Tokyo 2020 Men’s 100 Free Final: Fastest Qualification Times in History

2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games

Men’s 100 Freestyle

One of the most anticipated finals on Day 5 in Tokyo will the that of the men’s 100 freestyle. While it is a perennial favorite with fans the world over, what makes this year’s race even more exciting is its potential to be the fastest 100 freestyle final in history.

On the potential chopping block will be Eamon Sullivan’s Olympic Record of 47.05 from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and Cesar Cielo’s World Record of 46.91 from the 2009 World Championships in Rome. Both records were set during the “super suit” era, when swimmers raced in full-body suits that incorporated polyurethane, a rubbery substance, with woven elastane-nylon into the suit’s material, giving swimmers extra buoyancy and reducing fatigue. Beginning in 2010, FINA banned the super suits and only allowed suits made out of textiles.

Over 200 World Records were broken in 2008 and 2009 combined.

Now, at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the finalist in the men’s 100 freestyle have finally shown themselves to be the fastest in history. The men’s final, scheduled for Thursday morning in Tokyo, will have been the hardest to qualify for, with the fastest qualifier in lane 4 – Russian Olympic Committee’s Kliment Kolesnikov (47.11) – and the fastest qualifier in lane 8 – France’s Maxime Grousset (47.82). Meanwhile, USA’s Caeleb Dressel is the only finalist who has already been under 47 seconds in his career.

In fact, Serbia’s Andrej Barna (47.94), who finished 9th in the semifinals, would have made the final in 2009 ahead of South Africa’s Lyndon Ferns (47.96) and France’s Frederick Bousquet (47.98). And Barna, Russia’s Andrei Minakov (48.08), USA’s Zach Apple (48.04), Italy’s Thomas Ceccon (48.05), Great Britain’s Jacob Whittle (48.11), and Canada’s Joshua Liendo (48.19) were all faster than 2016’s 8th qualifier, Marcelo Chierighini of Brazil (48.23).

Top 8 Qualifiers for Final (2009 vs 2016 vs 2020)

Below are the top eight finishers out of the semifinals of the 2009 World Championships, where the World Record was set, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo:

  2009 Worlds     2016 Olympics     2020 Olympics    
Rank Name Nation Time Name Nation Time Name Nation Time
1 Alain Bernard France 47.27 Nathan Adrian United States 47.83 Kliment Kolesnikov ROC 47.11
2 César Cielo Brazil 47.48 Kyle Chalmers Australia 47.88 Caeleb Dressel United States 47.23
3 Stefan Nystrand Sweden 47.53 Santo Condorelli Canada 47.93 Alessandro Miressi Italy 47.52
4 Nicolas Oliveira Brazil 47.78 Cameron McEvoy Australia 47.93 Hwang Sun-woo South Korea 47.56
5 Brent Hayden Canada 47.88 Caeleb Dressel United States 47.97 David Popovici Romania 47.72
6 David Walters USA 47.92 Pieter Timmers Belgium 48.14 Kyle Chalmers Australia 47.80
7 Lyndon Ferns South Africa 47.96 Duncan Scott Great Britain 48.20 Nándor Németh Hungary 47.81
8 Frédérick Bousquet France 47.98 Marcelo Chierighini Brazil 48.23 Maxime Grousset France 47.82

13 out of the top 20 men’s 100 free performances of all time, and 5 of the top-10 performers, come out of the 2008-2009 era. Kolesnikov’s 47.11 made him the 8th-fastest performer. All eyes will be on Kolesnikov, USA’s Caeleb Dressel, defending Olympic Champion Kyle Chalmers of Australia, World Junior Record-holder David Popovici of Romania, and the rest of the field as they try to make history tomorrow morning.


Rank Swimmer Time Date
1 Cesar Cielo (BRA) 46.91 2009
2 Alain Bernard (FRA) 46.94 2009
3 Caeleb Dressel (USA) 46.96 2019
4 Cameron McEvoy (AUS) 47.04 2016
5 Eamon Sullivan (AUS) 47.05 2008
6 Kyle Chalmers (AUS) 47.08 2019
7 James Magnussen (AUS) 47.10 2012
8 Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS) 47.11 2021
9 Frederick Bousquet (FRA) 47.15 2009
10 Brent Hayden (CAN) 47.27 2009


Rank Swimmer Time Date
1 Cesar Cielo (BRA) 46.91 2009
2 Alain Bernard (FRA) 46.94 2009
3 Caeleb Dressel (USA) 46.96 2019
4 Cameron McEvoy (AUS) 47.04 2016
5 Eamon Sullivan (AUS) 47.05 2008
6 Kyle Chalmers (AUS) 47.08 2019
7 Cesar Cielo (BRA) 47.09 2009
8 James Magnussen (AUS) 47.10 2012
9 Alain Bernard (FRA) 47.12 2009
10 Cesar Cielo (BRA) 47.13 2009
11 Frederick Bousquet (FRA) 47.15 2009
12 Caeleb Dressel (USA) 47.17 2017
13 Alain Bernard (FRA) 47.20 2008
14 Alain Bernard (FRA) 47.21 2008
15 Caeleb Dressel (USA) 47.22 2017
16 Eamon Sullivan (AUS) 47.24 2008
17 Frederick Bousquet (FRA) 47.25 2009
18 Caeleb Dressel (USA) 47.26 2017
19 Alain Bernard (FRA) 47.27 2009
19 Brent Hayden (CAN) 47.27 2009


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1 year ago

So the Aussies pre race agreed, that the 4 x 200m would be a complete swap.

1 year ago

So are they blaming Dressel for the poor 4 x 200
I’m sure it was offered to him but he declined.

Reply to  Stephen
1 year ago

He has said all year that he wanted to be on that final relay. Dave Durden along with other coaches failed to put him into the line-up.

Reply to  Stephen
1 year ago

Where did you see that it was offered to him?

Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

I’m sure it was offered to him. Isn’t he the great sprint sensation?
No seriously……..if he jumped up and down hard enough he would’ve been added.
Just my view.

Reply to  Stephen
1 year ago

So you’re not sure he was offered it. Glad that’s settled.

1 year ago

I use 21.64 and 47.84 as my benchmarks for holy crap times.

Perhaps I should lower them after this year.

1 year ago

WOW the top qualifier in Rio (Nathan Adrian 47.83) wouldn’t qualify for this final (47.82). Insane and great improvement from these athletes

Coach Rob
1 year ago

It was pretty fast I’d have to say. Go Dressel! Beat the ROC!

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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