Tokyo Vision: Will History Repeat Itself for Simone Manuel And Penny Oleksiak in the 100m Freestyle

MANUEL START: Olympic and world champion Simone Manuel would get away to a smart start. Photo Courtesy Peter H. Bick.

Tokyo Vision: Will History Repeat Itself for Simone Manuel And Penny Oleksiak in the 100m Freestyle

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.

League of Olympic Legends: Dawn Fraser Tops 100 Freestyle Podium With Fanny Durack & Inge de Bruijn.

Event: Women’s 100m Freestyle
World Record: Sarah Sjostrom (2017) – 51.71

Dawn Fraser 1960 Olympics by Getty

ROMAN GOLD: Dawn Fraser with shows off her second Olympic gold medal in the 100m freestyle in Rome in 1960. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images.

Historical Note #1: It was the dawning of a new era for women’s freestyle swimming and who better to lead the charge than the aptly named Australian, Dawn Fraser, a rebel with a cause, who swam like a fish. This tomboy from the working class inner-western-Sydney suburb of Balmain would re-write the swimming record books and create Olympic history, winning the first of three consecutive Olympic 100m freestyle gold medals in a photo finish with fellow Australian Lorraine Crapp in Melbourne in ’56. Dawn went on to become the first ever woman swimmer to defend an Olympic crown in Rome in ’60 and then became the first woman to crack 60 seconds for the 100m – clocking 59.9 in 1962. She would then lower her own world record to 58.9 en-route to an historic third Olympic title in Tokyo in ’64 – the first athlete to win three consecutive OIympic golds in the same event. Along the way she also would incur the wrath of officialdom for her role in the middle-of-the-night raid after her third gold medal swim to steal an Olympic flag from the Palace of the Japanese emperor. Arrested and later released and presented with the flag as a gift from the Emperor, Fraser did not escape the Australian Swimming Union who slapped Fraser with a 10-year-ban of which she served four years. Fraser these days is a mentor to Australia’s Dolphins including the country’s sisters of speed Cate and Bronte Campbell as they, too, prepare for an Olympics in Tokyo.

Historical Note #2: When Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer from the USA touched the wall in the 100m freestyle on the opening night of the 1984 L.A. Olympics, they would be locked in Olympic history together forever. In 55.92, 22-year-old Hogshead and 16-year-old Steinseifer became the first ever swimmers to dead-heat in Olympic history. The pair would go on to share gold medals as members of the gold medal winning 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relay teams four years after Hogshead had qualified but didn’t attend the boycotted Moscow Olympics of 1980. In a storied post-swimming career, Hogshead has spent her life advocating for women’s rights at the Women’s Sports Foundation and is currently the CEO of Champion Women and the issues women face in their sporting lives.

Virtual Vision

The Finalists (Listed Alphabetically)

  • Cate Campbell – Australia
  • Mallory Comerford – USA
  • Femke Heemskerk – Netherlands
  • Emma McKeon – Australia
  • Simone Manuel – USA
  • Penny Oleksiak – Canada
  • Taylor Ruck – Canada
  • Sarah Sjostrom – Sweden

The Race

Four years ago in Rio, it was Australian Cate Campbell’s Olympic final to lose after breaking Britta Steffan’s world record on departure from Australia. For Campbell, heartbreak arrived when she finished off the podium – the gold shared for the first time since 1984 when Simone Manuel (USA) and Penny Oleksiak (CAN) repeated the feat of U.S. pair Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer.

The major players and some new faces tried to etch their names into the record books with speed down the first 50, as all eight swimmers looked for relaxed early speed. Reigning world record holder Sarah Sjostrom looked strong, along with defending Olympic champions Oleksiak and Manuel, who became the world champion last summer.

Campbell’s relaxed, loping stroke stood out as the field approached the 50m mark. Sjostrom and Manuel turned first, in 24.80 and 24.85, with the other six swimmers in touch, with Campbell in 24.90, closer than she was in Rio. The 200m girls McKeon and Ruck loomed as the frontrunners tried to hang on over the last 25 meters.

STOP THE CLOCK: Cate Campbell knows that timing is everything. Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

Campbell would need to produce her best ever finish while McKeon and Ruck would look to power home with Sjostrom, Oleksiak and Simone Manuel in their sights. With five meters to the wall, would history repeat itself or would there be a new queen of the pool crowned in Tokyo?





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