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
WOMEN’S 200 FREESTYLE
- World Record: Federica Pellegrini (ITA) – 1:52.98 (2009)
- Olympic Record: Allison Schmitt (USA) – 1:53.61 (2012)
- World Junior Record: Yang Junxuan (CHN) – 1:55.43 (2019)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: Katie Ledecky (USA) – 1:53.73
The story of the women’s 200 freestyle in the five years since Rio has been the unbelievable longevity and staying power of Federica Pellegrini, who turned back the clock and upset the likes of Katie Ledecky (2017) and Ariarne Titmus (2019) to win back-to-back World Championship titles in the event.
Pellegrini’s career in the 200 free is one of legend, having won a medal in the event at a staggering eight consecutive World Championships, but closing out her career with a second Olympic gold now seems to be far out of reach.
This isn’t because Pellegrini is incapable of a medal-worthy swim, but simply due to the excellence shown by Titmus last month at the Australian Olympic Trials.
TITMUS ON TOP
Titmus, 12 years Pellegrini’s junior at 20, produced an unbelievable time of 1:53.09 in June, ranking second all-time behind Pellegrini’s super-suited world record of 1:52.98 from 2009.
That swim from Titmus blew her previous best time out of the water, a 1:54.27 done on the lead-off leg of Australia’s 800 free relay at those 2019 Worlds, and came shortly after she had a similar performance in the 400 free (putting up the #2 time in history at 3:56.90).
In what was projected to be a battle between Ledecky, the defending Olympic champion, and Titmus, the race now appears to be for silver with the Aussie well out ahead of the pack. Behind Titmus’ 1:53.09, the next-fastest swim since the beginning of 2019 is Pellegrini’s 1:54.22 from Gwangju. Ledecky’s fastest in that time is 1:54.40, done earlier this year, while her only sub-1:54 was done in the Rio final five years ago.
Ledecky certainly hasn’t been at her best this year, but the 200 is where she’s shown the most promise, with that 1:54.40 from April her fastest outside of that Olympic-winning swim.
Joining her in the medal hunt will be Pellegrini, who has proven time and time again that she can’t be counted out. But the 32-year-old was planning to retire after the Games in 2020, and was upset she would have to swim another year due to the postponement. Has that hindered her training coming in? Her fastest time in 2021 is 1:56.23, so she’ll need to be at least a second better to have a shot at the podium.
China’s Yang Junxuan is on the rise, lowering the World Junior Record at the 2019 Worlds in 1:55.43 to place fifth and then dropping a new Asian Record of 1:54.57 in April.
The only other swimmer in the field that has been sub-1:55 in 2021 is Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey, who has now dipped into the 1:54s once in each of the last three years. Haughey went 1:54.44 last August (a time trial in Hong Kong, so it was never ratified as an official Asian Record) and followed up with a 1:54.89 this past April.
After a standout short course season in the International Swimming League, Haughey has the rare combination of speed and endurance to consistently be among the best in the world in this event.
Emma McKeon, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and third-fastest swimmer in the world this year, dropped this event from her busy program in Tokyo, giving fellow Aussie Madi Wilson a spot in the individual race.
Wilson immediately moved into the final conversation with McKeon’s withdrawal, ranking sixth in the world this year with a best of 1:55.68 from the Australian Trials.
OTHERS IN THE MIX
Beyond the names already mentioned, 2012 Olympic gold medalist Allison Schmitt headlines the rest of the field, having made her fourth U.S. Olympic team last month by placing second to Ledecky in Omaha.
Like Pellegrini, Schmitt’s fastest days are behind her, but she remains an elite 200 freestyler with a shot to make the Olympic final once again. Now 31, Schmitt was 1:56.01 in January 2020 prior to the pandemic, and was 1:56.79 at Trials. She’ll probably need to be closer to her time from last year for a top-eight finish.
Oleksiak was sixth in this event at the 2019 World Championships, clocking 1:56.41, to book her ticket to Tokyo prior to the Canadian Olympic Trials. Then at those Trials, McIntosh, 14, dropped a 1:56.19 to top Oleksiak head-to-head in what was the fastest 15 & under swim of all-time.
Oleksiak is probably more of a favorite to medal in the 100 free, and McIntosh will also feature prominently in the 400 and 800 free, but both are in the hunt for a finals berth here in the 200.
Great Britain’s Freya Anderson is another contender to make the final in Tokyo, though like Oleksiak, her best event is probably the 100. Anderson swam a best time of 1:56.06 in early 2020, and snagged bronze at the European Championships in May in 1:56.42.
The 20-year-old has been known to come on strong over the last 50 in this race, and also has a lot of natural speed. If she’s able to put the two together it’s easy to imagine her hitting 1:55.
Czech Republic’s Barbora Seemanova actually won that Euro title in 1:56.27, her career-best, while France’s Charlotte Bonnet was fourth (1:56.55). Bonnet was an Olympic finalist in 2016, and broke through with a 1:54.9 to win the 2018 Europeans, but hasn’t reached that form recently.
TOP 8 PREDICTIONS
|Place||Swimmer||Country||Best Time Since 2016 Olympics|
|2||Katie Ledecky||United States||1:54.40|
|3||Siobhan Haughey||Hong Kong||1:54.44|
|8||Freya Anderson||Great Britain||1:56.06|
Dark Horse: Erika Fairweather, New Zealand – Fairweather, the 2019 World Junior champion in this event, is still just 17, but comes in riding a ton of momentum. After winning that title in Budapest two years ago in 1:57.96, Fairweather re-lowered her best time down to 1:57.58 in April, and also has some senior international experience under her belt, having placed 19th in the event at the 2019 Worlds.