The Olympics That Would Have Been: Smith, Murphy & King Lead U.S. Gold Rush

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!

It was a wild Day 2 in Tokyo as all the big stars came to play, and day three promises to be the same with four highly anticipated finals and three sets of semis.


Men’s 200m Freestyle Final

It was a swim reminiscent of Yannick Agnel‘s in 2012, as Danas Rapsys obliterated the men’s 200 free field in 1:43.64, leading from start to finish. The performance was a redemption swim of sorts, as Rapsys had touched first in the final at the 2019 World Championships before being disqualified for a false start. He becomes the first swimmer to win multiple gold medals, relays included, at the Games.

In a wild scramble for the minor medals, Duncan Scott utilized his phenomenal closing speed to snag silver in 1:44.72, followed by Katsuhiro Matsumoto (1:44.86) who continues Japan’s successful run in the pool.

James Guy (1:44.94) and Clyde Lewis (1:45.10) finish fourth and fifth, while American teammates Andrew Seliskar and Blake Pieroni finish in a tie for sixth at 1:45.50.


  1. Danas Rapsys, LTU, 1:43.64
  2. Duncan Scott, GBR, 1:44.72
  3. Katsuhiro Matsumoto, JPN, 1:44.86

Women’s 100m Backstroke Final

After first setting the world record leading off the women’s medley relay at last summer’s World Championships, American phenom Regan Smith claims her first major international title in the women’s 100 back with Olympic gold. Smith lowers the all-time mark for a third time, ripping a 56.87.

In a close race for silver, Kylie Masse slipped under her Canadian Record in 58.08 with a powerful final 15 meters to edge out Australia’s Minna Atherton, who picks up the first Olympic medal of her career with bronze in 58.26. Taylor Ruck places fourth in 58.54, followed by Kathleen Baker (58.65) and Kaylee McKeown (58.80).


  1. Regan Smith, USA, 56.87 WR
  2. Kylie Masse, CAN, 58.08
  3. Minna Atherton, AUS, 58.26

Men’s 100m Backstroke Final

After dominating in Rio, Ryan Murphy had his position as the best male 100 backstroker on earth challenged. The former NCAA star was defeated in both 2017 and 2019, though he did put on a clinic at the 2018 Pan Pacs. The 25-year-old proved once again he performs when the pressure is highest, out-duelling China’s Xu Jiayu and Russia’s Evgeny Rylov for gold in the men’s 100 back.

Xu flipped in an absurdly fast 24.92, but Murphy soared home in 26.64 to clip him at the wall, 51.69 to 51.78. The swim lowers the world record set by Xu in the semis (51.82). Rylov, who hit 51.98 in the semis, records a 52.19 to win the bronze medal.

50 back world record holder Kliment Kolesnikov has the best 100 swim of his career to pick up fourth in 52.46, edging Australian Mitch Larkin (52.53) and American Matt Grevers (52.72).


  1. Ryan Murphy, USA, 51.69 WR
  2. Xu Jiayu, CHN, 51.78
  3. Evgeny Rylov, RUS, 52.19

Women’s 100m Breaststroke Final

After an intense pre-race staredown, Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova went head-to-head for the fourth consecutive time in a major international final. Never one to crack under pressure, King opens up fast — 29.69 — not far off her 50 world record. Efimova appears to be gaining ground through the 75, but King surges towards the end and defends the gold, clocking 1:03.96. The swim is a new world record for King, breaking her 1:04.13 from 2017 and the first-ever sub-1:04.

Efimova once again settles for silver behind King, finishing in 1:04.65. Italian youngster Benedetta Pilato rockets out on the first 50 from lane eight and turns second to King in 30.30. The 15-year-old holds off the field coming home to snag bronze in 1:05.61, just ahead of China’s Yu Jingyao (1:05.69). Martina Carraro makes it two Italians inside the top-five in 1:05.79. Rounding out the field are Annie Lazor (1:05.84), Reona Aoki (1:06.07) and Kelsey Wog (1:06.18).


  1. Lilly King, USA, 1:03.96 WR
  2. Yuliya Efimova, RUS, 1:04.65
  3. Benedetta Pilato, ITA, 1:05.61

Also On The Schedule

Women’s 200m Freestyle Semi-Finals

After qualifying sixth in the prelims, Siobhan Haughey unloads a major swim in the first semi-final of the women’s 200 free, touching in 1:54.68 to take out Ariarne Titmus (1:55.27), Federica Pellegrini (1:55.51) and Yang Junxuan (1:55.89). In heat two, top prelim qualifier Katie Ledecky and Canada’s Taylor Ruck finish in a dead-heat — 1:54.92 — to share the second seed for the final. Emma McKeon is a close third in 1:55.33. Simone Manuel rounds out the qualifiers in eighth (1:55.97).

Men’s 200m Butterfly Semi-Finals

Hungary’s Kristof Milak makes his first appearance in a finals session after cruising to a 1:54.33 in the prelims of the men’s 200 fly. The 2019 world champion and world record holder makes it look easy in the first semi, flying to a time of 1:52.26. 2016 Olympic silver and bronze medalists Masato Sakai (1:54.49) and Tamas Kenderesi (1:54.62) finish second and third in the heat. In semi 2, Daiya Seto backs up his 1:53.78 from the prelims in 1:52.65, signalling that, at the very least, Milak will need to be on point to win the final. U.S. junior star Luca Urlando rocks a 1:53.48 to take the #3 seed overall, while South Africa’s Chad Le Clos rebounds from missing the 200 free final with a solid 1:54.75 for sixth.

Women’s 200m Individual Medley Semi-Finals

Similar to what we saw at the 2019 World Championships, Katinka Hosszu shows off her breaststroking ability — often perceived as her weakest of the four strokes — in the semis of the women’s 200 IM, blasting the field’s top split in 36.60 to qualify first for the final in 2:07.57. Melanie Margalis of the U.S. qualifies second overall after winning the first semi in 2:08.43, while Rika Omoto (2:08.69), Sydney Pickrem (2:08.75), Ye Shiwen (2:09.05) and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (2:09.39) follow.

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3 world records in a row? This Olympiad would have been a treat


The thing about having the 3 world record holders in the race is all they need to do is go a best time…

Yes, that is easier said than done (at least for two of them)


Kylie Masse will be 25 years old, Kathleen Baker will be 24 years old, while Regan Smith will be 19 years old. If anyone still has upside it’s Regan Smith. Besides, the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team will not sizzle without Bacon.

Ryan Jacobsen

To be 24 and on the decline.


…is what happens with most swimmers.


Is she declining or just been eclipsed at the peak of her powers?


2020 Top Performers – Women’s 100 BK LCM
Smith (DOB 09 Feb 2002) – 58.18 (03/07/2020)
Baker (DOB 28 Feb 1997) – 58.56 (03/07/2020)
Bacon (DOB 12 Aug 2002) – 58.86 (01/18/2020)
Smoliga (DOB 12 Oct 1994) – 59.25 (03/07/2020)


Not buying it especially with the ridiculous times posted.

Women’s 100 meter backstroke
Smith – 57.75
Masse – 58.45
Bacon – 58.60

Masse won the women’s 100 meter backstroke at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championship with a time of 58.60 and the 2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships with a time of 58.61.


I don’t know where you got the idea that all medalists in the 100 back would break the WR. I was referring to Smith, Murphy, and King all breaking their world records, and I believe Virtus was as well.


Somehow Ryan Murphy will break the world record in the men’s 100 meter backstroke when Ryan Murphy failed to medal in the men’s 100 meter backstroke at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships. Based on what, blind homerism?

Ryan Jacobsen

Agree, Murphy will be lucky to grab a spot on the podium.


I never said Murphy would break the world record. I just said that in order to do so, all he has to do is go a best time.


Masse, Baker, Smith have respectively broken the world record in the women’s 100 meter backstroke in calendar years 2017, 2018, 2019.


I also predict that Katie Ledecky will not swim the women’s 200 meter freestyle in order to focus on the women’s 1500 meter freestyle.


LOL! Regan Smith was the only female swimmer to break a world record at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships. If Regan Smith breaks a world record at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, I predict the range will be between 57.50 and 57.55.


I think the Rapsys prediction is pretty good but I think the Americans will do better. Kieran Smith is probably going to have a break out long course swim after his 500 free I think he could be top four. Then I’m just hoping that Eddie has been keeping Haas on a four year taper cycle.


200free final.
Danas Rapsy 1.43.8
Duncan Scott 1.44.1
Kieran Smith or Tom Dean 1.44.4
Haas won’t qualify individually, out max and back in a body bag.

Ryan Jacobsen

Rapsy 1:44.2 and Scott – 1:45.2

4-year taper cycle 😂 amazing

Miss M

Surely Chalmers is better than 8th in the final?

Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo

my username says it.

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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