Olympics: Duncan Scott, Kieran Smith Lead Finalists in Men’s 200 Freestyle

kieran-smith-duncan-scott-Jul 26, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Kieran Smith (USA) after the men's 200m freestyle semifinals during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports-duncan-scott
Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

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The men’s 200 free saw several young swimmers make a move to qualify for the semifinals at the Tokyo Olympics. In the semifinals, it was Great Britain’s veteran Duncan Scott that got the job done first.

In the first semifinal heat, Russia Olympic Committee’s Martin Malyutin got his hand on the wall first in 1:45.45, holding off Romania’s David Popovici (1:45.68), Brazil’s Fernando Sheffer (1:45.71), Australia’s Thomas Neill (1:45.74) and Townley Haas (1:46.07) of the U.S. Malyutin has been as quick as 1:44.79 this year, which ranks fifth in the world, and we’ll see if the 16-year-old Popovici has another big drop in the tank to make a medal run.

The second heat was much faster as Scott took the top spot in 1:44.60 to take the top spot into finals overall. Scott owns the top time in the world at 1:44.47, and after he captured two relay gold medals his first Olympics, the 2016 Games in Rio, he will aim for his first Olympic medal in the final. Adam Peaty captured British gold later Monday morning in the 100 breast, so Scott will look to join his teammate on top of the podium.

U.S. swimmer Kieran Smith took the second spot in the second heat in 1:45.07, eclipsing his lifetime best of 1:45.29 from U.S. Olympic Trials. Smith qualified just 13th in prelims after earning a surprising bronze in the 400 free Sunday morning, and he has put himself in position to chase another medal in the 200 free.

“That wasn’t too bad. I wanted to lay it out that first 100, 150, try to stay with it at the end because I know there’s a lot of fast swims coming up. I’m not sure how it was going to feel in the water, been having some problems with my stomach this morning so I barely ate. But very pleased to go this time and have a good lane for the final,” Smith said. “I got to put the blinders on a little bit, nto worry about the race around me for two of the 50s because I’m breathing towards nothing. I think it helps to be in an outside lane to really attack the front half like I did.”

Smith finished ahead of Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys (1:45.32), Britain’s Tom Dean (1:45.34) and Korea’s Hwang Sun-Woo (1:45.53), and all three of those men have been much faster. Rapsys, who touched first in the 200 free final at the 2019 World Championships, has a best time of 1:44.38, while Dean ranks second in the world this year at 1:44.58. Hwang was well off his world junior record of 1:44.61 set in prelims Sunday.

The final will come down to who manages to deliver 1:44 performances in the big moment. Five men in the field have previously recorded 1:44s (Scott, Dean, Hwang and Malyutin this year, Rapsys in 2019), but it’s been clear at these Olympics that lifetime bests and the on-paper analysis don’t mean anything when it comes to Olympic finals.


1. Duncan Scott, Great Britain, 1:44.60
2. Kieran Smith, USA, 1:45.07
3. Danas Rapsys, Lithuania, 1:45.32
4. Tom Dean, Great Britain, 1:45.34
5. Martin Malyutin, ROC, 1:45.45
6. Hwang Sun-Woo, Korea, 1:45.53
7. David Popovici, Romania, 1:45.68
8. Fernando Scheffer, Brazil, 1:45.71

The Set Up

Prior to the semifinals, Hwang set a world junior record and registered the only time under 1:45 in the prelims with his time of 1:44.62. The 18-year-old Hwang was dominant in the third of five heats, where he finished ahead of Great Britain’s Dean (1:45.24). Popovici also had his top race of the day in prelims with a 1:45.32, just a little off his best time of 1:45.26 at the European Junior  Championships earlier this month. Scheffer had the second-best time in prelims (1:45.05) before barely squeaking into the final in eighth, while Scott only had the fifth seed in prelims (1:45.37) before he turned on the jets in the semifinals.