the battle for medals.
The United States, led by the incredible backstroking of Regan Smith, were going to be tough to beat with three individual gold medalists.
Smith is off her individual swim in 56.97 but still hands over a full second lead to Lilly King, who extends it with a 1:04.28 split. Kelsi Dahlia goes 56.23 and Simone Manuel finishes off her heavy schedule with another sub-52 leg, clocking 51.91 to anchor the Americans to gold in a new world record of 3:49.39.
The Canadians had out-split the Aussies by small margins on back and breast, and then Maggie MacNeil‘s 55.61 fly swim gave them almost an eight-tenth buffer going into free.
Cate Campbell, riding high off her 50 free win, was tasked with running down Penny Oleksiak. Both swimmers had proven to be clutch on relays in the past, but Campbell especially had seemingly been able to hit 51s at will in recent years. She did so again, splitting 51.39, but Oleksiak refused to be overtaken, going 52.39 as the two teams tied for silver in 3:51.81.
1.United States, 3:49.39 WR
- Smith,Regan 56.97
- King,Lilly 1:04.28 (2:01.25)
- Dahlia,Kelsi 56.23 (2:57.48)
- Manuel,Simone 51.91 (3:49.39)
- Masse,Kylie 58.29
- Wog,Kelsey 1:05.75 (2:04.04)
- MacNeil,Maggie 55.61 (2:59.65)
- Oleksiak,Penny 52.16 (3:51.81)
- Atherton,Minna 58.46
- Hansen,Jessica 1:05.95 (2:04.41)
- McKeon,Emma 56.01 (3:00.42)
- Campbell,Cate 51.39 (3:51.81)
Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay
The men’s event was sure to be much more competitive than the women’s in the race for gold, as the Brits had upset the Americans in 2019 thanks to a tantalizing anchor leg from Duncan Scott (and the usual breaststroke brilliance of Adam Peaty).
It isn’t his fastest split ever, but Caeleb Dressel once again comes through in 49.41 on butterfly as the Americans take over the slight lead, up by over six-tenths of a second on Great Britain entering the freestyle.
Ryan Held, the individual 100 free bronze medalist, goes out with reckless abandon for the U.S., flipping under 22 seconds before holding a hard-charging Scott off down the stretch to win gold in 3:27.47. The time misses the 2009 world record by just under two-tenths. Scott splits 46.68 to earn GBR the silver in 3:27.81.
1.United States, 3:27.47 OR
- Murphy,Ryan 52.38
- Wilson,Andrew 58.69 (1:51.07)
- Dressel,Caeleb 49.41 (2:40.48)
- Held,Ryan 46.99 (3:27.47)
2.Great Britain, 3:27.81
- Greenbank,Luke 53.65
- Peaty,Adam 56.54 (1:50.19)
- Guy,James 50.94 (2:41.13)
- Scott,Duncan 46.68 (3:27.81)
- Rylov,Evgeny 52.26
- Prigoda,Kirill 58.70 (1:50.96)
- Minakov,Andrei 50.49 (2:41.45)
- Grinev,Vladislav 46.82 (3:28.27)
FINAL MEDAL TABLE