Tokyo 2020, North America Day 5: US Women Beat 4×200 WR But Finish 2nd Again


The final race of day 6 finals at the Tokyo Games was an absolute dog fight until the very end. The Chinese and Australian contingents passed the lead back and forth for nearly the entire race, all the while nearly a body length ahead of world record pace.

The USA seemed to be out of contention for gold until the last leg of the race when powerhouse Katie Ledecky overtook Australia and bearly ran down Chinese anchor Li Bingjie. While Katie Ledecky managed to out-split Bingjie’s 1:55.30 closing split with a 1:53.76, China had too much of a lead and finished the race in a 7:40.33 to the USA’s 7:40.73.

When the Australians came into the wall with a 7:41.29 for bronze, all 3 of the top teams had swum under the former world records held by the Aussies (7:41.50) from the 2019 World Championships.

While the biggest storyline here is China’s stellar performance, there’s also something important to note about the USA’s performance. Their swim at the Tokyo 2020 Games marks the second straight time that the American team swam under the former world record in a 4×200 freestyle final but wound up coming second place, thus not achieving an official world record.

At the 2019 World Championships, the American team of Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky, Melanie Margalis, and Katie McLaughlin swam a 7:41.87 American record to take second place to Australia’s 7:41.50. Both swims marked the first occasions of any women’s 4×200 freestyle teams getting under 7:42, improving upon China’s 7:42.08 from the 2009 World Championships.

An Olympic and World Championships silver medal are enough to be proud of on their own but it would be equally as tough knowing that one was within less than half a second of the gold medal and world record.

The USA have won Olympic gold at the last 2 Games but was a little over the Chinese 2009 world record both times, hitting a 7:42.92 in 2012 and a 7:43.03 in 2016. Further, the last time the USA women held the world record in the event was back in 2007 when they hit a 7:50.09 at World Championships to take the mark from the Germans.


  • While the USA women touched for 2nd place in the 4×200 freestyle, Caeleb Dressel and Bobby Finke both managed to claim Olympic gold for themselves in the 100 and 800 freestyles, respectively. Dressel scorched a 47.02 Olympic record to claim gold while Bobby Finke earned his medal with a 7:41.87 800 free.
  • Hali Flickinger and Regan Smith both picked up their second individual medals of the Games in the 200 butterfly. Smith took silver with a 2:05.30, while Flickinger was bronze in a 2:05.65.
  • Nic Fink was just off the podium in the men’s 200 breast final, notching a 2:07.93 for 5th place.
  • Defending 100 freestyle champion Penny Oleksiak got herself into a second straight Olympic final by swimming a 52.86 for Canada in the semi-final. Abbey Weitzeil of the USA also got a spot in the heat, notching a 52.99 for 7th place.
  • Also qualifying for a final was USA’s Annie Lazor and Lilly King who notched a 3rd and 5th place finish in the women’s 200 breast semi-final.
  • Finally, Michael Andrew got into the Olympic 200 IM final with his 1:57.08 for 4th in the semis.


  • Bobby Finke’s 800 free win marked a new American record, improving upon his own 7:42.72 from prelims.
  • Dressel wasn’t quite at his best in the men’s 100 freestyle final but did manage to notch a new Olympic record of 47.02 to improve upon Eamon Sullivan’s 47.05 from 2008.
  • Since it was under the former world record, the American women’s 4×200 freestyle swim of 7:40.73 marked a new American and Americas record.


USA 21 6 7 8
Canada 4 1 2 1

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1 month ago

Smith took silver in 200 fly, not Gold.

Reply to  tnp101
1 month ago

Zhang Yufei with the performance of the morning. That’s a brutal double.

1 month ago

“Second again”or US obliterates expectations! way to go USA!

Reply to  FREEBEE
1 month ago

Alot of hand wringing prior to the relay.

1 month ago

To think, I doubted team captain Allison Schmitt. Forgive me, I was wrong!

Reply to  Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
1 month ago

You also doubted Katie Ledecky saying that she will never be a contender again in 200 FR
But I forgive you 😀

Reply to  Yozhik
1 month ago


What I stated was that Katie Ledecky should have dropped the women’s 200 meter freestyle from her program since it conflicted with the women’s 1500 meter freestyle at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. The women’s 200 meter/1500 meter freestyle double/double (heats/final) has never been previously scheduled at a major international competition. It’s the definition of insanity.

Furthermore, I have posted in another article Katie Ledecky’s prowess in the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay.

The proposed schedule eliminates the potential for session doubles whether the international competition is the Summer Olympics or the FINA World Aquatics Championships:

Women’s 400 meter freestyle
Women’s 800 meter freestyle
Women’s 1500 meter freestyle
Women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle… Read more »

Philip Johnson
1 month ago

To my Australian friends,

You think the Australian Trials being closer to the Olympics (mirroring the US model) is here to stay? It seems most of your swimmers are performing very well compared to past Olympics.

Reply to  Philip Johnson
1 month ago

One, the time zone difference between Australia and Japan, or lack thereof, has to be a factor.

Two, the coronavirus pandemic has not impacted Australia as severely as the rest of the world.

Reply to  Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
1 month ago

From what I hear, America’s top swimmers stayed in the pool the whole way thorough the pandemic – Dressel, Ledecky, Manuel etc. All of Australia’s top swimmers were out of the pool for 6 weeks or more. ( a lot more in Melbourne). some managed some winter ocean swimming.
If you want to argue time zones, is that the reason USA did well in Rio?
Pretty sure the trials will stay closer to the meet as Australia did this year and in 2019.
We have a great group of swimmers. That helps.

1 month ago

After having for many years out-of-reach “rubber suit” world record in 4×200 relay it was surpassed four times during last 2 years. But look how really tough it became. To beat it again each swimmer on the team has to be 55.0 performer.

1 month ago

To date, the only dud (slower than the U.S. Olympic Team Trials) on the women’s freestyle relays has been Erika Brown (54.02) in the women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay.

1 month ago

Anyone know why Allison blacked out the TYR on her tech suit for the finals of the 4×200, but not in any other race?

Reply to  Anonymous
1 month ago

I wondering that too…

Reply to  MNSwammer
1 month ago

Maybe she thought she could get away with it but was then told to hide it.

1 month ago

It is still difficult for me to process the fact the USA had a shot at gold medal. No shame in getting silver.