2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
- When: Pool swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Open Water swimming: Wednesday, August 4 – Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Where: Olympic Aquatics Centre / Tokyo, Japan
- Heats: 7 PM / Semifinals & Finals: 10:30 AM (Local time)
- Full aquatics schedule
- SwimSwam Event Previews
- Start Lists & Results
Men’s 800 freestyle
- World Record: Zhang Lin (CHN) – 7:32.12 (2009)
- Olympic Record: N/A
- World Junior Record: Mack Horton (AUS) – 7:45.67 (2013)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: N/A
The men’s 800 free is making its Olympic debut this year, along with the women’s 1500, and the mixed medley relay. We’ve seen the men’s 800 competed at the World Championships for a very long time, but Tokyo 2020 marks the first time men’s freestylers will have the opportunity to add the event to their Olympic schedules. Due to this, we’ve already seen a few swimmers notably seem to shift their focus from the 1500 to the shorter 800.
One such swimmer is Italy’s Gabriele Detti, who won Bronze at the 2016 Olympics in the men’s 1500, but seemingly dropped the event after 2017. Detti enters the meet with the 2nd-fastest personal best in the field – 7:40.77, which he swam for Gold at the 2017 World Championships. He followed up his 2017 Gold with a 5th-place finish at the 2019 World Championships, where he swam a 7:43.89. This year, Detti has swum 7:46 at both the Italian National Championships, and the European Championships. We know that Detti has what it takes to earn a medal in this crowded 800 field, and if he’s able to get back to his 2017 form, he could win Gold.
Standing firmly in Detti’s way on his path to a potential Gold medal is fellow Italian star Gregorio Paltrinieri. Paltrinieri is the top seed in this field and has the fastest lifetime best of the group. He’s also the only swimmer in the field to have broken 7:40 in the event, which he did when he won Gold at the 2019 World Championships in 7:39.27. Paltrinieri has been exceptional in the 800 free for years, following up his 2019 season with a 7:40.22 in 2020, and a 7:41.96 so far in 2021.
Paltrinieri would be the hands down favorite in this event if not for his mononucleosis diagnosis last month. It was reported that Paltrinieri only experienced mild mono symptoms, and he’s told reporters that he’s feeling “great,” however, it should be noted that even mild mono cases can cause lingering fatigue. Even so, the 800 is Paltrinieri’s first event, and his shortest. When you consider how consistently fast he’s been in the 800 for years now, he’ll still be a major competitor in Tokyo.
Attempting to interrupt the Italian duo will be Frenchman David Aubry, who was the Bronze medalist at the 2019 World Championships with his personal best of 7:42.08. It’s hard to gauge where Aubry is at in the 800, because since swimming his 7:42 in 2019, Aubry was only 7:52.64 in December of 2020, and hasn’t yet raced the 800 in 2021. Regardless, Aubry is still a medal contender, and one of the best 800 freestylers in the world today. He’s also opted out of swimming the 1500 in Tokyo, seemingly in an effort to focus on the 800 and the 10k open water race.
Norway’s Henrik Christiansen is in a similar situation to Aubry. Christiansen is the reigning World Championships Silver medalist, thanks to his lifetime best 7:41.28 performance in that meet. However, since then, he’s only been under 7:50 again once, when he swam a 7:47.99 at the European Championships in May of this year. Like Aubry, we know Christiansen has the ability to win a medal in this event, maybe even Gold, because we’ve seen him race at that level before in this Olympic cycle.
Perhaps the swimmer posing the most significant threat is Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk, who has been a model of consistency in the 800 free since 2018. In 2018, Romanchuk swam a 7:42.96 at the European Championships, which was his fastest time of the year. Then, he clocked a 7:42.49 in April of 2019, which would prove to be his fastest time of 2019. In 2020, Romanchuk posted a 7:43.90 in March, and this year, he’s already been as fast as 7:42.61. Although Romanchuk is the 4th seed and has the 5th-fastest best time in the field, he might pose the biggest threat to paltrinieri simply because we can confidently project that he will be right around 7:42 in Tokyo. What makes Romanchuk so deadly here is because we don’t really know if Christiansen, Aubry, and Detti will get back down to that speed, and we also don’t know if Paltrinieri is truly 100% healthy.
Australia’s Jack McLoughlin is another extremely dangerous swimmer in this field. McLoughlin is the only medal-contending swimmer in the field who has swum their lifetime best in 2021. At the Australian Trials in June, McLoughlin posted a 7:42.51, just under his previous best of 7:42.64, which he swam at the 2019 World Championships for a 4th-place finish. If McLoughlin is able to match his Trials performance, he’ll be right there in the mix of medal contenders. If he’s able to go another lifetime best, we may just see McLoughlin standing at the top of the podium when it’s all said and done.
Germany’s Florian Wellbrock, SwimSwam’s pick to win Gold in the 1500 free, enters the meet as the #6 seed, with his personal best of 7:43.03. Wellbrock’s strongest event in pool swimming is the 1500, but he’s still very likely to make the final here in the 800. Wellbrock hasn’t been terribly consistent in this race over the last few years, posting season bests of 7:45.60 in 2018, 7:43.03 in 2019, 7:49.44 in 2020, and 7:48.12 so far in 2021. It would most likely take a lifetime best performance from Wellbrock to earn a medal in this race.
Austria’s Felix Auboeck, a product of the University of Michigan, enters the meet as the 9th seed, with a 7:46.72. Auboeck’s 7:46 came in April of this year, and was a breakthrough swim for him, taking 3 seconds off his lifetime best. The performance also put Auboeck in great position to make a run at earning a lane in the final.
Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui, just 18 years old, swam a lifetime best of 7:45.54 just one month ago at French Nationals. The swim suddenly put Hafnaoui in the top 8 seeds for the meet. If he matches his June performance, he’ll have no problem finishing in the top 8 in prelims.
TOP PERFORMANCES IN 2016-2021 OLYMPIC CYCLE (1 PER PERSON)
- Gregorio Paltrinieri, ITA – 7:39.27 (2019)
- Gabriele Detti, ITA – 7:40.77 (2017)
- Henrik Christiansen, NOR – 7:41.28 (2019)
- Wojciech Wojdak, POL – 7:41.73 (2017)
- David Aubry, FRA – 7:42.08 (2019)
- Mykhailo Romanchuk, UKR – 7:42.49 (2019)
- Jack McLoughlin, AUS – 7:42.51 (2021)
- Florian Wellbrock, GER – 7:43.03 (2019)
- Zane Grothe, USA – 7:43.74 (2018)
- Sun Yang, CHN– 7:45.01 (2019)
SWIMSWAM’S TOP 8 PICKS
|PLACE||SWIMMER||COUNTRY||BEST TIME SINCE 2016 OLYMPICS|
Dark Horse – Bobby Finke (USA): Bobby Finke enters the meet as the 12th seed, with his personal best of 7:47.58. Finke swam a 7:48.22 at U.S. Olympic Trials in June, which earned him his first Olympic berth. Finke much more of a contender in the men’s 1500 later in the meet, but his SCY (Short Course Yards) dominance can’t be overlooked. He’s displayed a level of consistency that’s rarely seen in the sport in his yards swimming, and if his LCM racing can catch up to that, he could make waves in this event.