The Olympics That Would Have Been: Campbell, U.S. Relays Finish Strong On Day 8

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).


  1. Caeleb Dressel, USA, 21.08 OR
  2. Florent Manaudou, FRA, 21.21
  3. Kristian Gkolomeev, GRE, 21.32

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.

Great Britain’s Anna Hopkin continues to impress by placing fifth in 24.26 over Bronte Campbell (24.31) and Liu Xiang (24.34).


  1. Cate Campbell, AUS, 23.92
  2. Sarah Sjostrom, SWE, 23.97
  3. Pernille Blume, DEN, 24.06

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 PaltrinieriFlorian 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.

American Bobby Finke has a standout swim to place fourth in 14:45.92, followed by Frenchman David Aubry (14:46.96) and Denmark’s Alexander Norgaard (14:48.63).


  1. Mykhailo Romanchuk, UKR, 14:35.53
  2. Gregorio Paltrinieri, ITA, 14:36.58
  3. 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

  1. Smith,Regan          56.97
  2. King,Lilly              1:04.28 (2:01.25)
  3. Dahlia,Kelsi         56.23  (2:57.48)
  4. Manuel,Simone     51.91 (3:49.39)

2.Canada, 3:51.81*

  1. Masse,Kylie          58.29
  2. Wog,Kelsey          1:05.75 (2:04.04)
  3. MacNeil,Maggie    55.61  (2:59.65)
  4. Oleksiak,Penny      52.16  (3:51.81)

2.Australia, 3:51.81*

  1. Atherton,Minna       58.46
  2. Hansen,Jessica       1:05.95 (2:04.41)
  3. McKeon,Emma        56.01  (3:00.42)
  4. 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 is China’s Xu Jiayu leading the charge on backstroke, touching in 51.97 to lead Russia’s Evgeny Rylov (52.26) and American Ryan Murphy (52.38).

Peaty torches the breaststroke leg in 56.54, and hands off the lead to James Guy. China sits second after Yan Zibei‘s 58.38, while the U.S. finds itself back in fifth.

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.

Russia, who received some quick back half legs from Andrei Minakov (50.49) and Vladislav Grinev (46.82), slid in for bronze in 3:28.27 over China (3:28.86), Australia (3:29.12) and Japan (3:29.96).


1.United States, 3:27.47 OR

  1. Murphy,Ryan          52.38
  2. Wilson,Andrew      58.69 (1:51.07)
  3. Dressel,Caeleb       49.41 (2:40.48)
  4. Held,Ryan               46.99 (3:27.47)

2.Great Britain, 3:27.81

  1. Greenbank,Luke    53.65
  2. Peaty,Adam           56.54 (1:50.19)
  3. Guy,James            50.94 (2:41.13)
  4. Scott,Duncan       46.68 (3:27.81)

3.Russia, 3:28.27

  1. Rylov,Evgeny         52.26
  2. Prigoda,Kirill         58.70 (1:50.96)
  3. Minakov,Andrei     50.49 (2:41.45)
  4. Grinev,Vladislav    46.82 (3:28.27)


Gold Silver Bronze Total
USA 17 4 8 29
Australia 4 7 8 19
Canada 7 2 9
Japan 2 5 1 8
Russia 3 2 2 7
Italy 1 3 2 6
Hungary 3 1 1 5
Great Britain 1 3 1 5
China 1 2 3
Sweden 1 1 1 3
Lithuania 2 2
South Africa 2 2
Belarus 1 1
Netherlands 1 1
Norway 1 1
France 1 1
Greece 1 1
Denmark 1 1
Ukraine 1 1
Germany 1 1

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
6 months ago

I feel like Dressel would break 21 and the medley relay would be a bit faster. Especially Peaty’s split.

Reply to  Khachaturian
6 months ago

And Scott’s time is a bit fast 🙂

Reply to  CA_LAWYER
6 months ago

Maybe, but he has swum half a second faster before, so it’s sure possible.

Reply to  Khachaturian
6 months ago

I feel the exact same way. Dressel will be 20.85 and break the WR and he will be 48.9 in the medley relay. And Peaty has a shot at going 55 but he will probably go like 56.2 or 56.3.

6 months ago

Grgic in the 1500? Also I feel if Manuel finishes top-2 in the 200, which is looking more and more likely, she’ll most likely relinquish the individual spot to focus on the 50 and 100.

Reply to  Peter
6 months ago

I think those “predictions” are for this year. Grgić hasn’t shown anything this year so far, so i don’t think predicting him to not make the top 6 is completely off, although in my opinion odds are that he would have finished at least 4th in Tokyo.

Reply to  AnEn
6 months ago

To be fair to Grgic quite a few swimmers haven’t put any fast times in 2020.

Not sure why, must be something in the air.

Reply to  Togger
6 months ago

Sure, i just wanted to give a possible reason why there might be doubts about him. If i remember correctly he had exactly one amazing swim so far, so some people might be cautious to bet on him. Of course odds are that he would have improved on his time from last year, but it is not certain and some people might be inclined to bet on people who a) have been around for longer b) have gone sub 15:00 more than once c) have already had solid/good swims this year.

Reply to  Peter
6 months ago

Manuel top-2 in the 200? If you really feel that way put some money down because it would be a huge surprise.

Reply to  CA_LAWYER
6 months ago

At this point, only Smith and Schmitt are likely to beat her for the individual. Manuel went 1:56.0 last summer and is still on an upward trend in the 200.

Reply to  CA_LAWYER
6 months ago

I doubt Simone Manuel will swim the individual women’s 200 meter freestyle in order to focus on the relays:

women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay
women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay
women’s 4 x 100 meter medley relay
mixed 4 x 100 meter medley relay

6 months ago

W50 Free: Sjostrom/Campbell/Liu

M50 Free: Dressel/Manaudou/Proud

M1500 Free: Wellbrock/Romanchuk/Palteinieri

W4x100 Medley: USA/Canada/Australia

M4x100 Medley: USA/GBR/Russia

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 …

Read More »