Olympic Semifinals: Zhang Yufei Tops Women’s 200 Butterfly Finalists; Hali Flickinger 2nd

olympic-Jul 28, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Zhang Yufei (CHN) makes a heart with her hands after winning the women's 200m butterfly semifinal during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Grace Hollars-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Grace Hollars/USA Today Sports

Since there were only 16 competitors in the women’s 200 butterfly after a late scratch before prelims, all 16 advanced to the semifinals at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

It is a different vibe than most Olympic races ever have.

But only eight would survive the semifinals and reach the finals as the mentality of racing the event completely changed overnight.

With much more on the line, the times got considerably faster. China’s Zhang Yufei won the second semifinal heat and took the top seed going into finals at 2:04.89. She was more than a second faster than the rest of the field.

USA’s Hali Flickinger took the second seed in 2:06.23, ahead of Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas (2:06.59) and USA’s Regan Smith (2:06.64).

Kapas won the world championship in 2019 ahead of Flickinger, though Flickinger had the top time of the meet in the world semis. They each have a ton of international experience, which will be a factor.

It should be a pretty interesting race as Yufei will look to keep up that pace and Flickinger, Kapas and Smith will look to turn on the jets a little more, especially on the back half of the race.

The Olympic Finalists

1. Zhang Yufei, China, 2:04.89
2. Hali Flickinger, USA, 2:06.23
3. Boglarka Kapas, Hungary, 2:06.59
4. Regan Smith, USA, 2:06.64
5. Yu Liyan, China, 2:07.04
6. Brianna Throssell, Australia, 2:08.41
7. Svetlana Chimrova, 2:08.62
8. Alys Margaret Thomas, Great Britain, 2:09.07

Women’s 200 Butterfly

• World record: Liu Zige, China, 2:01.81 (2009)
• Olympic record: Jiao Liuyang, China, 2:04.06 (2012)

The Setup

With 17 swimmers entered, and a late scratch from Katinka Hosszu, all it took was a legal finish to make Wednesday morning’s semifinal. All 16 swimmers, from top seed Zhang Yufei in 2:07.50 to Honduras’ Julimar Avila in a best time of 2:15.36, duly obliged to set the field.

Yufei won the third and final heat with ease in a dominant time. Hali Flickinger of the United States had won the previous heat eight tenths slower.

“Um, it’s interesting,” Flickinger said. “But I just wanted to get up and swim a decent race tonight to get ready for tomorrow morning.”

Each had a compatriot in the top four, with Yu Liyan outdueling 100 back bronze medalist Regan Smith in the first heat.