Tokyo Vision: Chase Kalisz, Daiya Seto Vie For 200 IM Crown in Post-Phelps Era

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USA's Chase Kalisz; Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Tokyo Vision: Chase Kalisz, Daiya Seto Vie For 200 IM Crown in Post-Phelps Era

Had the COVID-19 pandemic not shaken the world, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo would be unfolding right now, titles and podium finishes earned by the finest athletes from around the world. Instead, we are in a competition lull and hopeful that the Games will be held next summer, with COVID-19 neutralized.

As we reach the nine days over which the swimming competition of a delayed Olympiad would have taken place, Swimming World is taking a glimpse at what might have unfolded this summer, had the Olympics not been postponed. Following the official schedule, we offer our virtual fields of eight finalists for each event and take a brief look at how the racing might have panned out until a few strokes away from decision and a result that will not be known until July/August 2021.

Event: Men’s 200 Individual Medley
World Record: Ryan Lochte, USA (2011) – 1:54.00

Historical Note #1: This event was first contested in 1968 as American Charles Hickcox led a 1-2-3 finish with Greg Buckingham and John Ferris. Hickcox, who etched a superb career at Indiana University, won in 2:12.0.

Historical Note #2: Michael PhelpsRyan Lochte and Thiago Pereira appeared in four straight finals in this event from 2004-2016. Phelps won all four showdowns, with Lochte winning silver in 2004 and 2012, and a bronze in 2008. Pereira never stood on the podium in this event at the Olympics.

Virtual Vision

The Finalists (Listed Alphabetically)

  • Jeremy Desplanches, Switzerland
  • Carson Foster, United States
  • Kosuke Hagino, Japan
  • Philip Heintz, Germany
  • Chase Kalisz, United States
  • Daiya Seto, Japan
  • Andreas Vazaios, Greece
  • Wang Shun, China

The Race

As the finalists lined up behind the blocks, spectators were reminded of Michael Phelps, who was sitting poolside anticipating the first 200 IM Olympic final without him since Sydney. Flying the American flag in Phelps’ absence is his former Baltimore training partner Chase Kalisz, the 2017 world champ in this event. Kalisz encountered a blip in 2019, winning the World Championships bronze behind Japan’s Daiya Seto in the 200 medley.

The crowd at the Tokyo Aquatic Center is behind Seto, who has been on fire the last 12 months, and reigning Olympic silver medalist Kosuke Hagino. Hagino is another on the comeback train, as he had considered retirement in 2019, but is back at full strength. As the finalists dive in, the stadium erupts for its home stars.

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Japan’s Daiya Seto. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Seto’s tempo is up and he darts to the lead in the butterfly with Greece’s Andreas Vazaios in pursuit. Switzerland’s Jeremy Desplanches, last year’s Worlds silver medalist, is out quickly as well, as is USA’s Carson Foster, last year’s World Junior champ and a promising youngster.

Vazaios uses his backstroke prowess to pull even with Seto as Desplanches and Hagino are fighting for the third position.

The major key in the 200 IM is to control the emotions on the front half and to play to your strengths. No one has done that better than Kalisz in year’s past, as he has stayed close on the backstroke and is ready to pounce on the third 50. China’s Wang Shun, the reigning Olympic bronze medalist, is surging on breaststroke as well. As the field gets to the wall, Seto turns in the lead, and the crowd rises to their feet. Kalisz has nearly pulled even with him, while the rest of the finalists are within a second of each other.

The eight finalists are scrambling for the podium on the freestyle leg. The cheering is deafening as both Seto and Hagino have a chance at getting on the podium. Kalisz is there as well, along with Wang, Desplanches and Vazaios. With 10 meters to go, the men put their heads down, and all eyes are on the scoreboard.

If Seto touches first, he would win Japan’s first gold medal in the event as Hagino’s silver remains the country’s lone medal in the 200 IM. If Chase Kalisz touches first, he would win the USA’s fifth straight gold medal in the 200 IM, adding to the legacy started by his big brother Phelps.