2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
The first session of Olympic swimming in almost five years is finally here.
Opening the eight days of action inside Tokyo’s Olympic Aquatics Centre will be preliminary heats in the men’s 400 individual medley, women’s 100 butterfly, men’s 400 freestyle, women’s 400 IM, men’s 100 breaststroke, and the women’s 4×100 free relay.
The stars will be out in full force to kick off the competition, with defending Olympic champions Sarah Sjostrom, Katinka Hosszu and Adam Peaty headlining the women’s 100 fly, women’s 400 IM and men’s 100 breast, respectively.
Sjostrom in particular will be one to keep an eye on, as she remained hesitant in her commitment to even take part in the 100 fly after undergoing elbow surgery in early February. The world record holder only confirmed her participation in the event earlier this week.
The men’s 400 IM will be a huge race for the host nation, as Kosuke Hagino won gold in Rio and Daiya Seto is favored to make it two in a row for Japan. However, Seto’s form so far in 2021 hasn’t been anywhere near where it was in early 2020, so this prelim swim will answer a lot of questions regarding his current form.
Part of the story in the men’s 400 free is who isn’t competing, as the last two Olympic champions, Sun Yang and Mack Horton, won’t be behind the blocks for different reasons. Sun is serving a four-year suspension, and Horton finished third at the Australian Trials behind Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin.
Winnington’s swim of 3:42.65 at those Trials has made him the pre-race favorite, but in Sun’s absence it’s become one of the more wide open and intriguing events on the men’s program.
The women’s 4×100 free relay has been dominated by Australia of late, having won back-to-back Olympic gold medals along with the World Championship title in 2019. The United States and Canada are the two countries expected to join the Aussies on the podium, but the Canadians are the only team putting the majority of their ‘A’ swimmers on their prelim team.
Penny Oleksiak, Taylor Ruck and Kayla Sanchez will all swim tonight for Canada, along with Rebecca Smith, with Maggie MacNeil (swimming the 100 fly earlier in the session) the only likely substitute for the final.
Both the Aussies (Cate Campbell, Emma McKeon) and the U.S. (Abbey Weitzeil, Erika Brown) will rest their individual 100 freestylers for the final (Simone Manuel will also not swim for the Americans in the prelims).
Men’s 400 Individual Medley – Prelims
- 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
- Brendon Smith (AUS), 4:09.27
- Lewis Clareburt (NZL), 4:09.49
- Chase Kalisz (USA), 4:09.65
- David Verraszto (HUN), 4:09.80
- Alberto Razzetti (ITA) / Jay Litherland (USA), 4:09.91
- Leon Marchand (FRA), 4:10.09
- Max Litchfield (GBR), 4:10.20
The men’s 400 IM turned out to be incredibly tight over the final two heats, with reigning world champion and Japanese superstar Daiya Seto shockingly missing the final.
New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt won the hotly-contested third heat, opening up an early lead on the backstroke before 2016 silver medalist Chase Kalisz moved past him on breast, with the American splitting a scintillating 1:09.61.
However, Clareburt charged back on freestyle, splitting 58.12 to touch first in 4:09.49 and lower his Kiwi National Record of 4:09.87 set earlier this year.
Kalisz was close behind in 4:09.65, while Hungarian veteran David Verraszto also cracked 4:10 in 4:09.80.
In Heat 4 it was Seto setting the early pace, sitting more than a second clear of the field with 100 meters to go. But down the stretch it turned into a five-man battle, and Seto finished fifth.
Australian Brendon Smith roared home in 28.05 to win the heat in 4:09.27, qualifying first for the final and break Clareburt’s minutes-old Oceanian Record. Smith also took down his own Aussie Record of 4:10.04.
Alberto Razzetti and Jay Litherland tied for second in 4:09.91, qualifying in a lock for fifth in the final, while France’s also overtook Seto for fourth in 4:10.09. Seto clocked 4:10.52 for fifth, splitting 1:00.72 on the freestyle leg. Razzetti’s time was just .03 off of Luca Marin’s Italian Record.
Portugal’s Jose Lopes won the opening heat of the swimming competition in Tokyo, clocking 4:16.52 to lower his personal best time of 4:17.22 set at the European Championships in May.
Spaniard Joan Lluis Pons Ramon, eighth in this event in 2016, paced Heat 2 in a time of 4:12.67, lowering his Spanish National Record of 4:13.30 set in 2019.
Max Litchfield‘s 4:10.20 eighth-place time is more than three seconds faster than what it took to make the final in 2016 (Pons Ramon, 4:13.55).
Women’s 100 Butterfly – Prelims
- Zhang Yufei (CHN) / Emma McKeon (AUS), 55.82
- Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), 56.18
- Torri Huske (USA), 56.29
- Maggie MacNeil (CAN), 56.55
- Louise Hansson (SWE), 56.97
- Anastasiya Shkurdai (BLR), 56.99
- Marie Wattel (FRA), 57.08
- Elena di Liddo (ITA), 57.41
- Claire Curzan (USA), 57.49
- Katerine Savard (CAN), 57.51
- Ilaria Bianchi (ITA), 57.70
- Anna Ntountounaki (GRE), 57.75
- Arina Surkova (ROC), 58.02
- Svetlana Chimrova (ROC), 58.04
- Brianna Throssell (AUS), 58.08
Current world #1 Zhang Yufei and Australian Emma McKeon battled head-to-head in the fifth and final heat of the women’s 100 butterfly, with McKeon erasing Zhang’s early advantage as the two ultimately finished tied for first in both the heat and overall in 55.82.
That’s a new Commonwealth, Oceanian and Australian Record for McKeon, who resets the previous Commonwealth mark of 55.83 set by Maggie MacNeil when she won the World Championship title in 2019. McKeon’s previous Oceanian and Aussie Record stood at 55.93 from earlier this year.
Zhang’s swim is two-tenths shy of her personal best and Asian Record of 55.62, set in late 2020.
Defending champion Sarah Sjostrom had a phenomenal swim in the penultimate heat, shocking herself with a time of 56.18. Sjostrom has been on the fence about even racing in the event after elbow surgery in February, and notably had the fastest second 50 in the field at 29.63. The swim is also her fastest since 2017 as she advances third overall.
Sjostrom had previous been 57.34 this year, and at the 2019 World Championships, was 56.22 in the final.
American Torri Huske led Heat 4 most of the way, getting out-touched by Sjostrom at the end to safely advance fourth in 56.29.
Men’s 400 Freestyle – Prelims
- 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
- Henning Mühlleitner (GER), 3:43.67
- Felix Auboeck (AUT), 3:43.91
- Gabriele Detti (ITA), 3:44.67
- Elijah Winnington (AUS) / Jack McLoughlin (AUS), 3:45.20
- Kieran Smith (USA), 3:45.25
- Jake Mitchell (USA), 3:45.38
- Ahmed Hafnaoui (TUN), 3:45.68
Germany’s Henning Mühlleitner turned up the heat in the men’s 400 freestyle, turning sixth at the halfway mark in Heat 4 (1:52.02) before dropping a negative-split (1:51.65 coming home) to touch first in a time of 3:43.67, annihilating his previous best time of 3:45.36 set earlier this year.
Those three end up being the top qualifiers for the final, with the Australian duo of Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin tying for the victory in Heat 5 in 3:45.20, followed closely by Americans Kieran Smith (3:45.25) and Jake Mitchell (3:45.38).
Winnington currently ranks first in the world this season with his time of 3:42.65 set last month at the Aussie Olympic Trials. The swim for Mitchell lowers his personal best time of 3:45.86 set in a solo time trial at the U.S. Olympic Trials that qualified him for the Games.
Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui improved his best down from 3:46.16 to 3:45.68, sneaking into the final as some big names missed out. Switzerland’s Antonio Djakovic also reset his National Record in 3:45.82, good for ninth overall.
Notably missing the final was Germany’s Lukas Märtens (3:46.30), Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys (3:46.32) and Russia’s Martin Malyutin (3:49.49). Märtens and Malyutin had both been 3:44 earlier this year, while Rapsys came in with one of the fastest lifetime bests in the field (3:43.36 from 2019).
Women’s 400 Individual Medley – Prelims
- Emma Weyant (USA), 4:33.55
- Aimee Willmott (GBR), 4:35.28
- Yui Ohashi (JPN), 4:35.71
- Mireia Belmonte (ESP), 4:35.88
- Hali Flickinger (USA), 4:35.98
- Viktoria Mihalyvari-Farkas (HUN), 4:35.99
- Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 4:36.01
- Ilaria Cusinato (ITA), 4:37.37
U.S. Olympic Trials winner Emma Weyant made it look easy in the third heat of the women’s 400 IM, cruising to victory by almost two seconds in a time of 4:33.55 for the top seed heading into the final.
Weyant, 19, lowers her previous best time of 4:33.81, which had previously ranked first in the world this year. In her Olympic debut, Weyant looked smooth and fully in control, slowly pulling away from Great Britain’s Aimee Willmott, who touched second in 4:35.28.
That time marks Willmott’s fastest since 2018, having set a PB of 4:33.01 back in 2014, and qualifies her second for the final after placing seventh in 2016.
2018 Pan Pacific Championship gold medalist Yui Ohashi had a strong showing in the previous heat, moving well ahead of the field on the breaststroke leg before easing home on free for a time of 4:35.71. American Hali Flickinger followed her in 4:35.98, as they advance third and fifth overall.
All eyes were on defending champion Katinka Hosszu, who has not lost this race at an Olympics or World Championships since the 2012 Games in London. Hosszu struggled down the last 150 meters in the third heat, ultimately making the final, but back in seventh, meaning she’ll have an outside lane in the morning. Hosszu’s fastest swim in 2021 was a 4:34.76 from May’s European Championships.
Spain’s Mireia Belmonte, who won bronze in 2016, had her fastest swim in two years to advance fourth overall in 4:35.88. Hungary’s 17-year-old standout Viktoria Mihalyvari-Farkas improved her best time down to 4:35.99 from 4:36.81, qualifying seventh.
Expected to be in contention for a medal, Canadian Sydney Pickrem was didn’t show for her heat. Pickrem won bronze in the event at the 2017 World Championships and was fourth in 2019.
Men’s 100 Breaststroke – Prelims
- Adam Peaty (GBR), 57.56
- Arno Kamminga (NED), 57.80
- Michael Andrew (USA), 58.62
- Nicolo Martinenghi (ITA), 58.68
- Yan Zibei (CHN), 58.75
- James Wilby (GBR), 58.99
- Andrew Wilson (USA), 59.03
- Felipe Lima (BRA), 59.17
- Ilya Shymanovich (BLR) / Federico Poggio (ITA), 59.33
- Lucas Matzerath (GER) / Ryuya Mura (JPN) , 59.40
- Andrius Sidlauskas (LTU), 59.46
- Fabian Schwingenschlogl (GER), 59.49
- Anton Chupkov (RUS), 59.55
- Kirill Prigoda (ROC), 59.68
The top three seeds all won their circle-seeded heats comfortably in the men’s 100 breaststroke, led by world record holder and defending champion Adam Peaty.
After seeing the Netherlands’ Arno Kamminga drop a 57.80 in the previous heat, Peaty answered back with a quick 57.56 showing to close things out in Heat 7, the eighth-fastest performance in history.
Despite it being one of Peaty’s top 10 swims ever, he actually goes from owning the 16-fastest times ever to 15, with Kamminga’s 57.80 moving into the 16th slot.
Kamminga’s time was a new Dutch Record, improving on his 57.90 from earlier this year. The 25-year-old is the only swimmer other than Peaty that has broken 58 seconds.
In the first circle-seeded heat American Michael Andrew looked strong in his Olympic debut, registering a time of 58.62 to qualify third for the final. Andrew ranks third in the world this year behind Peaty and Kamminga with his 58.14 swim from the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Ilya Shymanovich, who’s tied with Martinenghi as the fourth-fastest performer in history at 58.29, was the only one of the top-seven seeds that didn’t break 59, clocking 59.33 to tie for ninth.
Women’s 4×100 Freestyle Relay
- 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
- Australia, 3:31.73
- Netherlands, 3:33.51
- Canada, 3:33.72
- Great Britain, 3:34.03
- United States, 3:34.80
- China, 3:35.07
- Denmark, 3:35.56
- Sweden, 3:35.93
The Australians looked like the juggernaut that they are in the heats of the women’s 400 free relay, putting up the 10th-fastest performance in history without their two fastest swimmers.
With the top two swimmers in the world this year on the bench, the Aussie quartet of Mollie O’Callaghan (53.08), Meg Harris (52.73), Madi Wilson (53.10) and Bronte Campbell (52.82) clocked in at 3:31.73, qualifying first for the final by nearly two seconds.
The Netherlands (3:33.51) and Canada (3:33.72) took second and third behind Australia in Heat 2, which ended up being faster than the winning time in Heat 1.
The Dutch received a scorching 51.90 anchor from Femke Heemskerk, along with a solid 52.50 split from Ranomi Kromowidjojo, while Penny Oleksiak looked strong for the Canadians with a 52.38 closing leg. Taylor Ruck on the other hand was off, splitting 54.16.
The British women set a new National Record to win the opening heat in 3:34.03, taking out their previous mark of 3:34.17 set while winning the European Championships in May. Anna Hopkin was their top performer with a 52.65 leg.
The United States qualified fifth overall in 3:34.80, with Natalie Hinds recording their top leg in 53.28. This may open the door for Simone Manuel to swim the final, given that no one was overwhelmingly fast here.
The Chinese women set a new Asian Record in 3:35.07 to take sixth, while Sarah Sjostrom‘s 52.95 lead-off helped Sweden make the final in eighth.
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