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.
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).
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 Pickrem, Melanie 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.
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 Kohler, Wang 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.
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.
1.United States 7:00.32
- Seliskar,Andrew 1:45.59
- Pieroni,Blake 1:44.84 (3:30.43)
- Smith,Kieran 1:44.97 (5:15.40)
- Haas,Townley 1:44.92 (7:00.32)
2.Great Britain 7:00.44
- Scott,Duncan 1:44.93
- Dean,Tom 1:45.22 (3:30.15)
- Richards,Matthew 1:46.13 (5:16.28)
- Guy,James 1:44.16 (7:00.44)
- Lewis,Clyde 1:45.02
- Graham,Alexander 1:45.24 (3:30.26)
- Chalmers,Kyle 1:44.90 (5:15.16)
- 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.
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