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. Feel free to add your own predictions, picks, humorous quips and more in the comments below!
Today would’ve marked Day 1 of a long, exciting eight-day marathon of Olympic swimming in 2020. Viewers in the U.S. would’ve woken up to some prelim action from Tokyo, where it would be evening, with the first finals session set to go at night.
With the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the event until 2021, we thought we’d still speculate, celebrate, enjoy what was supposed to be the most anticipated week of the quad in the swimming universe with a day-by-day fantasy recap of what could’ve happened in Tokyo.
The Day 1 schedule features finals in the men’s 400 free and 400 IM, the women’s 400 IM and 4×100 free relay, and semi-final action in the women’s 100 fly and men’s 100 breast.
Day 1 Finals
Men’s 400m Individual Medley Final
Having been on a tear for the better part of the last two years, including lowering the short course world record and becoming the fifth-fastest all-time in long course with a 4:06.09, Japan’s Daiya Seto was in full control throughout the course of the men’s 400 IM.
Blasting out to the lead on the fly, turning under world record pace in 54.26, Seto flew to the gold medal in a sizzling time of 4:04.91, becoming just the second man to crack 4:05. Seto’s countryman Kosuke Hagino, the defending champion from 2016, uses a 27.36 final length to run down American Chase Kalisz for silver in 4:06.94, sending the home crowd into a frenzy with a 1-2 on the opening event.
Kalisz takes bronze in 4:07.15, right on where he was at Trials, while up-and-coming Greek swimmer Apostolos Papastamos (4:09.13) edges out American Jay Litherland (4:09.34) and Great Britain’s Max Litchfield (4:09.67) for fourth.
Men’s 400m Freestyle Final
Essentially an unstoppable force in this event since 2012, only succumbing to rival Mack Horton at the 2016 Olympic Games, the final of the men’s 400 freestyle felt just a little bit strange with the absence of Sun Yang.
With Sun out due to his eight-year ban, it was Lithuanian Danas Rapsys who took the race by storm. At the 2019 World Championships, the top-four finishers (Sun, Horton, Italy’s Gabriele Detti and Rapsys) all negative-split the final. Rapsys opted for a different approach here, turning in a blazing 1:49.45 at the 200 to open up a significant lead on the pack. 26-low coming home brought him into the wall in 3:41.67, moving to #8 all-time.
Defending champ Horton pulled clear of Elijah Winnington on the penultimate 50 and picked up silver in 3:42.49, while Winnington edged out Italy’s Gabriele Detti (3:43.37) for bronze in 3:43.23. Horton and Winnington had prevailed in a wild race at Aussie Trials against Jack McLoughlin.
Women’s 400m Individual Medley
It wasn’t quite the start she had in Rio, but Hungarian Katinka Hosszu opens her Tokyo program with a successful title defense in the women’s 400 IM, clocking a time of 4:27.92. Though known for her strong front-half, it was the breaststroke leg where Hosszu pulled away from Japan’s Yui Ohashi, splitting 1:15.71, en route to the #2 swim of all-time. Ohashi gives the home nation three medals through three finals with a silver in 4:30.56.
2012 Olympic champion Ye Shiwen of China used her incredible breast/free combo to run down Canadian Sydney Pickrem for the bronze, touching in 4:31.68 to Pickrem’s 4:32.70. Canada’s Emily Overholt (4:34.33) repeats her fifth-place finish from Rio, edging American Melanie Margalis (4:34.66).
Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay
The Australian women have reigned supreme in the women’s 4×100 free relay in recent years, having won two straight Olympic golds and two of the last three World titles, thanks in large part to the formidable sister duo of Cate and Bronte Campbell. Things didn’t change in Tokyo.
It was a three-horse race between the Aussies, Americans and Canadians, just like it was in Gwangju, and it was ultimately the Campbell sisters who kept the title down under.
After Emma McKeon gave them a slight lead on the opening leg, Taylor Ruck unloaded a massive 52.07 second split to give Canada the edge by almost a full second. Bronte cut the Aussie deficit down to two-tenths coming into the anchor, and then it was Cate with another signature anchor leg (51.38) to give Australia a new world record in 3:29.99.
Simone Manuel also produced a fourth-leg under 52 seconds for the U.S., going 51.92, but Penny Oleksiak held her off to earn Canada the silver in 3:30.72. The United States takes bronze in 3:30.87, and the Dutch women took fourth with notable legs from Femke Heemskerk (52.61) and Ranomi Kromowidjojo (52.80).
In fifth, Sweden was led by individual world record holder Sarah Sjostrom, who blazed down the pool on the second leg in 51.55.
1.Australia, 3:29.99 WR
- McKeon,Emma 52.83 (52.83)
- Throssell,Brianna 53.46 (1:46.29)
- Campbell,Bronte 52.32 (2:38.61)
- Campbell,Cate 51.38 (3:29.99)
- Sanchez,Kayla 53.23 (53.23)
- Ruck,Taylor 52.07 (1:45.30)
- MacNeil,Maggie 53.14 (2:38.44)
- Oleksiak,Penny 52.28 (3:30.72)
3.United States, 3:30.87
- Comerford,Mallory 52.91 (52.91)
- Brown,Erika 53.25 (1:46.16)
- Weitzeil,Abbey 52.79 (2:38.95)
- Manuel,Simone 51.92 (3:30.87)
Also On The Schedule:
Women’s 100m Butterfly Semi-Finals
Sjostrom, the defending champion, looks to assert herself after being upset by MacNeil at the 2019 World Championships. The Swede puts up the top time of the semis in 56.05, followed closely by American Kelsi Dahlia (56.33), MacNeil (56.45) and McKeon (56.50). Belarusian Anastasiya Shkurdai (56.64), Sweden’s Louise Hansson (56.93) and France’s Marie Wattel (57.06) also have standout swims to advance.
Men’s 100m Breaststroke Semi-Finals
As per usual, Adam Peaty makes it look easy in the men’s 100 breast. After cruising to a 58.08 in the heats, the Brit knocks down a 57.06 from semi-final 2 for a new Olympic Record and the top qualifying spot by over a second. Dutchman Arno Kamminga becomes the #2 swimmer of all-time from the same heat in 58.11, and Italian Nicolo Martinenghi hits 58.49 for third in the heat and overall. American Andrew Wilson (58.66) edges Belarus’ Ilya Shymanovich (58.69) in semi 1.