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.
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.
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.
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.
Also On The Schedule
Women’s 200m Backstroke Semi-Finals
After an otherworldly 2:02.8 swim at the Olympic Trials, Regan 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.
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.
MEDAL TABLE THROUGH DAY 6