Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Day 1 Finals Live Recap


The first swimming medals of the 2021 Olympic Games are about to be awarded. Tonight’s finals session features four medal finals and no shortage of world record opportunities.

Fans will want to be sure to stick around for the entire session, as the last event might just be the biggest fireworks. Australia will chase its own women’s 4×100 free relay world record with arguably the best and deepest lineup in the history of the sport. The Aussies were 3:31.73 this morning, almost two seconds faster than any team in the field, and they didn’t use their two best legs.

Former world record-holder Cate Campbell should join the lineup tonight, along with multi-stroke star Emma McKeonMcKeon should be one of the overall stars of day 1, if not the entire meet. In this morning’s (local time) finals session, McKeon will swim twice. She’s tied for the #1 seed into semifinals of the 100 fly, and should be a part of this dominant Aussie relay at the end of the session.

The Australians set world records in 2014, 2016 and 2018 in this race, and the crew they’ve assembled this year is perhaps the best one yet. It’ll be Campbell, McKeon, and the fastest two legs from prelims, Bronte Campbell (52.8) and Meg Harris (52.7).

The battle for silver and bronze is just as exciting. The Dutch will swim stars Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Femke Heemskerk on the 2nd and 4th legs, respectively. Canada has defending Olympic co-champ Penny Oleksiak on the end of their squad. The Brits bookend with top-flight Anna Hopkin on the leadoff and Freya Anderson on the anchor. And the United States has subbed in Olympic co-champ Simone Manuelwho tied with Oleksiak for gold in 2016 but missed the U.S. team in this event last month.

The 400 IM field looks wide open after Japan’s Daiya Seto, the defending world champ, shockingly missed the final last night. American Chase Kalisz was the 2016 Olympic silver medalist and looks to restart an American IM legacy that had won five consecutive Olympic golds before the rare 2016 silver.

Australia’s Brendon Smith is the top prelims qualifier. New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt is looking to become the first Olympic gold medalist in swimming from New Zealand since 1996.

In the men’s 400 free, Germany’s Henning Muhlleitner has every Pick ‘Em Contest entry on life support after exploding for an upset top seed this morning. Austria’s Felix Auboeck is the second qualifier. The only returner from the 2019 Worlds podium is Italy’s Gabriele Dettiwho took bronze at the past two Worlds. He’s the #3 qualifier into the final.

In the women’s 400 IM, American 19-year-old Emma Weyant crushed a lifetime-best 4:33.55 last night for the top spot. World record-holder Katinka Hosszu will swim from an outside lane with a crowd of swimmers coming in around 4:35 in heats.

Tonight’s two semifinals are the men’s 100 breast and women’s 100 fly. In the latter, McKeon kicks off her quest for her first individual Olympic gold medal after tying with China’s Zhang Yufei for the top spot this morning. Zhang battles world record-holder and defending Olympic champ Sarah Sjostrom in her heat, while McKeon will tangle with American 18-year-old Torri Huske.

The 100 breast is another potential world record. Great Britain’s Adam Peaty is the best 100 breaststroker in history – and he’s so far ahead of the rest of history that he routinely wins golds by a body length. He’s been known to torch a semifinal swim, so look for him to challenge his 56.88 world record, or at least add another sub-57 time – something no one else has ever done.

Dutch swimmer Arno Kamminga – the #1 overall draft pick in the recent ISL Draft – is the rare non-Peaty swimmer who has been under 58, and he leads the other circle-seeded heat. This event should also give us an early read on which teams are set up to contend for the men’s medley relay gold later in the meet. Peaty’s huge margin over the field is the best argument for Britain to win gold, but if the United States’ Michael Andrew can swim close to his American record tonight, it’ll go a long way in controlling Peaty’s damage and allowing the U.S. relay to take over late.

Men’s 400 individual medley – Final

  • World Record: Michael Phelps (USA) – 4:03.84 (2008)
  • Olympic Record: Michael Phelps (USA) – 4:03.84 (2008)
  • World Junior Record: Ilya Borodin (RUS) – 4:11.17 (2021)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Kosuke Hagino (JPN) – 4:06.05
  • SwimSwam Event Preview – Men’s 400 individual medley


  1. GOLD: Chase Kalisz (USA) – 4:09.42
  2. SILVER: Jay Litherland (USA) – 4:10.28
  3. BRONZE: Brendon Smith (AUS) – 4:10.38
  4. David Verraszto (HUN) – 4:10.59
  5. Max Litchfield (GBR) – 4:10.59
  6. Leon Marchand (FRA) – 4:11.16
  7. Lewis Clareburt (NZL) – 4:11.22
  8. Alberto Razzetti (ITA) – 4:11.32

American Chase Kalisz took over the race on breaststroke. Even though the field overall was relatively slow compared to previous Olympic and Worlds finals, Kalisz’s breaststroke in particular looked as good as he’s ever looked in his career. His massive distance per stroke built a lead that was insurmountable, even as the field closed on him a little in the final 50.

His teammate Jay Litherland was the primary closer, splitting a blistering 56.7 on the freestyle and charging from 6th to 2nd to give Team USA a gold-silver sweep to open up the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This is the first Olympics without icons Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, who have previously dominated this event, with Phelps winning gold in 2004 and 2008 and Lochte winning gold in 2012.

Australia’s Brendon Smith also had to mount a big comeback, sitting in dead last heading into freestyle but splitting 56.3 on free to charge to bronze. That left David Verraszto of Hungary just on the outside, two-tenths behind Smith. Verraszto struggled early, sitting 8th after the butterfly and couldn’t quite recover despite slowly gaining ground throughout the race. He tied with Great Britain’s Max Litchfield, also a back-half charger who started 7th after fly.

The whole field was relatively tight, especially places 6th through 8th, where the three swimmers were just two-tenths apart.

Women’s 100 butterfly – semifinals

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Zhang Yufei (CHN) – 55.89
  2. Marie Wattel (FRA) – 56.16
  3. Emma McKeon (AUS) – 56.33
  4. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) – 56.40
  5. Torri Huske (USA) – 56.51
  6. Maggie MacNeil (CAN) – 56.56
  7. Louise Hansson (SWE) – 56.92
  8. Anastasiya Shkurdai (BLR) – 57.19

China’s Zhang Yufei took care of business in the second semifinal, going 55.89 as the only swimmer under 56 seconds. Zhang could have doubled with the 4×100 free relay this morning, but China chose to let her focus in entirely on this race. She’ll be among the favorites tomorrow morning, though quite a few of the top names appeared to be mostly cruising and doing only what was necessary to make the final.

France’s Marie Wattel smashed a national record with a big semifinal 1 swim. She was 56.16 and is on the cusp of joining the exclusive 55-second club.

Australia’s Emma McKeon was safely in with a 56.33 – she’ll swim the 4×100 free relay later tonight. World record-holder Sarah Sjostrom was fourth with another good swim. She’s returning from a broken elbow that left her Olympic title defense prospects in jeopardy just a few months ago.

Reigning world champ Maggie MacNeil is sixth, behind American 18-year-old Torri HuskeSjostrom and MacNeil will both swim the free relay later on this morning.

The only nation with two A finalists is Sweden, with Louise Hansson making the cut – she’ll join Sjostrom on the relay later in this session. Just on the outside: Greece’s Anna Ntountounaki (57.25) and American Claire Curzan (57.42).

Men’s 400 freestyle – final

  • World Record: Paul Biedermann (GER) – 3:40.07 (2009)
  • Olympic Record: Sun Yang (CHN) – 3:40.14 (2012)
  • World Junior Record: Mack Horton (AUS) – 3:44.60 (2014)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Mack Horton (AUS) – 3:41.55
  • SwimSwam Event Preview – Men’s 400 freestyle


  1. GOLD: Ahmed Hanaoui (TUN) – 3:43.36
  2. SILVER: Jack McLoughlin (AUS) – 3:43.52
  3. BRONZE: Kieran Smith (USA) – 3:43.94
  4. Henning Muhlleitner (GER) / Felix Auboeck (AUT) – 3:44.07
  5. Gabriele Detti (ITA) – 3:44.88
  6. Elijah Winnington (AUS) – 3:45.20
  7. Jake Mitchell (USA) – 3:45.39

We got a stunner of a final early on. Tunisian 18-year-old Ahmed Hafnaoui started in the middle of the field and didn’t lead until the final lap, but it was the fast-rising Hafnaoui who touched first for a massive upset gold. He becomes the first African swimmer (of any nationality) to win Olympic gold in this event.

He came into this meet with a career-best of 3:46.16 and barely snuck into the final last night with a 3:45.68 for 8th place. In one of the most exciting examples of outside smoke you’ll ever see, Hafnaoui tore past the field with a 27.2 final split.

Australia’s Jack McLoughlin was the leader most of the way, clawing his way out of the pack around the 200 mark. He was 3:43.52 for silver, besting a hard-charging Kieran Smith out of the United States. Smith had the field’s second-best closing split at 27.13, trailing only Germany’s Henning Muhlleitner (27.0).

Women’s 400 individual medley – Final


  1. GOLD: Yui Ohashi (JPN) – 4:32.08
  2. SILVER: Emma Weyant (USA) – 4:32.76
  3. BRONZE: Hali Flickinger (USA) – 4:34.90
  4. Mireia Belmonte (ESP) – 4:35.13
  5. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) – 4:35.98
  6. Viktoria Mihalyvari-Farkas (HUN) – 4:37.75
  7. Aimee Willmott (GBR) – 4:38.30
  8. Ilaria Cusinato (ITA) – 4:40.65

Japan will get the first swimming gold of its home 2020 Olympics: Yui Ohashi took over with a smooth, efficient backstroke, holding off some tough charges late to win in 4:32.08. That time is still a bit off Ohashi’s national-record 4:30.82, and she clearly showed some fatigue late. But her tactics were plenty enough to hold off American Emma Weyantwho split 1:02.1 on freestyle to secure silver.

It was two Americans on the podium for the second time tonight, with Hali Flickinger closing in 1:01.8 to rise from 4th to bronze.

Olympic vets Mireia Belmonte (4th) and Katinka Hosszu (5th) were just on the outside, with Hosszu sitting third most of the way but falling behind with a 1:03.8 closing split. Hosszu is the four-time defending world champ and defending Olympic champ in this event, but also would have been the oldest woman ever to win Olympic swimming gold (and the fourth-oldest female Olympic swimming medalist) had she continued her streak here.

Men’s 100 breaststroke – Semifinals

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Adam Peaty (GBR) – 57.63
  2. Arno Kamminga (NED) – 58.19
  3. Nicolo Martinenghi (ITA) – 58.28
  4. Yan Zibei (CHN) – 58.72
  5. Michael Andrew (USA) – 58.99
  6. James Wilby (GBR) – 59.00
  7. Ilya Shymanovich (BLR) – 59.08
  8. Andrew Wilson (USA) – 59.18

Adam Peaty managed to swim a pretty casual semifinal, as casual as his trademark breakneck turnover can ever look. The British star was 57.63 to lead by about half a second, and he’ll look to challenge his sub-57 world record swim tomorrow morning.

One heat earlier, the Netherlands’ Arno Kamminga won a tight battle with Italy’s Nicolo Martinenghiand they sit second and third, flanking Peaty in tomorrow morning’s final.

The five fastest swimmers in history will all be represented in the final. Peaty is #1, followed by Kamminga. American Michael Andrew is the #3 swimmer of all-time with his American-record 58.14 from June. He’s fifth heading into the final. Martinenghi is tied for #4 all-time with Belarus’s Ilya Shymanovich, the speedster who qualified 7th today and barely snuck into the final.

China’s Yan Zibei is fourth and just outside the medal spots heading into the final. He was 58.72, a tenth off his Asian-record time from 2019 Worlds.

Women’s 4×100 freestyle relay – Final

  • World Record: Australia (Jack, Campbell, McKeon, Campbell) – 3:30.05 (2018)
  • Olympic Record: Australia (McKeon, Elmslie, Campbell, Campbell) – 3:30.65 (2016)
  • World Junior Record: Canada (Ruck, Oleksiak, Smith, Sanchez) – 3:36.19 (2017)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Australia (McKeon, Elmslie, Campbell, Campbell) – 3:30.65
  • SwimSwam Event Preview – Women’s 4×100 freestyle relay


  1. GOLD: Australia – 3:29.69 WR
  2. SILVER: Canada – 3:32.78
  3. BRONZE: USA – 3:32.81
  4. Netherlands – 3:33.70
  5. Great Britain – 3:33.96
  6. Sweden – 3:34.69
  7. China – 3:34.76
  8. Denmark – 3:35.70

The Australians easily lived up to the hype here, choosing to backload their relay with their two best swimmers and still staying in the top two basically the entire way. Bronte Campbell led off in 53.01, a solid swim after her 52.8 split from a flying start in prelims last night. Meg Harris was 53.09, a tick off her 52.7 prelims split.

But then Emma McKeon blasted a field-best 51.35 split, swimming the second half of her tough 100 fly/100 free double. That put Australia way out in the lead, and sprint star Cate Campbell isn’t going to be run down very often, certainly not with that kind of margin. Campbell was 52.24 as Australia had two of the three best splits in the entire field on their third and fourth legs.

Further back, it came down to a mad scramble between Canada and the United States for silver, with the 2016 Olympic co-champions anchoring for both teams. Penny Oleksiak was brilliant, splitting 52.26 for Canada to secure silver with a crafty touchout of the accomplished Simone ManuelManuel didn’t even make the U.S. Olympic team in this event, but she swam much better here than at U.S. Trials and validated Team USA’s choice to use her as the anchor here with a 52.96 anchor leg. (She was 54.1 at U.S. Trials from a flat start).

Other key splits for the medal-winners:

  • Canada:
    • Kayla Sanchez 53.42 leadoff
    • Maggie MacNeil 53.47 split (coming off of the 100 fly semis like McKeon)
    • Rebecca Smith 53.63 split
    • Penny Oleksiak 52.26 split
  • USA:

Sweden led early with Sarah Sjostrom going 52.62 to break the Olympic record in the 100 free. Sjostrom looks fully returned from her elbow surgery and should be a force in the individual 100 free this week.

The Netherlands had two of the best splits in the field. Femke Heemskerk split 52.05, faster than everyone but McKeon, on the anchor leg. But she also had a lot of ground to make up as the Dutch sat dead last after the leadoff legs. Ranomi Kromowidjojo had a solid 52.87 split swimming second.

Great Britain’s Freya Anderson was 52.84 on the anchor, a solid split, and Anna Hopkin led off in 53.16.

China broke the national and Asian records in 3:34.76. Wu Qingfeng was 52.90 on the anchor leg. Denmark wound up 8th in the heat, but Pernille Blume was a bright spot with her 53.07 leadoff leg.

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1 month ago

Everyone swim fast!

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Itsnotbreaststrokeanymore
1 month ago

And most importantly of all – let’s all have some fun, by making posts.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Nolan
tea rex
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

Can someone post the link for the live recap of the Texas Sectionals?

1 month ago

They should let Mike Breen commentate

Reply to  Facts
1 month ago


1 month ago

MA gonna pace off Peaty and go 57 mid

Reply to  Drake
1 month ago

it’s in the morning for him. he’s gotta swim later tonight. Won’t go too fast I think

Reply to  PenguinMan
1 month ago

wait never mind 🤡

Reply to  Drake
1 month ago

58 flat mark my words

Reply to  Drake
1 month ago

and then go almost a second slower in finals….

Reply to  Yup
1 month ago

58.99 in the semis, so he’s on his way

1 month ago

My thoughts so far 
“HOT” teams – USA, Italy, Great Britain
“AVG” teams – Canada, Hungary, Sweden
“NOT” teams –  Russia, Japan
Australia somewhere in-between “HOT” and “AVG”, some performances were awesome on the womens side, but disappointing on the men’s side except for Brendon Smith.

Reply to  wow
1 month ago

I don’t think you can call this based off one prelims session. Think back to trials and how Indiana looked bad because of Miller and Grothe on day 1 but everyone else did fine

1 month ago

Simone’s anchoring let’s goooooo!!!

1 month ago


Reply to  Drake
1 month ago

49+ anchor leg to smash the Aussies!

1 month ago

Aussie women sub 3:30 4 free relay or I eat my speedo

Reply to  Yaboi
1 month ago

I was sensing a 3:28, but I don’t understand why they structured their line-up the way they did.

Last edited 1 month ago by wow
Reply to  Yaboi
1 month ago

Oh thank god

1 month ago

Simone is anchoring according to NBC

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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