Tokyo Olympic Predictions: Cate Campbell Caps Day Eight With Title in 50 Freestyle

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Tokyo Olympic Predictions: Cate Campbell Caps Day Eight With Title in 50 Freestyle

The final night of the Olympic Games in Tokyo will bring a speed show with the finals of both 50-meter freestyles and action in both medley relays. At the end of the evening, the number of medals won by Caeleb Dressel will be known, along with which nation tops the medals chart. Here is what Swimming World predicts for the last five events. All picks were made prior to the start of the Games.

Editor’s Note: Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time (e.g., New York) and 16 hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time (e.g., Los Angeles). This year’s Olympic finals (and semifinals) will be swum at Tokyo in the morning, with prelims swum the previous evening. So, for a finals session beginning at 10:30 a.m. Japan Standard Time on Sunday morning, Aug. 1, that would be 9:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 p.m. PDT) on Saturday evening, July 31.

Day Eight Finals

Sunday, Aug. 1
(10:30 a.m. – 12:25 p.m. Japan Standard Time)

Men’s 50 Freestyle

World Record: Cesar Cielo, Brazil – Sao Paulo 12-18-09 – 20.91
2016 Olympic Champion: Anthony Ervin, USA – 21.40

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Caeleb Dressel. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The men’s sprinting generations have turned in the United States. The ushering in of a global new guard is slower to arrive.

The United States claimed two places on the podium in Rio, but neither Anthony Ervin nor bronze medalist Nathan Adrian survived Olympic Trials this time, going by the wayside in favor of young stars Caeleb Dressel and Michael Andrew.

Globally, though, the same turnover hasn’t occurred. Florent Manaoudou, Bruno Fratus and Benjamin Proud – all top-six finishers in Rio – remain in the picture, despite the former two being in their 30s. Even the “young” competitors – 29-year-old Vlad Morozov and 27-year-old Kristian Gokolomeev – aren’t exactly young.

The most salient question appears to be if Dressel, who went 21.04 at the recent Trials, can erase Cesar Cielo’s world record. He’s the favorite for gold, with Proud not far behind. The mystery is if anyone else, young or old, can spoil the party.

Predictions

Gold: Caeleb Dressel, USA
Silver: Benjamin Proud, Great Britain
Bronze: Michael Andrew, USA

Women’s 50 Freestyle

World Record: Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden – Budapest 7-29-17 – 23.67
2016 Olympic Champion: Pernille Blume, Denmark – 24.07

The 50 freestyle can often be an unpredictable race in any international meet. With such little room for error and so many athletes bunched up together in the world rankings – not to mention the fatigue factor of the race being held on the very last day of the meet – the 50 freestyle is one of the most difficult to predict.

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Pernille Blume – Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Defending champion Pernille Blume shocked the world when she touched first in Rio, winning Denmark’s first swimming gold medal since 1948. However, Blume has not reached the podium internationally since then, finishing in fourth at the last two World Championships.

Reigning world champ Simone Manuel has not quite swum to expectations in 2021, having been diagnosed with overtraining syndrome earlier this year, preventing her from training at the same level as she did in 2016. Also, Sarah Sjostrom, the 2017 world champ and world record holder, sustained an elbow injury earlier this year.

That leaves the door open for two veterans: Australia’s Cate Campbell, who is looking for her first individual gold at the Olympics, and Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands, who won the gold medal in 2012. Campbell is second in the world rankings behind teammate Emma McKeon, while Kromowidjojo is directly behind them in third.

Predictions

Gold: Cate Campbell, Australia
Silver: Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Netherlands
Bronze: Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden

Men’s 1500 Freestyle

World Record: Sun Yang, China – London 8-4-12 – 14:31.02
2016 Olympic Champion: Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy – 14:34.57

Florian Wellbrock (R) of Germany celebrates after winning in the men's 1500m Freestyle Final while third placed Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy looks on during the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 28 July 2019.

Double World champion Florian Wellbrock was gunning for gold at Tokyo 2020 – it may now be Tokyo 2021 – Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

The reigning gold medalist, Gregorio Paltrinieri, was diagnosed with mononucleosis a month before the Tokyo Games were scheduled to begin, clouding the field a little bit and definitely putting a road block in his path toward repeating as Olympic champion.
Germany’s Florian Wellbrock has the top time in the world this year at 14:36.45, while Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk is next at 14:39.89, ahead of Paltrinieri (14:40.38).

Meanwhile, USA’s Bobby Finke dominated at the U.S. Trials and sits at 14:46.06 without being pushed down the stretch. He will try to follow in the path of Connor Jaeger, who gave the U.S. a silver medal in the event in Rio.

Predictions

Gold: Florian Wellbrock, Germany
Silver: Mykhailo Romanchuk, Ukraine
Bronze: Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy

Women’s 400 Medley Relay

World Record: United States (Regan Smith, Lilly King, Kelsi Dahlia, Simone Manuel) – Gwangju 7-28-19 – 3:50.40
2016 Olympic Champion: United States (Kathleen Baker, Lilly King, Dana Vollmer, Simone Manuel) – 3:53.13

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The American women have been dominant in the 400 medley relay since 2016, and have set world records in the event at the last two World Championships. The common factor on these relays is Lilly King, who has been the dominant 100 breaststroker in the world since 2016. Now 24, King projects to have more than a second advantage over the breaststroker of any other top country in the medley relays.

The U.S. relay should also feature Regan Smith, the former world record holder in the 100 back, as well as teenage butterfly star Torri Huske and likely Abbey Weitzeil on the anchor leg.

The Australians have Kaylee McKeown, the 100 backstroke world-record holder, with Emma McKeon (butterfly) and Cate Campbell (freestyle) coming home hard. Canada gets a huge boost from 100 back world champion Kylie Masse and 100 fly world champion Maggie MacNeil. China, Great Britain and potentially Sweden could also contend.

Predictions

Gold: United States
Silver: Australia
Bronze: Canada

Men’s 400 Medley Relay

World Record: United States (Aaron Peirsol, Eric Shanteau, Michael Phelps, David Walters) – Rome 8-2-09 – 3:27.28
2016 Olympic Champion: United States (Ryan Murphy, Cody Miller, Michael Phelps, Nathan Adrian) – 3:27.95

The United States has never lost the medley relay in Olympic competition, going a perfect 14-for-14 since the event’s debut in 1960. The only time Team USA didn’t capture gold was in 1980, when the United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Although this summer might be a little tighter than past Games, the U.S. is in good position to prevail.

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Ryan Murphy. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The American squad figures to feature Ryan Murphy (backstroke), Michael Andrew (breaststroke), Caeleb Dressel (butterfly) and Zach Apple (freestyle), a unit without a weakness. A key will be Andrew on the breaststroke leg, as he looks to neutralize Great Britain’s advantage on that leg with Adam Peaty.

For the Brits to challenge the United States, it must receive a lifetime-best swim from Luke Greenbank on the leadoff backstroke leg. Greenbank will be tasked with setting the stage for Peaty, James Guy and Duncan Scott.

Russia, which has several lineup options, seems to be the best bet for the bronze medal, with Australia and Japan challenging.

Predictions

Gold: United States
Silver: Great Britain
Bronze: Russia