Swimming World September 2021 Presents – Tokyo Olympic Game Superlative Awards: Best Male and Female Performance of the Meet

Swimming World September 2021 Presents - Tokyo Olympic Games Superlative Awards
Caeleb Dressel after his most recent 49-45 world record in the men's 100m butterfly in Tokyo [Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher / USA Today Sports]

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2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Superlative Awards

MALE PERFORMANCE OF THE MEET: CAELEB DRESSEL (100 FLY) – By John Lohn
There was no shortage of premium swims from the Tokyo Games. From Adam Peaty (100 breaststroke) to Kristof Milak (200 butterfly) to Bobby Finke (distance freestyle) to Wang Shun (200 individual medley), several individual efforts deserved consideration for Male Performance of the Meet.

But only one was the fastest in history, and it was produced by the man who was expected to be the star of Games—and delivered on that promise.
In the history of the 100 meter butterfly, the 50-second barrier has been cracked on only 10 occasions. Seven of those performances belong to American Caeleb Dressel, headlined by the 49.45 showstopper he popped to mine gold in Tokyo over Milak, the Hungarian star who went 49.68 for the No. 4 mark of all-time and a European record.

On the way to his second Olympiad, Dressel was—arguably—the most-hyped athlete of the Games. The pressure of that position is not easily managed, but Dressel found a way to compartmentalize each event and do what was necessary to win. In the 100 fly, that meant fending off Milak, the Olympic champion in the 200 fly who would surely charge down the last lap.

Dressel applied pressure from the start, going out in 23.00 to establish a .65-second lead on Milak. On the homecoming lap, Dressel remained poised and dug deep for a closing split of 26.45, one of the fastest ever, and the world record. Dressel sliced 5-hundredths off his previous global standard, which was set at the 2019 World Championships. Making the swim even more impressive was the fact that Dressel had a mediocre turn and finish, suggesting something in the 49-low realm was doable.

As dominant as Dressel has been in the 100 butterfly, the presence of Milak necessitated an aggressive front half from the U.S. star. Indeed, Dressel adopted that gameplan superbly, but he deserves plaudits, too, for the way he finished. With Milak registering the fastest back half in the history of the event, a split of 26.01, Dressel had no room to fade—even in the slightest.

“He’s going to put me out of a job one day, so I’m just trying to hang on as long as I can,” Dressel said of Milak. “Kristof executed perfectly. We both swam exactly the race we needed to. It was extremely close. It took a world record to win the Olympic final. I don’t think it happens that often in the Olympics. To have two of the fastest times in history, it’s amazing.”

Dressel’s world record was the opener of a three-swim evening on Day 7 that also saw him contest the semifinals of the 50 freestyle and the final of the mixed medley relay. Triples are rarely contested in a single session, especially at the international level. But they have become commonplace for the 24-year-old, who has previously handled that daunting schedule at the World Championships.

Dressel has been untouchable in the 100 butterfly for the past four years. His résumé includes world titles from 2017 and 2019 and a Pan Pacific crown from 2018. Capturing Olympic gold simply completed Dressel’s championship set, the world record adding a bit of flair.

FEMALE PERFORMANCE OF THE MEET: TATJANA SCHOENMAKER (200 BREAST) – By Matthew De George
It didn’t seem like a challenge when Tatjana Schoenmaker said it, but the South African swimmer spent the rest of the week trying to prove herself wrong.

Schoenmaker had just garnered a silver medal in the women’s 100 meter breaststroke on Tuesday, the third finals session of the Tokyo Olympics. After an Olympic and African record of 1:04.82 in the heats a day-and-a-half earlier, Schoenmaker didn’t betray a hint of disappointment in being overtaken by American Lydia Jacoby for gold in the shorter breaststroke race, which isn’t her specialty. Instead, Schoenmaker was ecstatic in garnering the first swimming medal for a South African woman in 21 years since Penny Heyns added a bronze medal in the 100 breast at the Sydney Games to her breaststroke gold-medal sweep in 1996!

“I couldn’t be any more happy,” Schoenmaker enthused at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

She worked to disprove that as the week wore on. Schoenmaker’s win in the 200 breast three days later wasn’t just another installment of joyous history for her and her country.

It marked the first and only women’s individual world record of the Games, a milestone that brought tears to Schoenmaker’s eyes anew.
And with her compatriot, Kaylene Corbett, and the other two occupants of the podium—silver medalist Lilly King and bronze medalist Annie Lazor, both of the United States—Schoenmaker delivered not just an unforgettable swim, but one of the indelible images of the Games: the four women embracing in shared jubilation in the pool.

“I would’ve never even thought, because it’s my first Olympics, that for me to get a lane in the final, then everyone stands a chance,” Schoenmaker said. “That’s the thing I’ve always been after. This has exceeded all my expectations, so I couldn’t be happier.”

Schoenmaker’s expectations were relatively modest entering the Games. Though the 24-year-old entered as the fifth seed in the 100 and tops in the 200, she was able to ease into the Games, with the 100 as her less favored event. Her ability to attack that swim with early speed to complement her tried-and-true back-half endurance boded well.

It cushioned any blow of Jacoby surging past her in the 100 breast final, though with Schoenmaker maintaining that merely making a final was her goal all along, there wasn’t much to cushion.

The 200 was hers from start to finish. She set an Olympic record in prelims at 2:19.16, dashing Rebecca Soni’s mark from London. She was first in the semis and matched the early speed of King in the final, overtaking her on the third 50. When Schoenmaker hit the wall, she glanced at the board to see a margin of victory of nearly a second over King and a world record of 2:18.95.

From the party hosted by her parents in the wee hours of the Johannesburg morning in South Africa to the celebration unfolding over the lane line in Tokyo, Schoenmaker’s joy matched the moment.

“It was exciting because it was such a good race,” Schoenmaker said. “It was also amazing that all the girls could celebrate each others’ victories. We all came together in the middle, and I really hope it stays like that and goes on to other strokes, because it’s so amazing to celebrate with each other and leave the competition in the pool…and after the race is done, to just be with each other and have fun.”

To find out who else won for:
Best Men’s and Women’s Relay Performance,
Best Individual Relay Performance,
Biggest Upset/Surprise,
Breakout Performer,
Country On The Rise,
and the Resilience Award,


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Swimming World September 2021 - Golden Boy Caeleb Dressel Puts On A Show In Tokyo With 5 Gold Medals and 2 World Records - COVER
[PHOTO BY ROB SCHUMACHER / USA Today Sports]

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FEATURES

2020 TOKYO OLYMPIC GAMES
by John Lohn, Dan D’Addona, 
Matthew De George and David Rieder

010  |  LIKE NO OTHER
There has never been an Olympics like the one held in Tokyo from July 23 through Aug. 8. Even the Games themselves were known as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games despite the fact that the actual event was held a year later! Yet, once the competition got started—at venues without any spectators—the XXXII Olympiad provided all of the anticipated emotions, surprises, goal fulfillments and more.

014 | MALE PERFORMANCE OF THE MEET: Caeleb Dressel (100 Fly)

014 | FEMALE PERFORMANCE OF THE MEET: Tatjana Schoenmaker (200 Breast)

015 | BEST WOMEN’S RELAY PERFORMANCE: Australia (400 Freestyle Relay)

016 | BEST MEN’S RELAY PERFORMANCE: USA (400 Medley Relay)

017 | BEST INDIVIDUAL RELAY PERFORMANCE: Adam Peaty (100 Breast/400 Medley Relay)

018 | BIGGEST UPSET/SURPRISE: Ahmed Hafnaoui (400 Free) & Lydia Jacoby (100 Breast)

019 | BREAKOUT PERFORMER: Bobby Finke (800 and 1500 Free)

020 | COUNTRY ON THE RISE: Italy

021 | RESILIENCE AWARD: Sarah Sjostrom (50 Free)

022 | OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY

027  |  RETURN TO NO. 1
by David Rieder
After a two-season absence as Swimming World’s girls’ high school national champions, Carmel High School (Ind.) has returned to claim its seventh overall team title since 2011.

029  |  SWIMMING WORLD MAGAZINE’S GIRLS’ NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIPS MOCK HEAT SHEET
by Bob Klapthor

031  | MAKING HISTORY
by Dan D’Addona
Carmel High School (Ind.) is the first school in 21 years to have both its girls’ and boys’ swimming teams win Swimming World’s national high school championships in the same year—a feat last accomplished by Bolles (Fla.) in 2000.

033  |  SWIMMING WORLD MAGAZINE’S BOYS’ NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIPS MOCK HEAT SHEET
by Bob Klapthor

COACHING

038  |  WHAT COACHES WISH PROSPECTS KNEW ABOUT RECRUITING
by Michael J. Stott
When it comes to college recruiting, swim coaches agree: they’re looking at much more than swimming times. They’re evaluating the whole package: academic, athletic, personal… and more!

041  |  SPECIAL SETS: ERIN GEMMELL—OLYMPIC BLOODLINES
by Michael J. Stott
Bruce Gemmell of Nation’s Capital Swim Club provides an interesting capsule of coaching for his 16-year-old daughter, Erin, as she prepared for her first U.S. Olympic Trials experience and earned a spot on the U.S. Junior team headed for the Berlin and Budapest World Cup stops in October.

043  |  Q&A WITH COACH JEFF JULIAN
by Michael J. Stott

044  |  HOW THEY TRAIN  TRENTON JULIAN
by Michael J. Stott

TRAINING

037   |  DRYSIDE TRAINING:  GOLD MEDAL WORKOUT (PART 2)
by J.R. Rosania

JUNIOR SWIMMER

047  |  UP & COMERS:  HENRY WEBB
by Shoshanna Rutemiller

COLUMNS

008  |  A VOICE FOR THE SPORT

040  |  THE OFFICIAL WORD

046  |  HASTY HIGH POINTERS

048  |  GUTTERTALK

049  |  PARTING SHOT

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