The Olympics That Would Have Been: Manuel’s 100 Free Magic Highlights Day 6

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 6 marks the last relay-free day in Tokyo, with four sets of individual finals in the women’s 200 breast and 100 free, the men’s 200 back and 200 IM, and a pair of semis in the women’s 200 back and men’s 100 fly.

Among the headlines creating pre-session buzz are what will happen in the women’s 100 free, how Michael Andrew will fare in his first Olympic final, and pure excitement stemming from seeing Regan Smith and Caeleb Dressel race their best events. At the 2019 World Championships, both set the world record in each respective race in the semi-finals.

Day 6 Finals

Women’s 200m Breaststroke Final

Yuliya Efimova was all business as she entered the women’s 200 breast final looking to complete the ascension to gold after winning bronze in 2012 and silver in 2016.

Efimova backed up her status as the big favorite coming in with a dominant win, going out quicker than she has in recent years (1:07.76) before flying home for a final time of 2:19.49. The swim lowers the existing Olympic Record (2:19.59) by a tenth but narrowly misses her personal best time from 2013 (2:19.41).

Annie Lazor, who was the only swimmer other than Efimova to go sub-2:21 in 2019, backed up her semi-final PB with a time of 2:20.68, claiming silver for her first Olympic medal.

South African Tatjana Schoenmaker, who turned heads by winning the Commonwealth Games title in 2018 before placing second to Efimova last year, earns Africa’s first medal in the pool with a bronze in 2:21.71. Schoenmaker held off American Bethany Galat (2:21.95), while Kelsey Wog (2:22.08) set a new personal best in fifth. 


  1. Yuliya Efimova, RUS, 2:19.49
  2. Annie Lazor, USA, 2:20.68
  3. Tatjana Schoenmaker, RSA, 2:21.71

Men’s 200m Backstroke Final

Evgeny Rylov had been on fire since claiming bronze at the 2016 Games in the men’s 200 back, storming his way to back-to-back World Championship victories in 2017 and 2019 to go along with the European title in 2018. Ryan Murphy, who won Olympic gold in Rio, was the Russian’s main challenger having been the silver medalist at each of the last two World Championships.

China’s Xu Jiayu utilized his front-end speed and took the lead early, flipping at the 100 in 54.94 with Rylov (55.36) and Murphy (55.47) second and third. Rylov began to create some separation on the third 50, and then was the only swimmer in the field home sub-29 for a final time of 1:52.95. The swim lowers his own European Record of 1:53.36 and also goes under Tyler Clary‘s Olympic Record of 1:53.41.

Murphy lost most of his ground to Rylov on the last 50, coming in for a time of 1:53.75 and the silver medal. Mitch Larkin, who dropped the 200 IM in favor of this race, gains a full second on Xu on the last 50 to snatch bronze in 1:54.40, with the early leader fourth in 1:54.64.


  1. Evgeny Rylov, RUS, 1:52.95 OR
  2. Ryan Murphy, USA, 1:53.75
  3. Mitch Larkin, AUS, 1:54.43

Men’s 200m Individual Medley Final

In what marked the first Olympic final in the men’s 200 IM since 2000 that didn’t include Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte or Thiago Pereira, it seemed fitting that the race was relatively wide open for gold.

Daiya Seto was coming in with the hot hand after winning the 400 IM and as the reigning world champ, but there was no shortage of contenders who could give him a good run.

Just as we had seen in the heats and semis, it was American Michael Andrew jumping on the first 50, out in 23.96, and he followed with subsequent splits of 28.98 and 33.23 to hold the lead by seven-tenths with only freestyle left.

Seto gradually made up the deficit, closing in 28.34 to complete the medley sweep in a time of 1:55.23. Kosuke Hagino, the 2016 silver medalist behind Phelps, stormed home with the top free split (27.92) for silver in 1:55.71 to give Japan a 1-2 finish in both IMs.

Andrew gets himself home in 29-high for his first Olympic medal in 1:56.03, followed by teammate Chase Kalisz (1:56.33) and China’s Wang Shun (1:56.82).


  1. Daiya Seto, JPN, 1:55.23
  2. Kosuke Hagino, JPN, 1:55.71
  3. Michael Andrew, USA, 1:56.03

Women’s 100m Freestyle Final

If there’s anything we’ve learned from the 2016 Olympics, 2017 World Championships and 2019 World Championships, it’s that Simone Manuel can perform with the pressure on.

Cate Campbell entered Rio as the massive favorite in the women’s 100 freestyle after setting the world record earlier that summer, but it was Manuel and Canadian Penny Oleksiak who tied for the gold medal. In 2017, Sarah Sjostrom set a new world record leading off Sweden’s 4×100 free relay, but it was Manuel standing atop the podium in the individual race. In Gwangju it was the same story, as Manuel powered her way to another win out of lane one in an American Record of 52.04, leaving Campbell with silver and Sjostrom bronze.

After a monster swim at the U.S. Trials, Manuel came through in the clutch once again. Out in 24.93, the Stanford grad came home in 26.88 to establish the #2 swim of all-time in 51.81, successfully defending the Olympic crown in the event for the first time since Dawn Fraser in the 1960s.

Campbell sat second at the 50 in 25.01, followed by Sjostrom in 25.13, but neither could make up ground on Manuel coming back. The Australian edged out the silver medal in 52.17, while Sjostrom repeats as the bronze medalist in 52.26.

Cate’s sister Bronte Campbell put together a quick 52.57 to take fourth, with Canadians Oleksiak (52.67) and Taylor Ruck (52.88) fifth and sixth. Freya Anderson (52.98) and Mallory Comerford (53.18) rounded out the final.


  1. Simone Manuel, USA, 51.81 OR
  2. Cate Campbell, AUS, 52.17
  3. Sarah Sjostrom, SWE, 52.26

Also On The Schedule

Women’s 200m Backstroke Semi-Finals

After an otherworldly 2:02.8 swim at the Olympic TrialsRegan Smith didn’t need to do much more than put it in cruise control to advance out of the semi-finals of the women’s 200 back. That’s essentially what the 18-year-old did, especially coming off her 200 fly final the previous night, as she eases to the top time from the first heat in 2:04.93. Kathleen Baker finishes second (2:06.56) and Taylor Ruck (2:07.05) is third, promptly getting out of the pool and racing off to get ready for the 100 free final.

Italy’s Margherita Panziera edges out a tight win in semi 2 in 2:05.61 over Kaylee McKeown (2:06.09), Kylie Masse (2:06.27), Katinka Hosszu (2:06.74) and Minna Atherton (2:06.84).

Men’s 100m Butterfly Semi-Finals

After an absurdly easy looking 50.22 in the prelims, which broke the Olympic Record, Caeleb Dressel pops the #2 swim of all-time in the second semi of the men’s 100 fly, splitting 22.96/26.63 for a time of 49.59. He’ll be aiming for his world record of 49.50 in tomorrow’s final. Kristof Milak (50.75) and Shinnosuke Ishikawa (51.19) place second and third in the heat, with Vini Lanza fourth in 51.50.

In the first semi it was Chad Le Clos (50.83) putting together a very good swim to out-touch 2019 silver medalist Andrei Minakov (50.87). Maxime Rooney (51.25) and Marius Kusch (51.31) qualified sixth and seventh.


Gold Silver Bronze Total
USA 10 4 8 22
Australia 3 4 7 14
Japan 2 5 1 8
Canada 5 2 7
Russia 3 2 1 6
Hungary 3 1 4
Italy 1 2 1 4
Great Britain 1 2 3
China 1 2 3
Lithuania 2 2
Sweden 1 1 2
Belarus 1 1
Netherlands 1 1
Norway 1 1
South Africa 1 1

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Woke Stasi

It’s the hottest ticket in Tokyo: the FINALS OF THE WOMEN’S 100 FREESTYLE. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invites some of his world leader buddies who have a special interest in the competition. They include Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (to see the Campbell sisters); Swedish PM Stefan Löfven (to see Sarah Sjostrom); Canadian PM Justin Trudeau (to see Penny Oleksiak and Taylor Ruck); and, US President Donald Trump (to see Simone Manuel and Shirley Babashoff). In a close race, Manuel out-touches Taylor Ruck (51.98 to 52.01). Bronte Campbell takes the bronze. After the medal ceremonies, the medalists walk around the swim arena. They spot the world leaders and go over to them. Taylor Ruck gives her medal to PM… Read more »

Corn Pop

The 100mt final is held up as The Donald is escorted from the arena for cheering on S Babashoff in lane 8 with Russia Russia Russia chants . He comes back after Reclaiming his Time & waves The USSR flag . Olympic officials begin Impeacment hearings & convicts him & sends the expulsion orders to The Japanese PM . Putin tells Abe he has no authority over the USSR as they have not signed final ww2 loser agreements with the USSR . Abe wanting those islands concedes & refuses to expel The Donald from the country . Meanwhile The Donald has set up protests out side the IOC office & is throwing in explosives & fighting off IOC enforcers. At… Read more »

Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo

My thoughts:
Larkin won’t be faster than 1:55 in 200 back.
Hagino winning silver in 200 IM is just unlikely. I’m surprised again by how optimistic swimswam is about him. He should be happy enough just to make the team. All his results since his comeback and all news about him suggest he’s far far far away from his peak.
Doubt MA could medal in 200 IM too. He’s not even among my picks to make the team.
Some young girl (Anderson?) will come up and win a medal in 100 free.

Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo

Hagino’s competition results this year: Kosuke Kitajima Cup, January 200 FR 1:52.19, ranking 10th in the final Then withdrew from the rest of competition. Konami Open, Febrary 400 IM 4:20.42, ranking 4th in the final (and the top 3 didn’t include Seto who chose not to enter this event). 200 IM 1:59.23, ranking 2nd in the final (and again Seto didn’t compete.) Japan has more strict qualifying time than Fina A Cut. For Hagino it’s 1:57.98 in 200 IM and 4:15.24 in 400 IM. If Olympics was held this year, the trials would have started in early April, and by the rule, it’s the only chance swimmers can be qualified for Tokyo. Hagino has to drop 1.3 seconds in 200… Read more »


Yeah, Hagino’s been in a tough spot in recent times.

I’m just glad he has at least one Olympic gold to show for his immense talent.


I have never been able to jump on the Michael Andrew hype train.


I agree Simone Manuel looks to be the most likely winner. But for the first time she will have the pressure of being the favourite. And for all those who say she’s an ice maiden there are plenty of examples where she’s had the pressure of defending a relay lead and has been swum over.


Good grief. Gotta find a way to put down a successful person, huh?

Woke Stasi

She’s a professional. She can handle both the pressure on the blocks, and the second-guessing from the fans.


I encourage you to watch The Weight of Gold.

Corn Pop

First World Pre Covid19 Troubles.

Dressel Should’ve Won 8

The 100 free world champ should not be getting outsplit by 1.25 seconds on a 100 free anchor… just saying



2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships
Women’s Event
4 x 100 meter freestyle relay
Campbell – 51.45
Manuel – 51.92

Dressel Should’ve Won 8

Manuel split 52.37 to Campbell’s 51.10 on the mixed medley relay. But still Manuel on two occasions blew leads on the anchor leg.


If there is anyone to replace on the women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay, it’s the boat anchor named Dahlia. Thank the Lord for the emergence of Erika Brown and Gretchen Walsh in the women’s 100 meter freestyle.

Woke Stasi

How about leading off with women in the mixed relay? Smith and King! 11 seconds behind halfway through! Then Boom and Boom: Dressel and Held for the victory. Would be exciting as heck to watch!


If Ryan Murphy will be as poor in the future as Ryan Murphy was at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships, the U.S. coaching staff will have no other choice than to select Regan Smith to lead off the mixed 4 x 100 meter medley relay.


He’s still over 5 sec clear of Smith even if 52 low. Breast has been about 5 sec with no US make under 59 and King at 104. Fly is obviously Dressel with 7 sec between him and Dalia at 56. Free would be about 5 sec between Simone and any US male. The US is one of the only contenders that could possibly get away with 2F2M due to the strength of their front half F and back half M. However I’d still have Murphy lead out, King would have a slight lead and only battle waves the 2nd 50, Dressel no issue with waves since he’s under water for 30m, Simone to choose with likely 7 other females.… Read more »


Smith 57.5 and male breaststroke split 58.5 is still quicker than Murphy 52.0 and King 1.04.3.

King is not a great relay swimmer and I have more confidence in Smith lowering her 100 back WR than Murphy.

I’d go Smith-M breast-Dressel-Manuel


Well, just take her off the relays and put in the other great American female sprinter capable of a 51 split to battle the AUS crew. I’ll wait for you to give me the name of that sprinter, …..

As much grief as I give C1, she’s the best world sprinter on a relay. That’s facts! Then you throw in C2/McKeon who swim low 52’s, that’s a lot to deal with. Like LeBron against the G St Warriors after they added K Durant.


In the last race of the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championship, the relay splits of the women’s 4 x 100 meter medley relay:

Manuel – 51.86
Campbell – 51.96

Who had the last laugh?


You’ve dug up one example out of numerous relay swims. Anyway, outsplitting someone 5i.86 to 51.96 is not a big deal when you have clear water and the whole world knew the USA women were not going to be beaten in the medley relay.


You have any better suggestions?

I came up with two names to replace Dahlia on the women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay.


At the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships, Simone Manuel swam five relays while Cate Campbell swam three relays. In total, Simone Manuel finished with four gold medals, three silver medals. What the medal tally for Cate Campbell? Here is one clue, Simone Manuel did not have to settle for bronze.


Aside from the mixed 4 x 100 meter medley relay, Simone Manuel was fairly consistent in the 100 meter freestyle relay splits: 51.86, 51.92, 52.00


One relay split out of five, does not determine a career. You completely forgot that Simone Manuel swam a personal best leading off the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay. Oh, so ungrateful!


This nitpicking at Simone is glaring. It’s obvious at this stage. We see you.


At what point does it stop? This race was a year ago. She has mentioned in several interviews (even recently) how hard the criticism over this relay has been. This place used to be relentless on Tom Shields until he opened up about his depression. Is it going to take another Olympic athlete to commit suicide to realize that these are human beings and not robots? They’re not perfect. They are going to have good and bad races.

Again, I encourage the critics to watch The Weight of Gold.


Not even Katie Ledecky is perfect even when healthy:

women’s 200 meter freestyle – 2017 (silver), 2018 (bronze)


Where’s the beef?

Is it the performance of the women”s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay? If so, the answer is not Kelsi Dahlia, Margo Geer, Lia Neal.

Meanwhile, the mixed 4 x 100 meter medley relay is not a traditional Summer Olympics event and was recently introduced at the FINA World Aquatics Championships.

Simone Manuel is an average freestyle relay sprinter, with the emphasis on relay relative to average, compared to Cate Campbell. However, look how far Simone Manuel has come from since the 2015 FINA World Aquatics Championships. Simone Manuel should be cherished not vilified.


Once she’s gone, they’ll realize she’s the 🐐 of USA female freestyle sprints.

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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