Tokyo 2020 Olympic Swimming Previews: Sjostrom’s 100 Fly Title & WR in Jeopardy

Click here to see all of our Tokyo 2020 Olympic Previews.

2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Women’s 100 Butterfly

If there is one event in swimming that has gotten faster each year, even with the 2010 super-suit ban and the 2020 pandemic, it’s the women’s 100 fly. The winning, 3rd place, and 6th place times in the Olympic final and the qualifying time to make the 100 fly final have improved every year since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The winning times from the 2012 and 2016 Olympics both were both sub-56 world records. Meanwhile, the third-place finisher has been sub-57 after the 2008 Olympics, which featured the now-banned full-body super-suits. Likewise, it took sub-58 to qualify for the Olympic final after the 2008 Olympics.

Winning Time 3rd Place 6th Place Semifinals QT
2008 Beijing 56.73 57.25 58.06 58.39
2012 London 55.98 56.94 57.35 57.79
2016 Rio 55.48 56.63 57.05 57.51

Emma McKeon, Maggie MacNeil, Sarah Sjostrom  (photo: Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol)

After Canadian Maggie MacNeil became the third woman to break 56 seconds by defeating the current world record-holder at 55.83 at age 19, three more women broke 56 seconds following the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2020, 23-year-old Zhang Yufei of China ripped a monster 55.62 Asian record to threaten the 55.48 world record. Fast forward to just last month, both Aussie veteran Emma McKeon (55.93) and 18-year-old American Torri Huske (55.66) broke the 56-second barrier virtually hours apart at their respective Olympic Trials meets.

Scrolling down the official Olympic psych sheets, the top 4 seeds are all sub-56. Highlighting the top of the psych sheet are Zhang and Huske, both separated by four one-hundredths of a second while MacNeil is seeded a tenth ahead of McKeon. 16-year-old American Claire Curzan and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, defining the top 6 cutline at 56.20 and 56.22, respectively. Swede Louise Hansson‘s post-pandemic best time of 56.73 from the 2021 Swim Open Stockholm and Belarusian Anastasiya Shkurdai‘s national record swim of 56.95 from the 2020 Belarus Open Cup bring the top 8 seeds all under the 57-second barrier. If the entire top 8 seeds qualify into semifinals and swim as fast as their entry times, it could take sub-57 to qualify for the Olympic final for the first time in history.

The top two seeds (Zhang/Huske) are separated by five years in age while the next two fastest seeds (MacNeil/McKeon) are separated by six years in age. No. 5 seed Curzan enters this meet two one-hundredths ahead of world record-holder Sjostrom, who is 11 years older than the world junior record-holder.

Top 8 Tokyo Entry Times

1 Zhang Yufei (23) CHN 55.62 2020 Chinese Championships
2 Torri Huske (18) USA 55.66 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials
3 Maggie MacNeil (21) CAN 55.83 2019 World Championships
4 Emma McKeon (27) AUS 55.93 2021 Australian Swimming Trials
5 Claire Curzan (16) USA 56.20 2021 TAC Titans LC Primier Meet
6 Sarah Sjostrom (27) SWE 56.22 2019 World Championships
7 Louise Hansson (24) SWE 56.73 2021 Swim Open Stockholm
8 Anastasiya Shkurdai (18) BLR 56.95 2020 Belarus Open Cup

Looking at the official preliminary start lists, Curzan, the current world junior record-holder, and MacNeil, the current Canadian national/former Americas record-holder, are set to swim side-by-side in the first circle-seeded heat. At the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials, Curzan did not best her 56.20 lifetime best, hitting 56.43 to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Likewise, MacNeil enters this meet with a 2020-2021 season best of 56.14, just six one-hundredths ahead of Curzan but three-tenths over her 2019 lifetime best.

In the second circle-seeded heat, Huske, the current American/Americas record-holder, will face-off for the first time against European/world record-holder Sjostrom in the middle lanes. Sjostrom announced recently her decision to swim this event in Tokyo, entering the meet with a 2020-2021 season best of 57.34, which ranks 10th in the world and 8th among other participants’ current season bests. In February 2021, Sjostrom got an elbow injury and had only begun to swim butterfly in May.

On a different note, Huske has an extremely high chance of either breaking the world record and/or earning a medal. If Huske were to win the Olympic final, she would be the fourth American to win a 100 fly Olympic title in 37 years, succeeding Mary T. Meagher (1984), Amy Van Dyken (1996), and Dana Vollmer (2012). If Huske (and/or Curzan) were to medal in this event, that would make it a fourth consecutive Olympics an American woman medalled in the 100 fly. Before Vollmer’s back-to-back Olympic medal performances, Christine Magnuson took silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

However, if Sjostrom were to advance to the final and at least medal, she would be the third woman in history to remain on the podium at the Olympics following their title. Dutchwoman Inge de Bruijn won the 2000 Olympic title and then took bronze in 2004 while American Dana Vollmer followed suit by winning the 2012 title and earning bronze in 2016. In the possibility Sjostrom were to win the Tokyo Olympic title, she would be the first woman in history to successfully defend her 100 fly Olympic title.

Yufei Zhang

Yufei Zhang (photo: Mike Lewis)

In the final heat, Zhang, the current Asian record-holder, and McKeon, the current Australian/Oceanian record-holder, will face-off for the first time in person. While Zhang hit 55.62 in September 2020, she was able to pull off a second sub-56 performance of 55.73 at the 2021 Chinese Nationals, a mere 0.11s over her current 2020-2021 season/lifetime best. If Zhang were to win this Olympic title, she would be the first Asian/Chinese woman to win the 100 fly Olympic title in 29 years since China’s Qian Hong won the 100 fly Olympic title at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. If Zhang were to break the world record, she would be the first Chinese woman to ever hold the 100 fly world record.

While post-pandemic sub-56 breakers Zhang and Huske repeated their barrier-breaking performances, McKeon swam her 55.93 national record during the Australian Olympic Trials final. Therefore, McKeon not only has a high chance of pulling off her second sub-56 performance in Tokyo, but could easily overwhelm a two-tenths drop and threaten Zhang/Huske in the final. McKeon were to win, she would break a 2-Olympic-long title drought in this event since Petra Thomas and Libby Trickett‘s back-to-back titles in ’04 and ’08. If McKeon were to at least medal, she would break an Olympic-long medal drought since Alicia Coutts‘ bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

SWIMSWAM’S OFFICIAL TOP 8 PICKS

Place Swimmer Country Best Time Since 2016 Olympics
1 Maggie MacNeil CAN 55.83
2 Zhang Yufei CHN 55.62
3 Emma McKeon AUS 55.93
4 Torri Huske USA 55.66
5 Sarah Sjostrom SWE 56.22
6 Claire Curzan USA 56.20
7 Louise Hansson SWE 56.73
8 Anastasiya Shkurdai BLR 56.95

Dark Horse Threat: Lana Pudar (BIH), 57.37 — The Bosnian and Herzegovinian teen is currently one of the best junior and senior European swimmers in this event. Pudar tore up her current lifetime best and national record of 57.37 at the 2021 Serbian Open in March, breaking Amina Kajtaz’s 2019 BIH national record (59.08) and the first BIH FINA “A” cut swim in the event. Pudar also won the 2021 European junior title at 57.56 by a half second, which would have won bronze at the senior European meet. She is currently in a three-way tie for 3rd on the 2021 European rankings with 2021 senior European co-champions Marie Wattel (FRA) and Anna Ntontounaki (GRE). Pudar is also tied as the 12th seed on the psych sheets, yet is the 4th-fastest teenager in the top-16. With all these points, Pudar could build massive momentum if qualified into the semifinals and potentially carve her own spot into the Olympic final at age 15.

In This Story

28
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of
28 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
WhoGoesHere
2 months ago

Aww cmon – give Huske a medal! I had her for gold threat, but definitely a top 3 finisher. It’s one of the first events, and she has only that plus the medley relay. I see her doing quite well, at least replicating her trials time or very close to it.

Honest Observer
Reply to  WhoGoesHere
2 months ago

Couldn’t agree more. Huske swam almost .3 faster than McKeon at the same time, delivered on the second biggest stage (US Trials), and is younger and therefore theoretically improving faster. She should get at least a bronze.

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  WhoGoesHere
2 months ago

Torri Huske’s time in the semifinals of the women’s 100 meter butterfly at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials is faster than the personal best times of MacNeil and McKeon.

whever
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
2 months ago

You know the final rankings at Olympics are usually very different from the world rankings prior to the Games? MacNeil will most likely lower her PB given her age and progression curve in yards.

njones
Reply to  whever
2 months ago

Macneil is significantly faster in 2021 yards than in 2019 when she went 55.8LC….so… after a 56.1 effort last month ‘unrested’ as she was pre-qualified, her ceiling coming up is pretty high. I may be the 1st to say it… “50…frickn…4….”…!!!!!

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  WhoGoesHere
2 months ago

How many of the other swimmers aside from Huske will be swimming the women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay?

Canadianh20
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
2 months ago

MacNeil, McKeon, sjostrom, wattel

Walter
Reply to  WhoGoesHere
2 months ago

This is why they swim the race…

Backstrokebro
2 months ago

Huske not getting on the podium is a pretty bold call. I predict, at the very least, the American record will go down again. Likely in the semi.

Not Tapered 🏊
Reply to  Backstrokebro
2 months ago

Huske for the win

Jordan Chan
2 months ago

Congrats on finishing all the previews!! Kudos to everyone on the SwimSwam team!!

commonwombat
2 months ago

Heart wants Sarah to win this or at least medal; head tells me this will be a tall order.

Think the win is between Zhang, McNeill and maybe Huske. If its swum in 55higher, then McKeon enters the medal picture.

  1. Zhang 2. McNeill 3. Huske but with no great confidence
Robbos
Reply to  commonwombat
2 months ago

You have any worries on Huske lack of experience & youth?

commonwombat
Reply to  Robbos
2 months ago

A reasonable quotient however her time puts her right in that equation.

Those are the 3 (in the absence of Sjostrom) that I see are the prime candidates in anything other than a slower than expected race. In all honesty, the order could be any which way.

I can see McKeon potentially dropping maybe 0.1 – 0.2 but sceptical of anything more hence I see her needing a slightly slower final.

Robbos
Reply to  commonwombat
2 months ago

I tend to agree.

M d e
Reply to  commonwombat
2 months ago

I think McKeon will medal but not win.

I trust her to be more consistent than any of the other top swimmers, I don’t think she is likely at all to underperform.

But she probably needs all the other top swimmers to be a little slower than their best to win. Only needs 1 to be a little off to medal.

commonwombat
Reply to  M d e
2 months ago

Wouldn’t be surprised if she does medal and would be happy if she does but I think its freestyle where I see her doing most damage if she’s “on” for a great meet.

TeamDressel
2 months ago

I feel like Sjostrom will make a significant comeback and go 55 high-56 low which may not be enough to media. Then again she could also absolutely pop off and go a personal best while breaking her own world record. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see

Sly
Reply to  TeamDressel
2 months ago

Love Sarah but she’s definitely not breaking her WR

Jón Bjarnason
Reply to  TeamDressel
2 months ago

Well, she was the fastest home in heats.
She looked very pleased and surprised.. it’s as if you know something that the rest of us don’t 🙂

wow
2 months ago

MacNeil and Zhang 1-2 in no particular order.
Huske and McKeon 3-4 in no particular order.
My Dark horse(s): Curzan. Was off at trials, still qualified. Been 56.20 this year. Also, Shkurdai.

Last edited 2 months ago by wow
Robbos
2 months ago

McNeil for me, with Huske & McKeon for podium.

Swimfan
2 months ago

Huske for me. She has that same underwater as coughlin in Beijing (dolphin kick on the side which according rowdy the most efficient/power)

Not Tapered 🏊
Reply to  Swimfan
2 months ago

Thankful to have Rowdy in the booth for another Olympics. 🎙️

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

Read More »