The Week That Was: Top Stories from Busy Week at Tokyo Olympics

Aug 1, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Caeleb Dressel (USA) in the men's 4x100m medley final 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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The past seven days have included a full state of action in and around the pool at the Tokyo Olympics, including the bulk of the Games’ swimming competition and quite a bit of water polo and diving news as well. In the pool, the United States again topped the medal count, while Australia and Great Britain each had phenomenal team performances. Swimming World’s team provided around-the-clock coverage of the biggest event in the sport, and you can check out all of that coverage here.

Read the five biggest stories of the week in The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

The Week That Was #1: Ledecky, Dressel Lead Americans to 30 Medals in Tokyo

Jul 31, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Katie Ledecky (USA) after winning the women's 800m freestyle final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Katie Ledecky — Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

The United States swim team did not have a perfect during the Tokyo Olympics swimming competition. They won just two relays out of seven after claiming gold in five of six at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. They missed out on medals in two relays entirely, which had never happened before in Olympic history. They were on the disappointing end of a few tight finishes. But the Olympics ended with the Americans in the usual position, on top of the Olympic swimming medal table by a significant margin.

The Americans ended up with 30 total medals, a bit less than 33 from the 2016 Rio Games and 31 from the 2012 Olympics (albeit with three new events on the program in Tokyo). The main difference for this time around was the U.S. team finishing with just 11 gold medals after capturing 16 top honors at each of the last two Olympics. The American men won 12 of the 18 medals but eight of the 11 U.S. golds. Caeleb Dressel, of course, won five of those gold medals as he joined Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps as the only men to win three or more gold medals in one Olympics, while Bobby Finke was one of the Games’ shocking performers with gold medals in the 800 free and 1500 free.

The U.S. women, on the other hand, took only three gold medals — two by Katie Ledecky in the 1500 free and 800 free and one by Lydia Jacoby in the 100 breast — but they won 18 total medals. In an amazing four events, the Americans finished 2-3: the women’s 400 IM, 200 IM, 200 butterfly and 200 breaststroke. Ledecky also won silver in the 400 free in an incredible race with Australia’s Ariarne Titmus, and her 800 free win made her just the third woman to win three straight Olympic golds in one event.

#2: Australia Returns to Glory: 20 Medals, Nine Gold

Aug 1, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Emma McKeon (AUS) with her gold medal during the medals ceremony for the women's 50m freestyle during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Emma McKeon

After winning just 10 swimming medals at each of the last two Olympics in London and Rio, Australia doubled that total by claiming 20 medals in the pool while earning gold nine times, eight of them by the women’s team. Australia came in with a lot of hyped swimmers but pressure to perform, and the Aussies absolutely delivered. The Aussie women saw Ariarne Titmus take gold in the 400 free in the anticipated race with Katie Ledecky and then also capture gold in the 200 free, bronze in the 800 free and relay bronze, Kaylee McKeown dominate the field in both backstroke and Emma McKeon produce two individual golds in the 50 free and 100 free. McKeon actually ended up with seven medals on her own, including her two individual golds, relay gold medals in the 400 free and 400 medley relays and bronzes in the 100 fly, 800 free relay and mixed 400 medley relay.

For the men, Zac Stubblety-Cook was the top performer for the Australian men this week after winning gold in the 200 breaststroke, while Kyle Chalmers came up just six hundredths away from defending his 100 free gold medal ,touching in 47.08.

A superb performance in Tokyo as one punctuated by a gold-medal showing from its women’s 400-meter medley relay.

Battling with the United States for the entire race, Australia eked out a tight triumph as the quartet of McKeown, Chelsea Hodges, McKeon and Campbell registered an Olympic-record time of 3:51.60. That effort edged the 3:51.73 mark of Team USA, which turned to the unit of Regan SmithLydia JacobyTorri Huske and Abbey Weitzeil. Canada claimed the bronze medal in 3:52.60.

The Week That Was #3: British Men, Canadian Women Crush it in Tokyo

adam peaty, tokyo olympics, mixed 400 medley relay, mixed medley relay

Adam Peaty — Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports

Great Britain won eight medals in swimming at the Olympics, the third-most of any country, as Adam Peaty defended his Olympic gold medal in the men’s 100 breast and led his squad to a gold in the mixed 400 medley relay, while Tom Dean and Duncan Scott finished 1-2 in the men’s 200 free and led the Brits to a gold medal in the men’s 800 free relay. Scott also won silver in the 200 free, Greenbank got bronze in the men’s 200 back and the men’s 400 medley team was a close second to the United States.

After a breakthrough Olympics in 2016, the Canadian women were again on fire in Rio. They won gold in swimming for the second straight Olympics as Maggie MacNeil won the 100 butterfly, and the squad also earned individual medals from Kylie Masse (silver in the 100 back and 200 back) and Penny Oleksiak (bronze in 200 free). MacNeil and Oleksiak were part of the 400 free relay squad that earned silver, Canada’s highest-ever finish in an Olympic relay, and Masse and Sydney Pickrem joined them on the bronze-medal winning 400 medley relay squad.

South Africa’s women won their first swimming medal since 2000 and the first gold since 1996 as Tatjana Schoenmaker won gold in world-record time in the 200 breast and took silver in the 100 breast. And while Europe’s men performed well in Rio — Peaty and Dean won golds for Britain, Hungarian star Kristof Milak won the 200 fly and took second in the 200 fly and Evgeny Rylov swept the backstrokes — it was a paltry week for the European women. They won only four medals, half of them in the women’s 50 free final on the last day (with Sarah Sjostrom and Pernille Blume).

#4: Ryan Murphy Calls Out Expresses Concerns About Doping in Swimming

Jul 25, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Evgeny Rylov (ROC) reacts after the men's 100m backstroke heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Murphy — Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

After the Russian Olympic Committee’s Evgeny Rylov took gold in the men’s 200 backstroke and the USA’s Ryan Murphy and Great Britain’s Luke Greenbank rounded out the podium, Murphy and Greenbank declared beliefs they are competing against athletes who are using performance-enhancing drugs. Although they did not refer to Russia or Rylov by name, Murphy and Greenbank referenced the decision by the International Olympic Committee to allow Russian athletes to compete in Tokyo, despite the fact that the nation was found to operate a systematic-doping program. The penalty levied against Russia was for it to be recognized as the Russian Olympic Committee and for its flag and national anthem to not be used during medals ceremonies.

In addition to finishing behind a Russian in the 200 backstroke, Murphy was the bronze medalist behind Rylov and Russian Kliment Kolesnikov in the 100 backstroke.

“I’ve got about 15 thoughts,” Murphy said, when asked if he thought the race was fair. “Thirteen of them would get me into a lot of trouble. It is what it is. I try not to get caught up in that. It is a huge mental drain on me to go throughout the year that I’m swimming in a race that’s probably not clean, and that is what it is. The people that know a lot more about the situation made the decision they did. It frustrates me, but I have to swim the field that’s next to me. I don’t have the bandwidth to train for the Olympics at a very high level and try to lobby the people who are making the decisions that they’re making the wrong decisions.

“To be clear, my intention is not to make any allegations here. Congratulations to Evgeny and Luke. I think they did an incredible job. They’re both very talented swimmers. They both work really hard, got great technique. At the end of the day, I do believe there’s doping in swimming. That is what it is.”

Greenbank, who has surged up the world rankings over the past couple of years, echoed Murphy’s sentiments. Both men couldn’t help wonder if they should have stood on a higher step of the podium and have a medal of a different color for their efforts. Although Rylov has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, the actions of the Russian system place question marks around his efforts.

“It’s obviously a very difficult situation not knowing whether who you are racing against is clean,” Greenbank said. “It is something that is part of sports and (international federations) need to tackle that.”

The Russian Olympic Committee later released a dramatic, sarcastic statement criticizing Murphy, while Lilly King, herself no stranger to controversy involving Russians and banned substances, voiced her support for her American teammate.

The Week That Was #5: USA Women’s Water Polo Sees 12-Game Olympic Winning Streak Snapped

Jul 28, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Hungary player Rebecca Parkes (6) is defended by USA player Alys Williams (12) in a group B match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tatsumi Water Polo Centre. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

U.S. women’s water polo’s Alys Williams, center, defends Hungary’s Rebecca Parkes during their game Wednesday; Photo Courtesy: James Lang/USA TODAY Sports

It had been 13 years and 12 Olympic games since the U.S. women’s water polo team last tasted defeat. Hungary ended that streak on Wednesday.

A goal by Rebecca Parkes with 45 seconds to play tilted a seesaw battle in favor of Hungary, giving it a 10-9 win over the United States at the Tatsumi Aquatic Centre.

The United States went up 8-6 with 2:45 left in the third quarter, the biggest lead either team had in a nip-and-tuck affair. But Parkes scored at 6:26 of the fourth, then Vanda Valyi tied the game less than a minute later. Melissa Seidemann nudged the U.S. back ahead with 2:28 remaining, but Rita Kesztheyli re-knotted the game with an extra-player goal at 1:53, setting up Parkes’ heroics.

“I thought we played hard, we played so tough,” U.S. coach Adam Krikorian said. “It was similar to the China game when we had a really difficult time just putting the ball in the back of the net. We wish we would have finished off the game, but we’ll learn from this and move on. The game was super physical, the most physical game that we played in the last 13 or 17 games that we’ve had leading up to this.”

The loss dropped the U.S. women’s water polo to 2-1 in pool play. It’s the first loss for the two-time defending champion since the gold-medal game in Beijing in 2008. The U.S. had not lost in 2021 and had suffered just four setbacks since the Rio Olympics.

“We’re going in to every game taking our competitors seriously,” Seidemann said. “We haven’t lost a lot but the way the media portrays that discredits our opponents as everyone’s so good. It’s not a surprise to us. We knew it was going to be a battle and we look forward to the next time we get to see them.”

However, the American women would later get back on track with an 18-5 win over Russia as Maggie Steffens scored four goals to break the all-time Olympic tournament record with 49. The Americans have moved on to the elimination round and will face Canada at 2 p.m. local time Tuesday.

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