Tokyo 2020 Olympic Previews: Stars Vie To Fill Phelps’ Void in the Men’s 200 IM

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2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Men’s 200 IM

  • World Record: Ryan Lochte (USA) – 1:54.00 (2011)
  • Olympic Record: Michael Phelps (USA) – 1:54.23 (2008)
  • World Junior Record: Hubert Kos (HUN) – 1:56.99 (2021)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Michael Phelps (USA) – 1:54.66

Tokyo will witness a new champion in this event for the first time since 2000 as Michael Phelps’ (second and seemingly final) retirement will bring to a close his record streak of four-straight titles. However, a pair of American and Japanese stars are among the leading contenders to fill the void left by Phelps’ absence.

Michael Andrew of the USA etched his name into the record books at the U.S. Trials, blasting a 1:55.26 in the semi-finals to become the 5th-fastest performer in history. Andrew’s “fly and die” approach generates plenty of discussion, and drama, but it seems to be working for him, as he has the fastest time in the world by 0.76s this calendar year. But, for a quick comparison, here’s how Andrew’s splits from Trials compare to the lifetime best swims from the five other men who are among the top ten performers all-time and are schedule to swim this event in Tokyo.

Fly Back Breast Free Total
Michael Andrew (2021) 23.90 29.19 32.21 29.96 1:55.26
Kosuke Hagino (2016) 24.43 28.43 34.08 28.13 1:55.07
Laszlo Cseh (2009) 24.72 29.06 33.62 27.78 1:55.18
Chase Kalisz (2018) 25.44 29.14 32.60 28.22 1:55.40
Daiya Seto (2020) 24.58 29.29 33.06 28.62 1:55.55
Mitch Larkin (2019) 25.03 29.46 33.55 27.68 1:55.72

Andrew’s teammate and Phelps’ former training partner Chase Kalisz took 2nd at US Trials with a time of 1:56.97. He swims his race totally different than Andrew, taking it relatively easy on the front half, then hammering the competition with a blistering breaststroke leg. He won gold in this event both at 2017 Worlds and 2018 Pan Pacs in 1:55.40, and if he can get back into that range, he’ll be in the hunt for a medal.

Daiya Seto

Daiya Seto
Gwangju – Korea
Sport swimming
18th FINA World Championships Gwangju
Courtesy of Rafael Domeyko

While they haven’t been near the top of the world rankings this year, a pair of Japanese stars will be contending who’ve been regular contenders on the world stage in this event. First up is defending World champion Daiya Seto. He’s “only” been 1:57.41 so far this season, but has been 4:09 in the 400 IM recently, and clocked a 1:59 in the 200 IM minutes after swimming 1:57 200 fly at the Japan Open. He’s openly targeting Michael Phelps’ 400 IM world record, and if he’s anywhere close to that, he should be a lock for a medal in this event. However, this will come at the end of a pretty packed schedule for Seto — he’s also scheduled to swim the 400 IM and the 200 fly.

Kosuke Hagino won back-to-back silvers at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds, and while, like Seto, he’s only been 1:57 this year, he’s the 3rd-fastest performer ever in the event, with a 1:55.07 from April 2016, just a few months before the Rio Olympics. While Hagino has taken on busy schedules before, this time around he’s focusing on this event and won’t be swimming the 400 IM or the 200 back, two events in which he ranks among the fastest of all time.

China’s Wang Shun has been looking strong over the last year, clocking a 1:56.27 back in October and then a 1:56.78 this spring. The 27 year-old has was a fixture on medal stands for a few years, earning bronze in Rio and at the 2017 World Champs, winning gold at the 2018 Asian Games and the 2018 Short Course World Champs, before slipping to 6th at the 2019 World Champs.

Great Britain’s Duncan Scott has honed on this event recently, and he clocked a 1:55.90 at Trials to break the British record. Scott finished 5th in this event at the 2018 World Championships. This will be a new Olympic event for Scott, who’s traditionally been more of a freestyler and has medaled individually in the 100 and 200 freestyles at major international meets,

Rio 200 back silver medalist Mitch Larkin will be not be aiming to repeat his medal performance in that event, and instead, he’ll be swimming the 200 IM, which was more of an area of focus when he was younger. He has 4th-fastest time in the world this year with a 1:56.29, and went 1:55.72 back in 2019.

Hugo Gonzalez heads to Tokyo with the 5th-fastest time in the world this season, a 1:56.31 from last month’s Mare Nostrum meet. Gonzalez looked sharp at that meet, setting a meet and Spanish national record with that time, and it wouldn’t take much of a drop to put his name into contention for at least a minor medal.

Germany’s Phillip Heintz is a veteran at this point, having competed in this event both in 2012, when he didn’t make it out of prelims, and in 2016, when he finished 6th. He was 1:56.42 back in December, and holds the German national record in the even with a 1:55.76 from the 2017 German Championships.

2019 World silver medalist Jeremy Desplanches of Switzerland earned that same medal behind Gonzalez at Euros earlier this year, putting up the #7 time in the world with a 1:56.95.

Hungary’s Hubert Kos cracked the world junior record with his 1:56.99 back in May in semis as Euros, a time that would’ve earned him bronze had he repeated it in finals. Instead, that bronze medal went to Alberto Razzetti, whose 1:57.13 from April’s Italian Olympic Trials puts him just inside the top ten in the world this year.

China’s Qin Haiyang, Russia’s Andrey Zhilkin, and South Africa’s Matthew Sates are all seeded in the top 15 and any could make a run at the top 8 with relatively small drops.

Laszlo Cseh 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

Finally, it’s worth noting that this could be the last Olympic swim for Hungarian legend Laszlo Cseh, who took silver in this event in 2008 (one of three individual silvers behind Phelps) and bronze in 2012, and also earned a silver in the 100 fly, tying with Phelps, in Rio. Cseh’s best time since 2016 is a 1:57.79 from the 2019 Worlds, so he doesn’t project to be in the medal hunt, but it’d be foolish to completely discount the possibility that Cseh could pull together one last great swim and at least find himself in the final.

Place Swimmer Country
Best Time Since 2016 Olympics
1 Michael Andrew USA 1:55.26
2 Daiya Seto Japan 1:55.55
3 Chase Kalisz USA 1:55.40
5 Duncan Scott Great Britain 1:55.90
4 Mitch Larkin Australia 1:55.72
6 Shun Wang China 1:56.16
7 Kosuke Hagino Japan 1:56.01
8 Hugo Gonzalez Spain 1:56.31

Dark horse: Swims fans who follow NCAA swimming closely may recognize the name of Caio Pumputis, who’s had a solid career at Georgia Tech. He’s seeded 16th with a 1:57.70 from 2019 and went 1:58.53 during April’s Brazilian Trials — a meet that was affected by adverse weather conditions and slow overall.

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Marklewis
3 days ago

Interesting to see all the splits lined up among the top competitors.

Michael Andrew is counting on no one being able to close a 2 second gap on the freestyle to overtake him.

Mitch Larkin has the fastest free split at 27.68. That is more than two seconds faster than MA. Larkin’s back split is only 29.2, which seems slow for a world champion backstroker. If he improved his back split, he could catch MA coming into the finish.

Sub13
Reply to  Marklewis
3 days ago

I was surprised Mitch chose this over the 200 back. But yes, it is odd that his back split is slower than MA considering back is his specialty.

Honestly I don’t see Mitch winning. Would be great if he could make the podium.

It’s quite sad to me that Mitch will likely end up with no Olympic gold after a pretty solid career.

Dudeman
Reply to  Sub13
3 days ago

200 back would be a guaranteed medal (most likely silver or bronze), if he could go 1:54. The 200IM is tighter, but the gold medal is wide open so I can see why he may have picked that, either event he has a good shot at a medal no matter the colour

Hank
Reply to  Sub13
2 days ago

That’s too often how it goes for the Aussies. They tend to choke at the Olympics.

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Marklewis
3 days ago

Mitch lucky to be 1:55 high

Caleb
3 days ago

Gonzalez will be on the podium, write it down. This race is a lot like the 200 free, easily half a dozen guys (or more) with a realistic chance to win. A serious gold contender or two won’t make the final. I’ll roll the dice and say MA for Gold, Gonzalez for silver and Seto for Bronze. Scott 4th.

Scotty P
Reply to  Caleb
3 days ago

My boy Hugo trolling the world after that NCAA performance.

Hank
Reply to  Caleb
2 days ago

Is that speedy Gonzalez?

Bobo Gigi
3 days ago

It’s gonna be fun to watch.
Catch me if you can.
😎

Relay Enthusiast
Reply to  Bobo Gigi
3 days ago

Duncan Scott will chase down Michael Andrew just like he chased down Nathan Adrian in 2019 lol. Michael Andrew often chokes in finals and he will have Duncan Scott breathing down his neck.

Are you nervous yet?

Scuncan Dott
Reply to  Relay Enthusiast
3 days ago

I actually think this could be how it pans out. We say at British trials in the 200 free that it was Dean who took Scott out fast, and Scott was still able to come home strong. So if MA takes it out fast and Scott stays with him, you’d bet that he can come back on him in the final 50. I’d say it’s all about how big a gap MA has going into the final turn.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Relay Enthusiast
3 days ago

I’m not a Michael Andrew fan but if he has a huge lead nobody will catch him. Comparative times don’t matter nearly as much as the simple reality that massive collapses don’t happen at highest level. The outlier exceptions are meaningless. Andrew’s style is actually a huge boost to not only Tokyo but the future of the event. Other competitors will realize they can’t afford to treat it like four separate legs and go at their own pace. Stay adrift and say goodbye. I think we’ll see several of them take it out harder than they otherwise would.

Yabo
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
3 days ago

I’m rather opposed to this fly and die strategy honestly, and I think it’s unfair to say that people treat it like four separate legs. Time and time again it has been shown in the 200s that while going out fast is important coming home fast is just as if not more important, just look at the splits for any world record of any 200 and you’ll see this. I think the way MA swims the 200IM demonstrates three things: 1) poor freestyle technique, 2) a complete lack of an aerobic base, and 3) awful energy control. I think MA is an undeniable talent but if he would just fix his breath, do some more aerobic work, and figured out… Read more »

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
3 days ago

He’ll be 29.3 on the final 50, so they’ll have no chance.

PVSFree
3 days ago

Didn’t realize that Seto’s best time in the 200 IM puts him theoretically AHEAD of MA at the 100. This is gonna be a super fun race to watch.

Marklewis
Reply to  PVSFree
3 days ago

I think you mean Hagino.

PVSFree
Reply to  Marklewis
3 days ago

Yup, 100% meant Hagino. Reading comprehension is a skill folks

DBS
Reply to  PVSFree
3 days ago

You mean Hagino’s 52.86, right?

Would have bet a lot of gummy bears that MA’s 100 split from trials was the fastest in history. Even Lochte’s world record swim wasn’t out faster ( 53.48 to MA’s 53.09 )

anonymous
Reply to  DBS
3 days ago

Well TBH I wouldn’t be surprised if MA went out in a 52.5

Dee
3 days ago

I’m not sure I can see Kalisz getting it done in the 200 this time – He’ll need to be not too far away his PB to medal, how likely does that look this time? I had half a dozen names ahead of him on my list.

Negyvegyes
3 days ago

The freestyle splits of the previous 10 olympic gold medalists:
1972: 29.10 Gunnar Larsson (SWE)
1984: 28.14 Alex Baumann (CAN)
1988: 27.73 Tamás Darnyi (HUN)
1992: 27.53 Tamás Darnyi (HUN)
1996: 29.04 Attila Czene (HUN)
2000: 28.10 Massimiliano Rosolino (ITA)
2004: 27.77 Michael Phelps (USA)
2008: 27.33 Michael Phelps (USA)
2012: 27.68 Michael Phelps (USA)
2016: 27.70 Michael Phelps (USA)

It’s crazy, that Andrew could win this with the slowest freestyle leg in the last 50 years.

Marklewis
Reply to  Negyvegyes
3 days ago

He says that he’s going to be better on the free in Tokyo.

He said that at Hawaii training camp.

Little Mermaid
Reply to  Marklewis
3 days ago

I said I was going to lose 50lbs in 6 months that was before I started to work at Hershey! Now I gained a little more!

Marklewis
Reply to  Little Mermaid
3 days ago

But Michael said it very earnestly in that way that that he talks.

Seeing will be believing with the Catch Me If You Can boy.

Hank
Reply to  Marklewis
2 days ago

And MA is still getting faster. Can you really say that about Kalisz, Hagino, Seto, Heintz, Larkin, or Laszlo Cseh for that matter? Scott seems like the biggest threat to MA for Gold followed by Seto.

Sam B
Reply to  Negyvegyes
3 days ago

Darnyi was amazing

Edvin
Reply to  Negyvegyes
3 days ago

Training with other coaches around will probably have helped him a lot with technuiqe

Dudeman
Reply to  Edvin
3 days ago

You think his dad would let other coaches input anything directly to michael?

Eouai
3 days ago

Probably not a popular opinion, but I think MA goes slower than he did at trials. I’d put him at 1:56 low / 1:55 high.

I think those performing well (and ahead of MA) will be Seto, Scott, Hagino, Gonzalez, and Kos.

Mr Piano
Reply to  Eouai
3 days ago

I see no reason why he’d lose to all of those people. A 1:55 high will medal

Attis76
3 days ago

I have a good feeling about Kos. He’s making the final and since he’s young with a JWR I would not rule out a huge drop regarding his best time.

Last edited 3 days ago by Attis76
leisurely1:29
Reply to  Attis76
3 days ago

Will go 1:55 in semis, celebrate on the lane line, and proceed to get 8th in the finals.

Attis76
Reply to  leisurely1:29
3 days ago

You think that’s how his career will go down? And it’s not like it is so uncommon among swimmers to do better in the prelims/semis than in the finals. Let alone for a kid of his age.