The Olympics That Would Have Been: Dressel’s Triple Triumph On Day 7

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 7 Finals

Men’s 100m Butterfly Final

Since breaking out in 2017, becoming the first (and still only) man to go under 50 seconds in a textile suitCaeleb Dressel has been in a league of his own in the men’s 100 butterfly. His margin of victory from the 2017 Worlds, 2018 Pan Pacs and 2019 Worlds combined is an incredible 2.50 seconds, with his 1.17 gap in Gwangju the largest since Ian Crocker‘s world record victory in 2005.

After posting a time of 49.59 in the semis, Dressel blasts out to an opening 50 of 22.84, with two-time world champion Chad Le Clos second (23.47) and 2019 runner-up Andrei Minakov (23.61) third.

Dressel extends his lead coming home, being the only one in the field splitting sub-27, as he touches in a time of 49.26 to slash just over two-tenths off his existing world record of 49.50.

Minakov manages to come back on Le Clos, winning silver in 50.63, while Le Clos takes bronze in 50.74. Kristof Milak, coming off his gold medal and world record in the 200 fly, almost runs down the South African but ends up fourth, splitting 23.82/27.00 for 50.82.

Maxime Rooney takes fifth in 51.03, followed by Shinnosuke Ishikawa (51.24), Vini Lanza (51.37) and Marius Kusch (51.40).


  1. Caeleb Dressel, USA, 49.26 WR
  2. Andrei Minakov, RUS, 50.63
  3. Chad Le Clos, RSA, 50.74

Women’s 200m Backstroke Final

After becoming the first woman to go sub-2:04 in 2019, 18-year-old American Regan Smith had broken through the 2:03 barrier at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Similar to Dressel in the 100 fly, she came into the final truly only in a race against the clock.

Out in a blistering 59.97, Smith holds 31s coming home to sneak under her Trials mark in 2:02.79, clearing the field by almost two and a half seconds. This victory gives her three medals at the Games.

Behind Smith, the field was incredibly bunched up. Taylor Ruck and Minna Atherton were out fast at the 100, sitting second and third in 1:01-low, but it was their respective teammates Kylie Masse and Kaylee McKeown who executed on the back half to take over second and third.

Masse claims silver in 2:05.44, matching her 100m result, while McKeown wins her first Olympic medal with a bronze in 2:05.73. Margherita Panziera of Italy moved up into fourth in 2:06.13, followed by Atherton (2:06.41), and Ruck was sixth in 2:06.72 amidst a busy schedule in Tokyo.


  1. Regan Smith, USA, 2:02.79 WR
  2. Kylie Masse, CAN, 2:05.44
  3. Kaylee McKeown, AUS, 2:05.73

Women’s 800m Freestyle Final

When she walked out for the 800 free final, Katie Ledecky had already raced 5,400 meters at these Games, taking on a gruelling schedule that had seen her win two gold, one silver and one bronze medal thus far. Similar to the mile, she wouldn’t need to be anywhere near her best time to win gold here. But she wanted to take aim at her world record that had stood since Rio.

Riding the momentum of her 200 free win, Australia’s Ariarne Titmus swims like she has nothing to lose early, matching Ledecky stroke-for-stroke through the 300.

Ledecky pulled away from there, turning in 4:01.68 at the 400 before a final 50 of 29.11 got her into the wall in 8:04.46, sneaking under her 2016 mark of 8:04.79.

Titmus was pursued heavily by Italian Simona Quadarella down the last 200, but her finishing speed managed to bring her into the wall for a clear silver in 8:12.89, with Quadarella third in 8:13.68. Those swims moved them into #2 and #3 all-time, overtaking Rebecca Adlington‘s 8:14.10.

Wang Jianjiahe of China was fourth in 8:18.77, followed by Lani Pallister (8:20.64) and Leah Smith (8:20.98).


  1. Katie Ledecky, USA, 8:04.46 WR
  2. Ariarne Titmus, AUS, 8:12.89
  3. Simona Quadarella, ITA, 8:13.68

Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay

Despite falling to the Australians at the 2019 World Championships, the Americans came into the inaugural Olympic final of the mixed 4×100 medley relay as the overwhelming favorites. All four of their swimmers in the final had won their respective individual 100m races, and they even had room to leave women’s 100 back champ Regan Smith on the prelim relay.

It proved to be quite the spectacle in its debut on the biggest stage in sports as only two of the top-five teams used the traditional two men/two women strategy, making for a wild race.

Ryan Murphy gave the U.S. the early lead in 52.18, with Evgeny Rylov (52.31) and Mitch Larkin (52.71) also putting Russia and Australia in a good position. Adam Peaty flies by everyone for Great Britain on breast, splitting a record 56.07 to give them a sizable lead over the Aussies. The Americans had used Lilly King and were back by over six seconds.

Coming off winning individual 100 fly gold earlier in the session (and a semi-final in the 50 free), Caeleb Dressel goes almost the exact same time with a flying start (49.25) to hand Simone Manuel a two-second buffer over the field.

Unlike in Gwangju, Cate Campbell didn’t have enough room to run down Manuel, as the U.S. wins gold in a new world record time of 3:37.25. Campbell did have an incredibly quick 51.19 anchor to put Australia second in 3:39.00, just under their 2019 winning time, while Great Britain (3:40.16) edged out bronze over Russia (3:40.73) and Canada (3:40.84). Perhaps the most notable splits from those two teams came on fly, from Andrei Minakov (50.61) and Maggie MacNeil (55.38).


1.United States, 3:37.15 WR

  1. Murphy,Ryan          52.18
  2. King,Lilly                 1:04.03 (1:56.11)
  3. Dressel,Caeleb         49.25  (2:45.36)
  4. Manuel,Simone        51.79  (3:37.15)

2.Australia, 3:39.00

  1. Larkin,Mitch             52.71
  2. Wilson,Matthew       58.74 (1:51.45)
  3. McKeon,Emma          56.36 (2:47.81)
  4. Campbell,Cate           51.19 (3:39.00)

3.Great Britain, 3:40.16

  1. Greenbank,Luke        53.70
  2. Peaty,Adam                56.07 (1:49.77)
  3. Atinkson,Charlotte    57.73 (2:47.50)
  4. Anderson,Freya         52.66 (3:40.16)

Also On The Schedule

Men’s 50m Freestyle Semi-Finals

After a cruisy 21.52 prelim, Dressel puts together a smooth 21.23 out of the first semi to easily win the heat as he prepares for the mixed medley relay. Behind him, Bruno Fratus (21.50) and Michael Andrew (21.58) take second and third.

In the second heat, Florent Manaudou blasts down in 21.27 as he sets himself up for a chance to regain the gold medal he lost in 2016 (after winning in 2012). Vladimir Morozov (21.41) and Kristian Gkolomeev (21.47) have strong swims behind him to qualify third and fourth overall.

Women’s 50m Freestyle Semi-Finals

With both swimmers set to race the mixed medley in a matter of minutes, Cate Campbell and Simone Manuel look fairly controlled coming down the pool as they clock 24.14 and 24.19 respectively to go 1-2 in the first semi of the women’s 50 free. Bronte Campbell and Ranomi Kromowidjojo (24.27) tie for third.

The second heat proves much quicker than the first, as both Sarah Sjostrom (23.87) and Pernille Blume (23.95) dip under 24 seconds for the top-two seeds heading into the final. Anna Hopkin (24.18) steals third ahead of Liu Xiang (24.23) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.34).

Medal Table Through Day Seven

Gold Silver Bronze Total
USA 14 4 8 26
Australia 3 6 8 17
Japan 2 5 1 8
Canada 6 2 8
Russia 3 2 1 6
Hungary 3 1 1 5
Italy 1 2 2 5
Great Britain 1 2 1 4
China 1 2 3
Lithuania 2 2
Sweden 1 1 2
South Africa 2 2
Belarus 1 1
Netherlands 1 1
Norway 1 1

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2 years ago

Milak doesn’t have much self-record for 50mButterfly, so I think Milak will set a record for 100mButterfly depending on how well the 50mButterfly makes. If you can swim 50mButterfly in 23.3 seconds, I think 49 seconds is not a dream. If you can swim in the middle of the 22-second range… it will be strong enough to shake the throne of the Dressel…..

J. Lopez
2 years ago

Come on, no schooling in 100 fly final??

2 years ago

Unfortunately the next Olympics will be in 2024

2 years ago

Whilst we could see WRs in this session, I’m not buying them in every final !! MMR = highly likely but maybe not to the extent proposed, M100FLY & W200BK = reasonable bets but whilst Ledecky remains the prohibitive favourite for W800FR; that doesn’t necessarily equate to automatic new WR.

M100FLY: Agree with Dee’s summation. Dressel for Gold but the remainder of the podium is a lottery. Am leaning towards Milak being part of that equation but it frankly looks very open.

W800FR: Whilst Ledecky may be increasingly vulnerable in the shorter races, she still has considerable real estate between herself and her competitors in the longer events. Am leaning towards Quadarella for silver and Kohler for bronze. Titmus cannot… Read more »

Reply to  commonwombat
2 years ago

Larkin isn’t erratic. He’s quite consistent really. Consistently 53+. Here’s his times in major relay finals:

2019 WC: 53.16 53.47
2018 CG: 53.14
2018 PP: 53.18 53.08
2017 WC: 53.11
2016 OG: 53.19
2015 WC: 52.41 (This year being an anomaly and he went 52.37 in the heats too)
2014 CG: 53.59
2014 PP: 53.46

Reply to  Troyy
2 years ago

Yes, I could’ve been more precise in my use of language. What I was meaning to state is Larkin can be erratic in the sense of his relays sometimes being “at odds” (AND being consistently sub-standard) in comparison to his individual 100back. Having said that, he’s not overly reliable there either.

2 years ago

I don’t think Britain will get third with that lineup. I feel like if Ikee was involved Japan would be in medal contention but not so sure about that. China could do it for sure with xu, zibei, yufei, and any 52 high-53 low freestyler. Although I guess if peaty does 56 low they could do it.

Reply to  Virtus
2 years ago

Perhaps with Davies on back and Guy on fly.

2 years ago

I’d say Coleman or Kameneva over B.Campbell,

2 years ago

I think Dressel will be 48.9. He is certainly aiming for it and I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to do it. He goes out 22.8 and comes back in 26.1. With his incredible finishes I think he can do it.

Mr Piano
Reply to  DresselTheGoat
2 years ago

It’s possible but he would need the perfect race.

Reply to  Mr Piano
2 years ago

He tends to have many of those so I wouldn’t put it past him. I mean he went 17.63, 39.9, and 42.8. He always finds a way to improve and stun everybody

Reply to  DresselTheGoat
2 years ago

in a relay

2 years ago

The U.S. have a stacked medley relay team… but I have a sense that Lily King is supreme in individual events but so much in relays…no intention to disrespect cause damn, but relays are something else

Reply to  SwimJon
2 years ago

Lily King’s relay times have hardly been awe inspiring.

After Lily King posted a world record in women’s 100 meter breaststroke of 1:04.13 at the 2017 FINA World Aquatics Championships, Lily King posted a split of 1:04.48 in the women’s 4 x 100 meter medley relay. Yefimova out split King 1:04.03 to 1:04.48.

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

At the 2016 games, King also split more than 0.7 slower than Meili, Efimova, and her own flat start, as well as slower than all three flat starts.

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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