Olympics: Regan Smith Regains 100 Back Olympic Record; Sets Up Huge Showdown for Gold with McKeown and Masse

Jul 26, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Regan Smith (USA) after the women's 100m backstroke semifinals during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher -- USA Today Sports

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Olympics: Regan Smith Regains 100 Back Olympic Record, Sets Up Huge Showdown for Gold with McKeown and Masse

In the women’s 100 back prelims, Canada’s Kylie Masse, the USA’s Regan Smith and Australia’s Kaylee McKeown all broke the Olympic record in back-to-back-to-back heats, and as the only three swimmers in history to break 58 seconds, it makes sense that those three will be the last ones standing when the Olympic medals are decided. In what order they finish remains to be seen.

After Smith smashed the 100 backstroke world record at the 2019 World Championships with a 57.57, she did not break 58 again for almost two years until the U.S. Olympic Trials in late June, when she swam a 57.92 in the semifinal. But so far in Tokyo, Smith has two 57s to her credit, first the 57.96 in prelims that was briefly the Olympic record and then a 57.86 in the semifinal, which broke McKeown’s Olympic record, the only of the three records that survived prelims.

That swim for Smith was notable because she went out in 28.32, much slower than her 27.74 split on the way to that 2019 world record. But she came back in 29.54, the fastest second 50 of her career. But McKeown took down Smith’s world record last month with a 57.45, and she came home in an insane 29.35, so Smith will have to withstand a huge surge from her Australian rival if she hopes to win Olympic gold.

In the second semifinal, Masse touched out McKeown, 58.09 to 58.11, as the two will swim on either side of Smith in Tuesday’s final. Masse won both the 2017 and 2019 world titles in the 100 back after tying for bronze in her first Olympics in 2016, while Smith, 19, and McKeown, 20, are both making their Olympic debuts.

Three other swimmers broke 59 in the semifinal, and that trio could play a spoiler role in the final. Those swimmers are the USA’s Rhyan White (58.46), Great Britain’s Kathleen Dawson (58.56) and Australia’s Emily Seebohm (58.59). Seebohm, competing in her fourth Games at age 28, was the 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the event, and she actually owned the Olympic record before the barrage of the past 24 hours.

The Netherlands’ Kira Toussaint took seventh in 59.09, and Israel’s Anastasia Gorbenko was eighth in 59.30, denying Canada’s Taylor Ruck a spot in her first individual Olympic final. Ruck has had a disappointing Olympics so far as she was bumped from Canada’s finals squad in the 400 free relay, although she did earn a silver medal when her teammates placed second in the final.

Finalists

  1. Regan Smith (USA), 57.86
  2. Kylie Masse (Canada), 58.09
  3. Kaylee McKeown (Australia), 58.11
  4. Rhyan White (USA), 58.46
  5. Kathleen Dawson (Great Britain), 58.56
  6. Emily Seebohm (Australia), 58.59
  7. Kira Toussaint (Netherlands), 59.09
  8. Anastasia Gorbenko (Israel), 59.30
  9. Taylor Ruck 59.45