Tokyo Olympic Predictions: On Day Five, Caeleb Dressel Bests Kyle Chalmers in 100 Freestyle Showdown


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Tokyo Olympic Predictions: On Day Five, Caeleb Dressel Bests Kyle Chalmers in 100 Freestyle Showdown

The fifth day of competition at the Olympic Games in Tokyo will feature the men’s 800-meter freestyle for the first time. The event, along with the women’s 1500 freestyle and mixed medley relay, have brought the Olympic program to 35 events. Here is how Swimming World sees the podiums looking on Day Five. Picks were made prior to the start of the meet.

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 Thursday morning, July 29, that would be 9:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 p.m. PDT) on Wednesday evening, July 28.

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Day Five Finals

Thursday, July 29
(10:30 a.m. – 1:05 p.m. Japan Standard Time)

Men’s 800 Freestyle

World Record: Zhang Lin, China – Rome 7-29-09 – 7:32.12
2016 Olympic Champion: Olympic debut

Sun Yang won’t be there. The Americans, who didn’t have a finalist at the last World Championships, lack a top-30 time in the last two years. Gregorio Paltrinieri is overcoming a bout of mononucleosis.

So where does that leave the field in the first-ever Olympic men’s 800 free? Wide open, to say the least.

In the picture: Gregorio Paltrinieri ITA, 003659

Gregorio Paltrinieri – Photo Courtesy: Arena

Europe seems to be the likely point of origin for the champion. Paltrinieri is the reigning world champ, leading an all-European podium in 2019 with Henrik Christiansen of Norway and David Aubry of France. Paltrinieri’s countryman Gabriele Detti has grown over the last Olympic cycle, as has Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk (the European champion in late May). Australia’s Jack McLoughlin (fourth at Worlds and ranked second in 2021) is also a contender.

The addition of the 800 to the 1500 complicates schedules for distance swimmers, as does the fact that several medal hopes – Paltrinieri, Aubry and Germany’s Florian Wellbrock among them – will compete in the pool and open water.

So, a first men’s 800 opens the door to intriguing possibilities.


Gold: Mykhailo Romanchuk, Ukraine
Silver: Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy
Bronze: Henrik Christiansen, Norway

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

World Record: Anton Chupkov, Russia – Gwangju 7-26-19 – 2:06.12
2016 Olympic Champion: Dmitriy Balandin, Kazakhstan – 2:07.46


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Since winning the world title in 2017, the men’s 200 breaststroke has belonged to Russia’s Anton Chupkov. The two-time reigning world champ has won every title imaginable for the 200 breaststroke, but the Olympic gold eludes him. After dismantling the record books in 2019, when he nearly became the first man to break 2:06 in the event, he is still the favorite to take gold after four lengths of the pool in Japan. But it won’t be easy, as five of the six fastest men ever in the event will be in Tokyo.

Japan’s Shoma Sato has the top time in the world this year, and even without any hometown fans cheering him on, he should still be a popular pick for the gold. The 20-year-old who ranks third on the all-time list has the weight of a nation on his shoulders: Japan has won this event more than any other country at the Games – six – with the last coming from Kosuke Kitajima in 2008. Sato rattled the world record at Japan’s Trials in April, but doesn’t have an international senior level meet under his belt.

Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook, who swims a very similar race to Chupkov in that he often blitzes the final 50 faster than anyone else, has the top time in the world this year with a 2:06.2 from June. Australia hasn’t won this event since Ian O’Brien in 1964, but has two gold medal contenders in Stubblety-Cook and 2019 Worlds silver medalist Matthew Wilson.


Gold: Anton Chupkov, Russia
Silver: Zac Stubblety-Cook, Australia
Bronze: Shoma Sato, Japan

Women’s 200 Butterfly

World Record: Liu Zige, China – Jinan 10-21-09 – 2:01.81
2016 Olympic Champion: Mireia Belmonte, Spain – 2:04.85


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

It seemed as if the women’s 200 butterfly would be a two-person race, as it was at the 2019 World Championships between USA’s Hali Flickinger and Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas. Flickinger had the top time heading into finals, but neither herself nor Kapas reached that time, though Kapas got her hand on the wall first for the gold medal. Flickinger has come back with a vengeance, putting together some dominating swims this year.

But Flickinger (2:05.85) and Kapas (2:06.50) have the second- and third-fastest times in the world this year. China’s Zhang Yufei has the top time at 2:05.44, making it a three-way race for gold – at least on paper. Flickinger is the veteran, having been in an Olympic final in 2016, but the youth movement of Zhang and Kapas have a lot of speed. Flickinger also made the team in the 400 IM and has been at her best since Worlds.

American Regan Smith has the fourth-fastest time this year at 2:06.99 and could be a podium possibility, with plenty of additional talent in the field behind, including Aussie Brianna Throssell.


Gold: Hali Flickinger, USA
Silver: Zhang Yufei, China
Bronze: Boglarka Kapas, Hungary

Men’s 100 Freestyle

World Record: Cesar Cielo, Brazil – Rome 7-30-09 – 46.91
2016 Olympic Champion: Kyle Chalmers, Australia – 47.58

Bombo Quarry Landscape

Photo Courtesy: Nina Beilby

Are we looking at a showdown between reigning Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers of Australia and two-time defending world champion Caeleb Dressel of the United States? That duel would feature the front-end speed of Dressel versus the back-half strength of Chalmers. While Chalmers was 47.59 at the Australian Trials, Dressel registered a performance of 47.39 at the U.S. Trials. Look for the 46.91 world record of Cesar Cielo to come under fire.

Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov, although best known for his backstroke prowess, owns the second-fastest time in the world this year, an effort of 47.31. Kolesnikov captured the European title in the event earlier this year and could disrupt the Chalmers-Dressel party. Another factor could be Italian Alessandro Miressi, who is relatively unheralded, but has been 47.45.

Zach Apple secured the second spot at the American Trials. Attention must also be paid to Russia’s Andrei Minakov and Hungarian Nandor Nemeth, along with Romanian 16-year-old David Popovici, who blasted the top time in the world at the European Juniors, going 47.30.


Gold: Caeleb Dressel, USA
Silver: Kyle Chalmers, Australia
Bronze: David Popovici, Romania

Women’s 800 Freestyle Relay

World Record: Australia (Ariarne Titmus, Madison Wilson, Brianna Throssell, Emma McKeon) – Gwangju 7-25-19 – 7:41.50
2016 Olympic Champion: United States (Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith, Maya DiRado, Katie Ledecky) – 7:43.03

Dean Boxall and Ariarne Titmus

Dean Boxall with Ariarne Titmus – Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia/Delly Carr

At the 2019 World Championships, Australia won gold in the 800 free relay by less than 4-tenths over the United States, with both countries going under a decade-old world record in the process. Now, Australia is the heavy favorite, with the top four times from their Trials adding up to almost two seconds faster than that world record. The team figures to consist of Ariarne Titmus, who almost broke the 200 free world record with her 1:53.09, as well as Emma McKeon (1:54.74), Madison Wilson (1:55.68) and Leah Neale (1:56.08).

The Americans should be favored for silver with Katie Ledecky leading a likely team of Paige Madden, Allison Schmitt and Katie McLaughlin, but the season-best times for that group adds up to more than five seconds behind Australia’s potential time. The Americans have won the 800 free relay in five of six appearances at the Olympic Games, with Australia capturing first on the other occasion in 2008.

Meanwhile, Canada and China should battle for bronze. Canada will need Penny Oleksiak (1:54.36 split in 2019) and Taylor Ruck (1:56.21 split in 2019) as close to their best as possible, while China’s Yang Junxuan swam a 1:54.57 earlier this year.


Gold: Australia
Silver: United States
Bronze: Canada


  1. avatar

    Chalmers over Dressel

    • avatar

      In your dreams

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