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 200M BUTTERFLY
- World Record: Kristof Milak (HUN) – 1:50.73 (2019)
- Olympic Record: Michael Phelps (USA) – 1:52.03 (2008)
- World Junior Record: Kristof Milak (HUN) – 1:52.71 (2018)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: Michael Phelps (USA) – 1:53.36
The men’s 200 butterfly could be one of the biggest blow-outs of the Tokyo Olympics. Some races are difficult to predict–not this one. Hungarian World Record holder Kristof Milak has been on fire in 2021, swimming faster than Michael Phelps‘ former World Record (1.51.51, 2009) on two occasions. Of course, Milak crushed Phelps’ 10-year-old World Record at the 2019 World Championships with a 1:50.73, putting him nearly 2 seconds ahead of the second-fastest active performer.
In 2021, Milak has swam faster than Phelps’ former mark two times, hitting a 1:51.4 in March at Hungarian Nationals and a 1:51.10 in May at the LEN European Championships. Milak is also primed to make history in the 100 fly where he could join Caeleb Dressel with a 49-second swim–Milak became the 4th-fastest performer all-time at the European Championships in May, where he posted a 50.18 new lifetime best.
Behind Milak, the top performer going into the Tokyo Games is Japan’s own Daiya Seto. In 2019, Seto placed 2nd behind Milak in the 200 fly at the World Championships with a 1:53.86. Seto would lower the Asian Record in the 200 fly a few months later in January 2020, producing a 1:52.53, making him the third-fastest performer all-time in the event. Seto is also the World Record holder in the 25 meter version of the race and reigning World Champion, a title he claimed in Hangzhou in 2018 in 1:48.24.
Heading into the pandemic, Seto looked like he had the kind of unbridled momentum that could catch up to Milak here, at least if Milak was short of his best time. But between scandal and a coaching change, it’s hard to get a good feel for where he sits. This race will be fairly-early in what shapes up to be a big schedule for Seto, and he’s got home pool advantage, but he’ll have to recapture that pre-COVID wave if he wants to close on the Hungarian.
2012 Olympic champion Chad le Clos is giving the 200 fly one last go in Tokyo, nine years after his triumph over Phelps in London. Le Clos has made the podium at every version of the FINA World Championships since finishing 4th at the 2016 Rio Olympics. After winning gold at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, le Clos took silver in the 25 meter version of the race in Hangzhou at the 2018 World Championships, where both le Clos and Seto swam under le Clos’ former World Record. At the 2019 World Championships in South Korea, le Clos touched 3rd behind Milak and Seto. Le Clos also had a phenomenal short course season in the fall of 2020 as a competitor in the International Swimming League. In the ISL Grand Final, le Clos posted the 4th fastest time in history in the 200 fly (1:48.56), battling stroke-for-stroke with American Tom Shields.
2016 Olympic bronze medalist Tamas Kenderesi has remained Hungary’s #2 performer in the 200 fly since his breakout performance in Rio. Kenderesi has been a 1:53.42 at the 2019 Hungarian Nationals, as well as a handful of 1:54s at other meets, including the 2021 European Championships where he took bronze in 1:54.43.
Japan’s Tomoru Honda propelled himself into the Olympic medals conversation with a 1:54.49 at the 2021 Japan Open in May. Honda beat Seto with a 1:54.88 at Japan’s Olympic Trials in April, and like Seto, will have the distinct honor of competing in front of his own home crowd (figuratively speaking… we haven’t forgotten there will be no spectators).
American Zach Harting has been on a steady rise through the world ranking since his debut as a world-class performer in this race at the 2016 US Olympic Trials. Harting won the bronze medal at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo in a 1:55.05. Harting’s 200 fly is characterized by a strong back half–Harting split 56.37/58.68 when he won Pan Pacs bronze. In Omaha, Harting touched 1st to punch his tickt to Tokyo in 1:55.06, splitting 55.29/59.77.
2016 relay gold medalist Gunnar Bentz will get his first opportunity at an individual Olympic swim in the 200 fly following his 1:55.34 2nd-place effort in Omaha. Bentz swam a similar race to Harting, splitting 55.30/1:00.04. Bentz has traditionally been a 200/400 IM’er and 200 freestyler in long course, keeping most of his 200 fly prowess contained to the NCAA Championships. Bentz put all his eggs in one basket for the 200 fly in Omaha, even scratching the 200 free, the race that got him to his first Olympics in 2016. With a singular focus on the 200 fly, Bentz could be primed for his first Olympic final in Tokyo.
Italy’s Federico Burdisso is fresh off a silver medal at the European Championships where he posted a 1:54.28, a new Italian Record. Burdisso is having a strong 2021 season, having also broken the Italian Record in the SCM version of the race in 1:51.98. Burdisso placed 4th in the 200 fly at the 2019 World Championships in 1:54.39, just behind South Africa’s le Clos, and won a bronze medal at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Argentina the summer before, giving him ample international experience.
Bulgaria’s Antani Ivanov swam in the championship final of the men’s 200 fly at the 2017 World Championships, placing 8th in 1:55.98. Ivanov had a rough go in 2019, tying with Kenderesi for 8th after the semifinals and having to compete in a swim-off to decide who would swim in the final. Kenderesi won the race, bumping Ivanov to 9th in the total standings. In 2021, Ivanov has been a 1:54.50, placing 4th and just 0.07 off the podium at the European Championships.
Switzerland’s Noe Ponti just missed the podium at the 2021 European Championships, placing 4th in 1:55.18 in the 200 fly. Ponti lowered the Swiss Record in the 200 fly twice at the European Championships, hitting a 1:55.67 before his 1:55.18 for 4th. Ponti already owned the Swiss Record, having already lowered it in December 2020 with a 1:56.48. It will probably take at least a 1:54 to make the final in Tokyo, though given Ponti’s improvement curve, he could be due for another big drop.
Having covered the gold and bronze medalists from the 2018 Youth Olympics, let’s get acquainted with the silver medalist: Ukraine’s Denys Kesil. With a 5th-place finish to his name at the 2019 FINA World Championships, Kesil is no stranger to racing the best in the world and has plenty of experience going head-to-head with the others on this list. Kesil has been among the top 200 butterflyers in the world since 2018, though he placed a mere 12th at the 2021 European Championships in May. If Kesil is on in Tokyo, he should make the final. If he swims like he did at Euros in May, he’ll have trouble making it past prelims.
|Place||Swimmer||Country||Best Time Since
|3||Chad le Clos||RSA||1:53.33|
Dark horse: Taipei’s Eddie Wang, known as Wang Kuan-hung in his home country, had an incredible short course season as a member of the Cali Condors in the 2nd season of the ISL. Wang set a new World Junior Record in the 200 fly in November 2020 with a 1:49.89–in fact, he broke the WJR 3 times in 2020 in the SCM version of the race. In long course, Wang was a 1:55.72 and 1:55.82 in 2019. If he is able to improve upon those times, he could find himself in the Olympic final.