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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For the first time, I literally read the men’s 100 free final line by line, refusing to let my wandering eyes spoil the ‘result’.

Konner Scott

Ha! Same here!

JP input is too short

Same! I purposely didn’t scroll down far enough for the results to show on my screen.



Duncan on these fools

Can’t wait for that race. I will say, as much as I like Ryan Held I think Duncan Scott podiums in the 100. Does a 46.1 not count for anything?? I know people will say “relay split” and “he was drafting off of Adrian.” But, 46.1 is a phenomenal split no matter how you slice it. I think he’s got more in his tank than 47.7.

I also would not be surprised to see Adrian make the individual over Held at US trials.

Irish Ringer

That 46.1 was just a relay split 🙂


What a miserably weak race the womens 200fl has become. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Hosszu pop up there next summer; She went 2.06.6 last spring. I think Duncan may have a stronger 100 this year. He was a lot faster in season than he has been before and his 50 was massively improved SC. Won’t trouble the top two thougj; Dressel vs Chalmers will be a race for the ages. I’ll take the Americans over the Aussies for the womens 4×2, but I’ll be gutted if Allison Schmitt isn’t on the relay. Also like to see Canada give themselves a chance; Put Ruck on first and try to hang on to Titmus. Sanchez & Overholt (?) On 2 and… Read more »

Old Man Chalmers

the w200 fly wr is insane, as the 2nd fastest performance (also supersuited) is 1.6 seconds slower. the fastest time in textile is 2:04.06 from 2012 (olympic record), but the times have regressed to 2:04 highs winning with some 2:05 low-mids, but it’s now gotten to the point where a 2:06.7 won 2019 worlds. thats just depressing when you consider that mary t meagher went 2:05.96 with much worse technology back in 1981. the w200 back olympic record is actually equal to the w200 fly OR, and although its a slower stroke, there’s a much stronger chance of it being broken than the 200 fly. Hopefully Regan Smith and Elizabeth Dekkers can give some life to this dead event in… Read more »


The Chinese Girls were superb on this event.. Mireia at some points seemed like she could get close to the Chinese but until now no one got even close to them


They were, but it wasn’t just the very top, the event was so deep once. 2011 Worlds, 7 girls went under 2.07 in the SFs. 2.06.6 was joint last in the final. Natsumi Hoshi went 2.05 and missed a medal. Just such a sad regression for the event.


Hentke turned 31 on 4 June 2020.


Belmonte turns 30 on 10 Nov 2020, Hoshi turns 30 on 21 Aug 2020, Hosszu turns 32 on 03 May 2021.


I think the women’s 200 fly is a very special event, because it is pretty much impossible to be competitive in the 100 fly and 200 fly at the same time. Who, apart from Phelps and maybe Le Clos, mastered that double recently? Milak is great in both, but so far never at the same time. I think in the IM’s, the breastroke and the backstroke it is easier to double up (not to mention the freestyle). So if you want to give yourself as many medal chances as possible, the 200 fly might not be the best choice. It seems as if the best combination is 200 fly + the two IM’s instead of the 100 fly. Seto, Phelps,… Read more »


Jess Schipper won world titles in both, and Olympic bronzes in both in the same year. Petria Thomas and Otylia Jedrzejczak did too, but that was obviously a long time ago. The WR holder, Liu Zige, swam 56.0 the same week she set that 200 WR, but was never anywhere near that time internationally. Cseh also won medals in both at the same worlds, a gold and a silver. As you say, it is very rare, I can’t think of any more than those few…


All of them were a long time ago, so not really relevant.

Old Man Chalmers

milak was 1:53.7 when he went 50.6, it’s just that the hungarian qualifying criteria ruled him out of swimming the 200 in budapest.

Go back a bit further and you have Jess Schipper.
double fly world champ in 2005, 100 fly silver and 200 fly gold in both 2007 and 2009 and double bronze medallist in 2008


1:53.7 is much slower than he is now and now that he is much better in the 200 fly he apparently can’t come close to his 100 fly PB anymore.

Old Man Chalmers

milak was 50.9 in the wc semis last year. regardless, 1:53.7 is good enough for a medal. not sure how you can knock milak for this yet praise le clos, who went 1:52.9 in 2012 but didn’t break 51 until 2015, a drop which negatively impacted his 200. le clos has only ever been under 1:54 four times in his career. the one time he broke 1:54 and 51 at the same time he was still well off his 200 pb


Hosszu cleaned up at the 2016 Rio Olympics by swimming the individual medleys and the backstroke not the butterfly.


So? If she wants the chance to win a 3rd gold, then she won’t compete in the backstroke events, so this only leaves the 200 fly for her in my opinion.


Hosszu will have to first beat out Kapas and Szilagyi at the Olympic Team Trials. Kaoas and Szilagyi were both finalists in the women’s 200 meter butterfly at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships.


Szilágyi with Tusup? Of coure she will. Otherwise there are Jakabos end the juniors, too.


If she can’t beat those two, then there is no point in even competing in this event at the olympics. Those two are borderline medal contenders at best and Hosszu should only pick this event if she has a realistic chance to win gold. For that it would probably take 2:05.0 to 2:05.5. Hosszu can fully focus on the 200 fly at the hungarian nationals because she has no competition in the IM’s, so if she has sub 2:06 in her then she should be able to swim that time at nationals and qualify (i don’t see Szilagyi or Kapas swimming those times).


True. I hope so.


It will be interesting to watch the progression of Regan Smith in the women’s long course butterfly events in the years to come.


Right. Or Kapás with her long frees.


I wouldn’t be surprised to see Regan Smith pop a 204


Regan Smith wins with a time of 2:05.52. Regan Smith posted a 2:06.39 untapered in the women’s 200 meter butterfly at the 2020 TYR Pro Swim Series in Des Moines.


So Regan will only go .9 faster than her 2020 pro series race? I think she can go 2:04


I would rather be on the conservative side than post a ridiculous projection. Besides, I don’t believe Hali Flickinger (DOB 07 Jul 1994) can surpass her personal best time of 2:05.87 (07/25/2018).


Why you so obsessed with everyone’s DOB😂


Hosszu did not even show up in the final of the women’s 200 meter backstroke at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships. Good luck in the women’s 200 meter butterfly at the age of 32.


assuming she’s dropped the backstrokes, Hosszu will have 200 +200+200 butterfly, 400 +400 IM, and 200+200+200 IM of racing in Tokyo. given her training methods, a total of 2000m fast swimming over the course of the games shouldn’t kill her. I expect a 3 gold performance, a focus on building a even bigger brand while cutting back on going to every meet 2021-2024, leading to a her swimming IMs only at the 2024 games, earning 1 gold, 1 bronze, and retiring. Then runs for FINA President


At the age of 32, Hosszu would be exhausted after swimming the 400 IM, 200 IM prior to the 200 FL.


She won’t. 🙂


Kapas and Szilagyi swam the women’s 200 meter butterfly for Hungary at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships.


The women’s 200fly looks worse than it is due to the insane WR of course, but it is extremely disappointing to see a lack of swimmers able to beat world leading times from 30 years ago.

In the past 4 years (post Rio 2016) the only swimmers to put up a time on the all-time top 25 performers list are Hentke, Thomas, Belmonte, and Flickinger.


Think the same about Hosszu. Leave all the backs and swim and win 2 IMs and swim the 200 fly. The schedule is not the best, but if somebody could do it she Is. And of course some relays.
Cseh can be in the final in 200 IM.
Németh will be faster.


C’mon Poland! Are we leading the medal table yet??? ;-)))

Relax, Runran, I’m joking,
I do know where we are now.


I don’t get it … ? Do you expect Poland to lead the athletics medal table at some point?


We could be. But unfortunately there is no Hammer throw, Hammer Fly, Hammer throw backstroke and Hammer throw backstroke in a slightly-colder-water😉

Stupid joke, I know

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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