Tokyo Vision: Open Field in Women’s 200 Butterfly Primed for a Surprise

hali-flickinger-200 butterfly
Hali Flickinger after the 200 butterfly at the 2019 World Championships Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Tokyo Vision: Open Field in Women’s 200 Butterfly Primed for a Surprise

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: Women’s 200 Butterfly

World Record: Liu Zige (2009) – 2:01.81

Historical Note #1: Mireia Belmonte’s win in the 200 fly at the 2016 Olympics was the first swimming gold medal for Spain since Martin Lopez-Zubero (200 backstroke) in 1992. She was the first Spanish woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal.

Historical Note #2: The women’s 200 fly is among the most global of events historically. The 13 Olympic finals since 1968 have included winners from seven countries.

Virtual Vision

The Finalists (Listed Alphabetically)

  • Hali Flickinger – USA
  • Suzuka Hasegawa – Japan
  • Franziska Hentke – Germany
  • An Se-Hyeon – South Korea
  • Boglarka Kapas – Hungary
  • Regan Smith – USA
  • Laura Taylor – Australia
  • Alys Thomas – Great Britain

The Race

The reigning Olympic champion, Mireia Belmonte, didn’t give up her title easily, but by fractions of a second, the 30-year-old missed out on the final, despite a strong showing in the inaugural 1500 earlier in the week. Youth was served in a wide-open event, between American Regan Smith and Aussie Laura Taylor. Suzuka Hasegawa, at 21, ensured that the home country was represented in the final.

Smith, sensing an opportunity in one of the minority of events from Rio that didn’t produce an Olympic record, was able to navigate a tricky double in the morning session of Day 4 with the 200 fly semifinals and 100 backstroke final, getting into the fly final with the sixth-fastest time, putting her in the peripheral vision of her rivals for the final.

But the old guard didn’t give up the ghost gently. Alys Thomas proved that in the final, leading the field through the first 50 meters. Hali Flickinger and Smith both were within a second at the midpoint, the former taking the lead at 100 meters. Boglarka Kapas, who rallied with a stellar final 50 to win the 2019 world championship, was lurking.

Thomas started to slow as the field turned for home and she’d eventually come back to the pack. As the field headed for the flags, there was little daylight between Flickinger, Smith, Taylor and Kapas. Flickinger appeared to be holding off the field, but she fielded challenges from all sides. It would come down to the final three strokes to see if the Americans could finally end their gold-medal drought in the event, which dates to Misty Hyman’s upset win in 2000.

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