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 suit, Caeleb 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Murphy,Ryan 52.18
- King,Lilly 1:04.03 (1:56.11)
- Dressel,Caeleb 49.25 (2:45.36)
- Manuel,Simone 51.79 (3:37.15)
- Larkin,Mitch 52.71
- Wilson,Matthew 58.74 (1:51.45)
- McKeon,Emma 56.36 (2:47.81)
- Campbell,Cate 51.19 (3:39.00)
3.Great Britain, 3:40.16
- Greenbank,Luke 53.70
- Peaty,Adam 56.07 (1:49.77)
- Atinkson,Charlotte 57.73 (2:47.50)
- 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