Tokyo Vision: Youthful Contenders, Veteran Medalists Chasing Caeleb Dressel in 100 Fly

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Caeleb Dressel Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Tokyo Vision: Youthful Contenders, Veteran Medalists All Chasing Caeleb Dressel

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: Michael Phelps Tops 100 Fly Podium with Spitz & Morales

Event: Men’s 100 butterfly

World Record: Caeleb Dressel (2019) – 49.50

Historical Note #1: The event has been the place to mine gold for nations with limited swimming histories. Suriname’s Anthony Nesty famously won the event in 1988, still the nation’s only gold medal (and one of only two swimming medals, to go with his bronze in the event in 1992). Joseph Schooling’s gold medal in 2016 was Singapore’s first Olympic swimming medal.

Historical Note #2: If patterns held, 2020 could’ve been a good year for Sweden. Two of the nation’s five men’s gold medals since World War II have come in the event at 20-year increments – Par Arvidsson in 1980 and Lars Frolander in 2000.

Virtual Vision

The Finalists (Listed Alphabetically)

  • Caeleb Dressel – USA
  • James Guy – Great Britain
  • Chad le Clos – South Africa
  • Mehdy Metella – France
  • Kristof Milak – Hungary
  • Andrey Minkaov – Russia
  • Joseph Schooling – Singapore
  • Matthew Temple – Australia

The Race

For the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games, the event will occur without Michael Phelps in the pool. He won the event in 2004, waging an epic battle with countryman Ian Crocker and Ukraine’s Andriy Serdinov. The 2008 Games brought the legendary finish against Milorad Cavic, Phelps winning by .01. In 2012, he went from seventh at the mid-point to gold, outlasting Chad le Clos (who was eighth after 50 meters). And in 2016, while everyone was preoccupied by le Clos, Phelps and the ageless Laszlo Cseh, Joseph Schooling was too busy, well, schooling the field for gold in shockingly decisive fashion.

The generations in Tokyo are slowly turning over. Cseh, at age 35, just missed the final. Schooling, after a rocky 2019, didn’t quite match the heights of 2016 but did enough to reach the final. But the youth movement held sway, led by 19-year-old Andrey Minakov, 21-year-old Kristof Milak and 22-year-old Matthew Temple.

Caeleb Dressel was the one everyone chased, the world record holder. It’s Dressel’s busiest session of the week in Tokyo: The semifinals of the 50 freestyle, the final of the 100 fly, then the mixed medley relay final.

Dressel went out fastest in the final, to no one’s surprise, with his world record line chasing him more closely than any of the other swimmers. It was not quite the near body-length lead by the time he surfaced off the blocks that he accumulated at the 2019 World Championships, but it was close. Two of the three Ms – Minakov and Mehdy Metella – were his closest company. Le Clos and Milak mounted charges off the wall, making progress.

But as the swimmers worked to within five strokes of the wall, the distance to charge past Dressel drained away quickly. Minakov and Milak were closest, with le Clos desperately trying to make up ground, the field chasing Dressel and Dressel chasing a world record.

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