The Olympics That Would Have Been: Milak Soars, Hosszu Defends On Day 4

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!

The world records were coming fast and furious on Day 3 in Tokyo, with some commenters rendered speechless with how fast the swimming was. Day 4 had a little bit of everything, with the long-reigning queen Katinka Hosszu looking to defend in the women’s 200 IM, the rising star Kristof Milak looking to make his first indent in Olympic history in the men’s 200 fly, and a pair of tightly matched shootouts in the women’s 200 free and men’s 4×200 free relay.

Day 4 Finals

Women’s 200m Freestyle Final

Four years ago it was perhaps the world’s greatest sprinter against the best distance swimmer. This time around, it was an absolutely stacked field of eight who all had a shot at the podium.

After Katie Ledecky‘s epic victory over Sarah Sjostrom in the 200 freestyle at the 2016 Games, the 2020 Olympic final featured a ridiculous lineup: defending champion Ledecky, two-time defending world champ Federica Pellegrini, reigning Commonwealth and Pan Pac champ Taylor Ruck, and then Ariarne Titmus, Siobhan Haughey, Emma McKeon and Yang Junxuan, who had all been 1:54 in the last 13 months. Rounding out the field was none other than the current Olympic and World Champion in the 100 free, Simone Manuel.

2019 fell a little short of expectations when Ledecky and McKeon bowed out due to illness, and Ruck opted to focus on the 100 back. But here, it was all hands on deck.

Generally at her best when she swims from the front, Ruck holds the slight edge at the 50 in 26.56, followed closely by Ledecky, Haughey and McKeon. Ruck extended her lead with a perfectly executed middle 100, splitting sub-57, as she was four-tenths up on Ledecky and six-tenths up on Titmus with one length to go.

Ruck and Ledecky both tightened up a bit coming home, leaving the door open for Titmus to slide through and snag her first Olympic gold medal in a Commonwealth Record time of 1:54.14. The 19-year-old had set the previous record leading off the 800 free relay in Gwangju in 1:54.27. Ruck ended up having the slowest final 50 in the entire field, but it didn’t matter in terms of the podium as she got to the wall in 1:54.33 for silver, with Ledecky 1:54.49 for bronze.

Pellegrini, who overtook Titmus on the last 50 to win gold in 2019, stormed home in 28.71 to edge out fourth place in 1:54.78 over Siobhan Haughey (1:54.97) and Yang Junxuan (1:55.25). Simone Manuel and Emma McKeon round out the field in 1:55-mids it what was one of the most competitive finals in recent memory.

PODIUM

  1. Ariarne Titmus, AUS, 1:54.14
  2. Taylor Ruck, CAN, 1:54.33
  3. Katie Ledecky, USA, 1:54.49

Men’s 200m Butterfly Final

Based off of his world record swim last year and form coming in, there was little controversy about who was expected to win gold in the men’s 200 fly. It shaped up to be Kristof Milak versus the clock up front, while the seven other finalists all figured to have a shot at a medal.

Chad Le Clos rocketed down the first 50 from lane seven, providing some outside smoke with an opening length of 24.41. Milak moved ahead on the second 50, turning in 52.77, and took off the rest of the way to reset his world record down to 1:50.54, chopping almost two-tenths from his 1:50.73.

Daiya Seto and Luca Urlando both put together strong middle 100s to pull within striking distance of Le Clos at the 150. Seto solidified silver with a closing 29.79 in 1:52.80, while Urlando hung tough, also back sub-30, to earn the bronze in 1:53.15. Le Clos places fourth in 1:53.63, one of his fastest performances ever, and Italy’s Federico Burdisso makes a big move out of lane one to land fifth in 1:54.23, edging Masato Sakai (1:54.35), Ukrainian Denys Kesyl (1:55.08) and Tamas Kenderesi (1:55.38).

PODIUM

  1. Kristof Milak, HUN, 1:50.54 WR
  2. Daiya Seto, JPN, 1:52.80
  3. Luca Urlando, USA, 1:53.15

Women’s 200m Individual Medley Final

Katinka Hosszu‘s unprecedented level of dominance in the women’s 200 IM has been nothing short of incredible dating back to 2013. With four consecutive World Championship titles, to go along with breaking the super-suited world record in 2015, Hosszu claims her second straight Olympic gold in the event with a wire-to-wire win.

The Hungarian produced the fastest split in the field on the first three 50s (27.47, 32.11, 36.66) and then closed things out on freestyle for a final time of 2:06.72, six-tenths off her all-time mark.

Occupying sixth, seventh and eighth at the 100m wall, Sydney PickremMelanie Margalis and Ye Shiwen moved through the field on breast and free and found themselves in a tight race for the minor medals coming down the stretch.

In the end, it was Pickrem hanging on to touch second in 2:08.47, winning her first Olympic medal after winning three Worlds medals in 2019. Fourth in 2016, Margalis clocks 2:08.68 for bronze and her first individual Olympic medal, with Ye just behind in 2:08.81.

Japan’s Yui Ohashi (2:09.19) and Rika Omoto (2:09.50) pick up fifth and sixth, with 2016 silver medalist Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (2:09.88) seventh.

PODIUM

  1. Katinka Hosszu, HUN, 2:06.72
  2. Sydney Pickrem, CAN, 2:08.47
  3. Melanie Margalis, USA, 2:08.68

Women’s 1500m Freestyle Final

You wouldn’t have guessed that Katie Ledecky only had four events of rest in between her 200 free bronze medal and the final of the women’s 1500 free, as the three-time World Champion reasserted herself as the best in the world after withdrawing from the event in Gwangju.

In the inaugural edition of the race at the Games, the American superstar led from the get-go, making the competition appear as though they were swimming against a current. Ledecky had set the world record in-season in May of 2018 at the Indianapolis Pro Swim Series and hadn’t raced it in a major international final since.

Attacking the event from the first 50, Ledecky checked in under world record pace at the 400 (4:03.75) and 800 (8:10.92) before keeping the red line at bay down the last lap for a final time of 15:19.01. The swim lowers her previous mark of 15:20.48 by almost 1.5 seconds and gives her now the 11 top swims of all-time.

Simona Quadarella, the 2019 world champion, pulled away from a group that included Sarah KohlerWang Jianjiahe and Delfina Pignatiello around the halfway mark and claimed silver in 15:39.78, joining Ledecky and Lotte Friis in the elusive sub-15:40 club.

Wang produced a strong back half as well to take the third spot on the podium for the second time this week in 15:47.79, with the 20-year-old Argentine Pignatiello under 15:50 for the first time in fourth (15:49.44). Ajna Kesely (15:53.28) and Erica Sullivan (15:56.11) also had strong finishes to move past Kohler late in fifth and sixth.

PODIUM

  1. Katie Ledecky, USA, 15:19.01 WR
  2. Simona Quadarella, ITA, 15:39.78
  3. Wang Jianjiahe, CHN, 15:47.79

Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Final

Beginning in 2004, the American men had dominated the 4×200 free relay at the Olympics, winning four straight titles that had featured all-time greats Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. The World Championships had become a different story, as their streak of five straight was snapped in 2015 by Great Britain. The Brits would repeat in 2017, and then Australia got back on top for the first time since 2003 last year.

Those three countries, along with the Russians, all projected to have an incredibly close race with so many men capable of going 1:45. Throw in the Italians, who had a standout fourth in 2019, and Brazil, who upset everyone to win the 2018 SC Worlds, and this race promised several twists and turns over the course of seven minutes.

Leading off for Great Britain was individual silver medalist Duncan Scott, who was going head-to-head with Aussie Clyde Lewis, American Andrew Seliskar, Russia’s Aleksandr Krasnykh and Italy’s Filippo Megli. Lewis got out fast but was run down by Scott coming home, giving Great Britain a small lead in 1:44.93 to Lewis’ 1:45.02. Seliskar, Krasnykh and Megli were all 1:45-mids.

Mikhail Dovgalyuk (1:44.63) and Blake Pieroni (1:44.84) gained a little bit of ground for Russia and the U.S. on the second leg, but the lead still belonged to the Brits who received a 1:45.22 from Tom Dean.

Kyle Chalmers and Kieran Smith both blazed down the pool on the third leg in 1:44.9s, as Chalmers handed off the lead to Mack Horton on the anchor. Townley Haas‘ opening flying split of 23.53 put the Americans in front, and then it was a wild sprint to the finish with four teams in contention.

Haas manages to hold on to keep the American streak alive in the event with a final time of 7:00.32, splitting 1:44.9, while James Guy rallies back in 1:44.16 to pickup silver for GBR just over a tenth back. The Aussies hang on for bronze in 7:00.50, with Russia (7:00.67) getting a 1:44.8 anchor from Martin Malyutin for fourth.

PODIUM

1.United States                          7:00.32

  1. Seliskar,Andrew            1:45.59
  2. Pieroni,Blake                 1:44.84 (3:30.43)
  3. Smith,Kieran                 1:44.97 (5:15.40)
  4. Haas,Townley               1:44.92 (7:00.32)

2.Great Britain                       7:00.44

  1. Scott,Duncan           1:44.93
  2. Dean,Tom                 1:45.22 (3:30.15)
  3. Richards,Matthew   1:46.13 (5:16.28)
  4. Guy,James                1:44.16 (7:00.44)

3.Australia                              7:00.50

  1. Lewis,Clyde                   1:45.02
  2. Graham,Alexander       1:45.24 (3:30.26)
  3. Chalmers,Kyle               1:44.90 (5:15.16)
  4. Horton,Mack                 1:45.34 (7:00.50)

Also On The Schedule

Men’s 100m Freestyle Semi-Finals

Cruising through in second and fourth overall in the heats, Kyle Chalmers and Caeleb Dressel put on a show in the first semi of the men’s 100 free. Dressel gives up the lead with 25 meters to go but his patented final push brings him into the wall in 47.29 — followed by Chalmers in 47.43 — as the two tower over their competitors. Hungarian Nandor Nemeth uncorks a 47.88 for third in the heat. The second semi was incredibly close, with Ryan Held laying down the law in 47.39 to steal the #2 seed away from Chalmers. He was followed by Vladislav Grinev (47.74), Vladimir Morozov (47.85) and Duncan Scott (47.99). Alessandro Miressi and He Junyi tie for eighth in 48.12, setting up a swim-off later in the session, while Brent Hayden (48.19) and Marcelo Chierighini (48.24) have near-misses.

Swim-Off

With not a ton of rest, Miressi gets it done in 48.43 to He’s 48.81.

Women’s 200m Butterfly Semi-Finals

Things are looking good for the Americans in the women’s 200 fly as Regan Smith (2:05.94) and Hali Flickinger (2:05.38) win the two semis and advance 1-2 into tomorrow’s final. Flickinger got the monkey off her back at Trials, swimming her fastest time of the meet in the final, and looks to redeem the 2019 Worlds where her times ascended through the three rounds and ultimately finished with silver. Boglarka Kapas (2:07.32), Suzuka Hasegawa (2:07.58) and Laura Stephens (2:07.69) advance third through fifth.

Men’s 200m Breaststroke Semi-Finals

It’s an elite semi-final showdown in the men’s 200 breast as Anton Chupkov uses his unmatched closing speed to run down Arno Kamminga and James Wilby to win the first heat in an Olympic Record of 2:06.79. Australian Matthew Wilson also goes under 2:07 in 2:06.95 out of semi #2, with Ippei Watanabe, Andrew Wilson and Will Licon all in the 2:07-mids.

MEDAL TABLE THROUGH DAY 4

Gold Silver Bronze Total
USA 7 6 13
Australia 2 2 5 9
Canada 5 1 6
Japan 1 3 1 5
Great Britain 1 2 3
Hungary 3 3
Russia 2 1 3
China 1 2 3
Lithuania 2 2
Italy 1 1 2
Sweden 1 1
Belarus 1 1
Netherlands 1 1

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rafal
2 months ago

This is very entertaining.

I would love to see such a tense 4×200 final !!!

And I hope Radosław Kawęcki will make it to 200 back final, but it’s a wishful thinking I’m afraid.

Yaboi
2 months ago

Not sure if I agree with the US pulling off the 800 free relay gold medal, we’ll have to see how things pull together at trials. Also would expect to see at least 1 woman under 1:54 in the 2 free final.

KatyJ
Reply to  Yaboi
2 months ago

more likely Scott finishes for GB than Guy

Dee
Reply to  KatyJ
2 months ago

If GBR feel they can be competitive at 400m without Guy & Scott, they’ll load them up on the end. They’ve done that a few times previously. I think Guy owns anchor now, Duncan has raced leg 1, 2 and 3 for GBR previously so he seems to be the one they’re happy to be flexible with.

Lola
Reply to  Dee
2 months ago

I can only see Scott leading them out, can’t see they’d risk one of the others on the first leg unless Dean makes massive strides next year. Also, quite a statement to assume Matt Richards will be in the final four, Callum Jarvis could have something to say about that.

Dee
Reply to  Lola
2 months ago

He went 1.46.0 in March, in his only race of 2020. 1.45s are winning individual medals at Worlds. How does he require a massive improvement? Also, I don’t think I assumed Richards gets the final, I said GBRs gold medal chances may well hinge on him. If he improves enough to be better than Jarvis, I.e split 1.45mid or better we’ll be warm favourites (imo). If it’s Jarvis, still an extremely strong swimmer and reliable, but perhaps no scope to inprove on past showings which may limit GBR slightly.

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  Yaboi
2 months ago

Not gonna happen. The homerism has gone way over the top.

swimfast
Reply to  Yaboi
2 months ago

if Scott anchors for GB and is within striking distance of the americans at that point, would anyone doubt he’d go 1:42? he led off last year in 1:44 high, has seemed to be improving generally since then, and anchored in 46.1 in the 400 last year. 1:44.9 is a very weak time to give him…..i mean, his 100 free split is faster than anyone ever, except lezak, and the guy is great at the 400 IM and mile (ie 46.1 100 free + 400 IM/1500 = ??? 200 time) …..i think he could pull a 1:42 anchor easily

Dee
Reply to  swimfast
2 months ago

I wouldn’t use his relay anchor for decipher anything. Sometimes freak events happen in sport. Treat them as the exception, not the rule, until they do it a second time. My first coach told me he liked to get the measures of a swimmers ability by looking at their 2nd and 3rd fastest times, rather than their PB. I now find myself doing that ha.

Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
2 months ago

my prediction:
women’s 200 free: Titmus, Ledecky, Pellegrini
Ruck hasn’t been close to 1:54 since she went to university. I won’t put my money in her unless she shows something special at trials.

men’s 200 fly: same as SwimSwam’s prediction, but I would like to see Burdisso or Kesil medal.

women’s 200 IM: Hosszu, Baker, Pickrem

women’s 1500 free: same as SwimSwam

Men’s 4×200 free: USA, RUS, GBR.

Brownish
Reply to  Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
2 months ago

Or Kenderesi.
Milák 1:49…,

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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