The Olympics That Would Have Been: Dressel, Chalmers Have Epic Day 5 Showdown

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!

Day 5 Finals

Men’s 800m Freestyle Final

After the debut of the women’s 1500 free on Day 4, medals were on the line for the first time in Olympic history in the men’s 800 to kick off Day 5. An event sparsely contested in swimming history, only debuting at the Long Course World Championships in 2001 and the European Championships in 2008, the men’s 800 freestyle brings a unique clash of the 400 specialists with the milers.

Gregorio Paltrinieri, who won Olympic gold in the 1500 in Rio, finally made it to the top of the podium at the 2019 World Championships after silver in 2015 and bronze in 2017. His Italian countryman Gabriele Detti, the 2017 world champion, had a strong performance in the 400 on Day 1 and the two were primed to push for a 1-2.

Paltrinieri coasted to the top seed in the prelims in 7:44.89, and took off from lane four early on to establish the lead. Turning at the 400 in 3:48.19, he was being stalked by Detti, Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk and Norwegian Henrik Christiansen, with Germany’s Florian Wellbrock and Frenchman David Aubry also within striking distance.

With Paltrinieri still up by two seconds with 100 left, Detti makes his move. He splits 28.61/27.47 down the last two lengths, but Paltrinieri holds on and wins the first-ever Olympic title in the men’s 800 in a time of 7:38.76.

Detti makes it an Italian 1-2 in 7:39.36, while Christiansen manages to win a tight bronze battle in 7:41.88 ahead of Aubry (7:42.33) and Romanchuk (7:43.31). Wellbrock is sixth, lacking the finishing kick at the end, likely due in part to the fact he’ll race the 10km Open Water event in less than a week. Jack McLoughlin and Zane Grothe rounded out the top-eight.


  1. Gregorio Paltrinieri, ITA, 7:38.76 OR
  2. Gabriele Detti, ITA, 7:39.36
  3. Henrik Christiansen, NOR, 7:41.88

Men’s 200m Breaststroke Final

Once an unthinkable feat in the men’s 200 breast, the 2019 World Championships incredibly required a swim inside the 2:06s to win a medal. Russia’s Anton Chupkov had been on a tear since winning bronze in Rio, sweeping the 2017 Worlds, 2018 Euros and 2019 Worlds, bringing the world record down to 2:06.12 in Gwangju.

The Wilson’s — Australia’s Matthew and the U.S.’s Andrew — take control of the race early, turning 1-2 at the halfway mark in 1:00-mids, with Ippei Watanabe and Will Licon close behind.

Chupkov, who turned seventh in 1:02.11, threw down a 32.12 on the third 50 to get into the picture, but it was Matthew Wilson, Watanabe and Andrew Wilson occupying the top-three spots going into the last length.

Down the last 50, Chupkov did what he does best, mowing over everyone en route to Olympic gold in a time of 2:06.15, just missing his world record set in 2019.

Watanabe edges by M.Wilson in the closing meters to win silver in 2:06.54, with the Australian the bronze medalist in 2:06.72. Licon joins Chupkov and Watanabe as the only swimmers to keep all four 50s under 33 seconds, becoming the fourth man under 2:07 in 2:06.94.

Arno Kamminga (2:07.36) and James Wilby (2:07.54) overtake A.Wilson (2:07.62) late for fifth, sixth and seventh.


  1. Anton Chupkov, RUS, 2:06.15 OR
  2. Ippei Watanabe, JPN, 2:06.54
  3. Matthew Wilson, AUS, 2:06.72

Women’s 200m Butterfly Final

From swimming in the 2016 Olympic final, missing the 2017 Worlds final and then being upset for gold at the 2019 World Championships, Hali Flickinger has gained a lot of experience over the last four years in the women’s 200 fly, and it was all put to use in the 2020 final.

Flickinger, who moved to Arizona to train with former Olympic coach Bob Bowman at ASU in late 2019, swims from the front the entire race and fends off the challengers down the stretch. Stretching to the wall in a final time of 2:05.57, she claims her first Olympic medal and it’s gold.

Just behind Flickinger, fellow American Regan Smith and reigning world champion Boglarka Kapas were neck-and-neck throughout the majority of the race, with Smith’s final push enough to earn her the silver in 2:06.16. Kapas wins bronze in 2:06.55, and Japan’s Suzuka Hasegawa has a personal best 2:07.03 for fourth.

Veteran Franziska Hentke places fifth in 2:07.44, just ahead of Liliana Szilagyi (2:07.78) and Laura Stephens (2:08.07).


  1. Hali Flickinger, USA, 2:05.57
  2. Regan Smith, USA, 2:06.16
  3. Boglarka Kapas, HUN, 2:06.55

Men’s 100m Freestyle Final

In one of the marquee showdowns on the Olympic program, the men’s 100 freestyle promised to be an epic rematch between American Caeleb Dressel and Australian Kyle Chalmers. Dressel had won the last two World Championship titles, while Chalmers was the defending gold medalist and had also beaten Dressel head-to-head at the 2018 Pan Pacs.

At the 2019 Worlds, the two produced one of the best 100 free races in recent memory. Dressel was half a second faster going out and Chalmers was four-tenths better coming back, leaving them separated by 0.14 at the finish.

Dressel gets off to a rocketing start, using his patented 15-meter breakout to open up the early lead over the field. The newly minted world record holder turns first at the 50 in 22.09, two-tenths under his relay pace, with Vladimir Morozov second in 22.35 and the other American, Ryan Held, third in 22.42.

After flipping in 22.75, Chalmers begins to move up on Dressel coming down the last 25 meters, but Dressel puts his head down, ramps up the stroke rate, and gets his hand on the wall first. The American wins the first individual Olympic gold medal of his career in a new world record time of 46.73, lowering his 46.87 from the relay.

Chalmers joins Dressel in the sub-47 textile club, clocking 46.96 for the silver medal after a scorching 24.21 back half.

Held holds the field at bay and earns his first individual Olympic medal with a bronze in 47.30, with Vladislav Grinev (47.56) fourth and Duncan Scott (47.73) in for fifth. Alessandro Miressi (47.92) takes sixth after his swim-off win yesterday, and Morozov (48.08) and Nandor Nemeth (48.25) round out the finalists.


  1. Caeleb Dressel, USA, 46.73 WR
  2. Kyle Chalmers, AUS, 46.96
  3. Ryan Held, USA, 47.30

Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay Final

It shaped up to be a similar story to the 4×100 free relay as it became clear relatively early that the U.S., Australia and Canada would be the countries on the podium, the only question was who would stand where.

Coming off of the razor-thin clash between the Aussies and Americans in 2019, where both teams went under the world record and Australia came out on top, history seemed as though it would inevitably repeat itself as both teams were so close on paper.

Coming off individual gold in the 200 free, Ariarne Titmus lands the Aussies the early lead with a 1:54.22 opening up, followed by Simone Manuel (1:55.49), Yang Junxuan (1:55.92) and Kayla Sanchez (1:56.88).

Brianna Throssell and Madison Wilson would maintain the Australian lead through the 600m mark, but the U.S. was only six-tenths back and Taylor Ruck‘s 1:54.12 split had brought Canada into the mix.

Emma McKeon dove in with the lead and refused to relinquish it, though Katie Ledecky‘s surge at the end almost spoiled the party. In the end, it was Australia winning in 7:41.29 to claim its first gold in the event since 2008. The United States was just .02 back, 7:41.31, following a blistering 1:53.97 anchor from Ledecky.

Penny Oleksiak has yet to break 1:56 individually, but went sub-1:55 on a relay for the third time, giving Canada a second straight bronze in 7:42.85.


1.Australia, 7:41.29 WR

  1. Titmus,Ariarne                 1:54.22
  2. Throssell,Brianna             1:55.86 (3:50.08)
  3. Wilson,Madison               1:56.62 (5:46.70)
  4. McKeon,Emma                 1:54.59 (7:41.29)

2.United States, 7:41.31

  1. Manuel,Simone                   1:55.49
  2. McLaughlin,Katie               1:55.53 (3:51.02)
  3. Margalis,Melanie                1:56.32 (5:47.34)
  4. Ledecky,Katie                     1:53.97 (7:41.31)

3.Canada, 7:42.55

  1. Sanchez,Kayla                     1:56.88
  2. Ruck,Taylor                         1:54.12 (3:51.00)
  3. Overholt,Emily                   1:56.96 (5:47.96)
  4. Oleksiak,Penny                  1:54.89 (7:42.85)

Also On The Schedule

Women’s 100m Freestyle Semi-Finals

It felt like a long wait, but it was finally time to see the likes of Manuel, Cate Campbell and Sarah Sjostrom get things going in the women’s 100 freestyle. After producing the top time of the morning, Sjostrom exits as the top seed for the final in 52.23, matching her best from 2019. She is followed by Oleksiak (52.87), Bronte Campbell (52.92) and Mallory Comerford (53.13) in that second semi.

In the first heat, Cate Campbell touched first in 52.59, with Manuel (52.74) and Ruck (52.93) not far behind. Rounding out the eight qualifiers is Great Britain’s Freya Anderson, who hits a PB of 53.16.

Men’s 200m Backstroke Semi-Finals

Both semi-finals of the men’s 200 back yield very controlled swims from the favorites, as Ryan Murphy (1:55.36) and Mitch Larkin (1:55.60) cruise to a 1-2 finish in the first heat. Evgeny Rylov takes complete command in the second semi, making a 1:54.86 look easy. Xu Jiayu (1:55.62) and Shaine Casas (1:55.83) are second and third in the heat to advance.

Women’s 200m Breaststroke Semi-Finals

Annie Lazor follows up her victory at Trials with an impressive win out of semi-final 1, clocking 2:20.46 for a new personal best time. Tatjana Schoenmaker and Bethany Galat both hit 2:22-low for second and third. In the second heat, Yuliya Efimova cruises through in 2:20.95, qualifying second overall. Her countrymate Evgeniia Chikunova, just 15, swims her second-fastest time ever to qualify in 2:21.91, while Canadians Kelsey Wog (2:22.39) and Sydney Pickrem (2:22.58) also advanced.

Men’s 200m Individual Medley Semi-Finals

Michael Andrew goes on a demolition derby through the first 150 of the opening semi, turning in a blistering 1:26.30. He squeaks under 30 coming home to win the heat in 1:56.14, with Jeremy Desplanches (1:56.42), Chase Kalisz (1:56.61) and Qin Haiyang (1:56.84) just behind. Daiya Seto claims the #1 seed from the next heat in 1:55.91, followed by his teammate Kosuke Hagino (1:56.46) and Wang Shun (1:56.70).


Gold Silver Bronze Total
USA 9 2 7 18
Australia 3 3 6 12
Canada 5 2 7
Japan 1 4 1 6
Hungary 3 1 4
Russia 1 2 1 4
Italy 1 2 1 4
Great Britain 1 2 3
China 1 2 3
Lithuania 2 2
Sweden 1 1
Belarus 1 1
Netherlands 1 1
Norway 1 1

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3 years ago

Kyle Chalmers should win the 100m Freestyle!

Kirill Knyazev
3 years ago

Yall giving way too many edges to the Americans. 100 back Murphy’s not going under 52. 100 breast king isn’t going sub 1:04. The 1-2 American finish in the 2 fly… could happen, but some stars would have to align. Held bronze in the 1 free is sooo optimistic too. And it goes on and on.

3 years ago

Women’s Events
200 meter butterfly
Smith – 2:05.52
Flickinger – 2:06.11
Kapas – 2:06.78

3 years ago

I don’t think Australia would necessarily swim the same four swimmers from Gwangju aside from Titmus and McKeon .. I’m hoping youngsters like Lani Pallister rise up between now and then

Miss M
Reply to  Verram
3 years ago

Although both Wilson and Throssell are looking good right about now!

Reply to  Verram
3 years ago

Wilson looked good in ISL. Finished in the top 2 on all 200fr races she participated. Excited what Pallister can bring to the team.

Reply to  Verram
3 years ago

It’s been such a bummer not being able to see how the juniors, including Pallister, progress this year.

3 years ago

My main points of difference:
M100FS Duncatt Scott for the bronze
M200BS Zac Stubblety-Cook in the final and pushing for a medal
W200BF Suzuka Hasegawa takes gold sending the home crowd into a frenzy
W4X200 the USA pips Australia in a thriller

3 years ago

The Americans continue to be undefeated in just about every race they even have a contender in? Lucky for everyone else races aren’t swum in the minds of swimswam journalists I suppose. (to be clear I am not upset or anything I understnad this is just supposed to be a bit of a laugh).

I’m just glad you didn’t double down on Chalmers managing to get into the lead and then Dressel gets back in front, because that was absolutely hilarious.

Konner Scott
Reply to  M D E
3 years ago

You should go back and look at the first couple days. Very rough for the US.

Reply to  Konner Scott
3 years ago

I don’t see the U.S. winning a medal in the following events:

Women’s 100 meter butterfly (Sjostrom, MacNeil, McKeon)
Women’s 200 meter individual medley (Hosszu, Shiwen, Ohashi)
Women’s 400 meter individual medley (Hosszu, Shiwen, Ohashi)

Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
3 years ago

What does that have to do with the original comment? The US doesn’t have any contenders in those races, so those races weren’t subject to his comment (i assume).

M d e
Reply to  Konner Scott
3 years ago

Because they didn’t have realistic gold medallists in many events earlier in the meet.

Reply to  M D E
3 years ago

James is Canadian 😉

Incidentally, in Rio after day 5, the real life American medals tally was 8g 5s 8b. After day 5 here, James has 9g 2s 7b. 1 more gold, 3 fewer overall medals, than what actually happened in 2016.

M d e
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

Sure, but the US team is probably overall a little weaker than in Rio and globally th standard of swimming is continuing to improve, especially in Europe.

I expect them to win quite a few less medals than Rio at Tokyo if it happens (fingers crossed it happens).

Reply to  M d e
3 years ago

I would say for the men – yes, for the women – no.

Reply to  M d e
3 years ago

I am not sure whether the standard of swimming improving is doing any “harm” to the US. I think 2016 has been a record in both total medals (33, same as 2000) and gold (16, same as 2012) for the US. I think both records will be broken in 2021 with something like 34-36 medals in total and 18+ golds (thanks to the US winning 2 of the 3 new events). I think the US probably profited the most from the “disappearance” of the GDR/Germany in swimming. In 1988 the GDR won 28 medals and in 2012/2016 Germany didn’t win any medal, so somebody had to “pick up” those medals. I am absolutely not fan of the number of events… Read more »

3 years ago

What a great day for swimming, 2 huge races.
Firstly the 100 freestyle between 2 champions, who has huge respect for each other, of course as a Aussie, I’m happy for Dressel to win the would be Olympics & King Kyle to win in Tokyo next year. However, saying that, huge respect for Dressel as a swimmer & his whole poolside demeanor, comes across like a really humble champion.
The Women’s 4X200, what a race & agree any 3 of Australia, Canada & US can win. One question to my American friends does Regan Smith swim freestyle, could she be the x factor? The other X factor is Ledecky, she will swam a lot of races by now… Read more »

Reply to  Robbos
3 years ago

Who says Katie Kedecky will swim the individual women’s 200 meter freestyle? A women’s 200 meter – 1500 meter freestyle double – double (heats – final) seems unbearable. It’s not without precedence for Ledecky to drop the individual women’s 200 meter freestyle (reference Barcelona 2013).

The U.S. break the world record in the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay with a healthy Ledecky at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships. Or do you expect Ledecky to be ill for Tokyo, as well?

The question going forward is how much improvement, if any, will come from Simone Manuel leading off the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay.

Regan Smith is currently not a factor in the women’s 200 meter… Read more »

Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
3 years ago

Are you saying USA would have won the relay last year ?

Reply to  Missed
3 years ago

You missed reading the fine print:

“with a healthy Ledecky”

2016 Summer Olympics
Women’s Events
4 x 200 meter freestyle relay
Ledecky (DOB 17 Mar 1997) – 1:53.74

2017 FINA World Aquatics Swimming Championships
Women’s Events
4 x 200 meter freestyle relay
Ledecky (DOB 17 Mar 1997) – 1:54.02

2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships
Women’s Events
4 x 200 meter freestyle relay
Ledecky (DOB 17 Mar 1997) – 1:53.84

Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
3 years ago

No I’m not saying Ledecky will swim the 200 free, as I think she will go for the 400-800-1500. Hence a lot of races, she not training for 200 free, getting a little older, hence x factor, she still can do anything I would not be surprised, she is that good. But……

3 years ago

Next year, Gretchen Walsh 51.80.

Reply to  Paolo
3 years ago

Seems a bit too pessimistic imo, i think she definitely has 51.70 in her, probably in the same race where Dean Farris will swim 44 flat while wearing beer goggles.

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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