Olympics: Zhang Yufei, Emma McKeon Threaten World Record, Tie for Top Seed in 100 Fly

Jul 24, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Emma McKeon (AUS) during the women's 100m butterfly heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Network
Emma McKeon; Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Network

Olympics: Zhang Yufei, Emma McKeon Threaten World Record, Tie for Top Seed

The gauntlet has been thrown down in the wide-open women’s 100 butterfly, and already the world-record line has gotten  a stiff test.

The five-year-old record endured a couple of scares Saturday night at the first women’s even of the Tokyo Olympics, the most threatening lodged by Zhang Yufei and Emma McKeon. Those two enter as the co-top seeds for Sunday morning’s semifinal. Swimming in the final heat, they touched the wall in identical times of 55.82, within .34 of the world record set in Rio in 2016 by Sarah Sjostrom.

Sjostrom had set the pace in the heat before, rallying to get the better of Torri Huske. Huske went out under world-record pace for the first three-quarters of heat 4 of 5, but Sjostrom reeled her in, touching first in 56.18, her fastest time of the last two years. Huske was second in 56.29. They’re the third and fourth seeds, respectively.

Sjostrom, the reigning Olympic champion, underwent surgery on an elbow fracture in February. The 27-year-old was back in the water less than a month into what was supposed to be a three-month recovery. Her injury introduced intrigue to the race, as did the rapid emergence of two American teenage stars, Huske and Claire Curzan.

Reigning world champion Maggie MacNeil won the third heat with ease in 56.55, setting the Canadian up as the fifth seed in semifinals.

“It was good to come out and get my first race under my belt, see what I can improve,” MacNeil said. “I feel like my second 50 wasn’t as strong as I would like, so that’s the goal for tomorrow. I’m really inspired by Penny (Oleksiak) and Taylor (Ruck) after seeing what they did in 2016, knowing they are my age. It gave me chills and it’s really exciting to be here with them.”

MacNeil’s countrywoman Katerine Savard made it back in 11th, one spot behind Curzan, who went 57.49. Louise Hansson, Marie Wattel and Anastasiya Shkurdai are also lurking to add international spice to the final.

Women’s 100 fly

  • World Record: Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden, 55.48 (2016)
  • Olympic Record: Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden, 55.48 (2016)
  1. Zhang Yufei, China, 55.82
  2. Emma McKeon, Australia, 55.82
  3. Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden, 56.18
  4. Torri Huske, United States, 56.29
  5. Maggie MacNeil, Canada, 56.55
  6. Louise Hansson, Sweden, 56.97
  7. Anastasiya Shkurdai, Belarus, 56.99
  8. Marie Wattel, France, 57.08
  9. Elena Di Liddo, Italy, 57.41
  10. Claire Curzan, United States, 57.49
  11. Katerine Savard, Canada, 57.51
  12. Ilaria Bianchi, Italy, 57.70
  13. Anna Ntountounaki, Greece, 57.75
  14. Arina Surkova, Russia, 58.02
  15. Svetlana Chimrova, Russia, 58.04
  16. Brianna Throssell, Australia, 58.08