Tokyo Vision: Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys joined by Field of Fresh Faces For 200 Freestyle Final

Danas RAPSYS of Lithuania on his way winning in the men's 400m Freestyle Final during the 20th LEN European Short Course Swimming Championships in Glasgow, Great Britain, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (Photo by Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK)
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: Lithuania's Danas Rapsys chasing Olympic gold in the 200m freestyle. Photo Courtesy Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK

Tokyo Vision: Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys joined by Field of Fresh Faces For 200 Freestyle Final

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.

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Event: Men’s 200 Freestyle
World Record: Paul Biedermann (2009) – 1:42.00

Historical Note #1: The Mexico altitude certainly threw a spanner in the works in 1968, none more so than in the 200 freestyle final won by Sydney’s Mike Wenden,who added his second gold to Australia’s tally after winning the blue ribbon 100 freestyle. Wenden, who won in an Olympic record time of 1:55.2 and silver medallist, smooth stroking American Don Schollander (1:55.8), were stretched to the limit by their high altitude ordeal. Schollander had to be given oxygen while Wenden lost consciousness and had to be saved by fellow Aussie Bob Windle. Schollander announced his immediate retirement saying: “That’s it, I’m finished with swimming. I may not even take a bath or shower for another two years!” Wenden returned home a national hero, with this advice for future Olympic champions: “Seek advice about a suitable business manager and maintain close contact with a psychologist.”

Historical Note #2: In 2000, Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband sat in his room back in the Village watching the opening night’s swimming which featured his arch rival, Ian Thorpe, delivering gold for the home crowd in the 400 freestyle before overpowering Gary Hall Jr. in the anchor leg to give the Aussies a rare victory in the 4x100m freestyle relay. “Hoogie” with the astute coach Jacco Verhaeren in his corner seemed non-plused when Verhaeren knocked on his door that night. They had come to Australia with one goal, to become the first man to break 48 seconds in the 100. Anything else would be a bonus. The flying Dutchman delivered that bonus and spoiled Thorpe’s party, letting him know he meant business in the 200 free when he broke the Australian’s world record in the semifinal in a time of 1:45.35 – Thorpe replying in the second semi when he too broke his own world record in 1:45.37 but outside Hoogie’s new mark. The stage was set for shootout to end all shootouts in the final, with the pair turning in the same time at the 150m mark, before the Dutchman pulled away to win the gold – equaling his time world record time from the semifinal.

Virtual Vision

The Finalists (Listed Alphabetically)

  • Kyle Chalmers – Australia
  • James Guy – Great Britain
  • Clyde Lewis – Australia
  • Martin Malyutin – Russia
  • Katsuhiro Matsumoto – Japan
  • Danas Rapsys – Lithuania
  • Duncan Scott – Great Britain
  • Kieran Smith – United States

The Race

A new-look final was introduced with just one swimmer from the Rio field qualifying in Tokyo, James Guy, and with Sun Yang serving his eight-year suspension, it has left the door wide open for a new gold medalist.

Lithuanian rising star Danas Rapsys, disqualified in the World Championship final in 2019, charged out of the blocks to lead this field, which included Gwangju medalists Katsuhiro Matsumoto (Japan), Martin Malyutin (Russia) and Duncan Scott (Great Britain).

duncan-scott

IF THE CAP FITS: Duncan Scott would put himself in a podium position with 50m to swim. Photo Courtesy: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

But like Rapsys, the only other sub-1:45 swimmers in the field, Australia’s Clyde Lewis and Great Britain’s great Scott, would up the ante when the field turned at the 100m mark, with the gold medal lap ahead of them.

Another player who would stamp his authority was Australia’s Kyle Chalmers, the reigning Olympic 100 champion, who scraped into this hotly contested final in an outside lane. Rapsys would hold a substantial lead from Lewis, Scott and Chalmers in hot pursuit, Rapsys knowing the big South Australian’s traditional powerful finish could well ruin his Olympic dreams.

Known for gutsy performances during his career, Guy was also in touch with the front of the field, lurking long enough to put himself in an advantageous position with the medals on the line. More, American rising talent Kieran Smith – perhaps better known in the 400 freestyle – was charging down the last 50 meters.

Could Chalmers become the first man to win the 100 and 200 freestyles since Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband in 2000, and thus expand his global presence? Would Danas Rapsys atone for his DQ at Worlds? Would the title go elsewhere?

1 comment

  1. avatar
    CACrushers

    Rapsys has to be the favourite. TFH would be my dark horse pick, at least to make the final.

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