The women’s 100 butterfly was billed to be a showdown between current world record holder Sarah Sjostrom and American mother and veteran Dana Vollmer. There were two problems with this narrative: Sarah Sjostrom would not be caught as she ran train on the heat to set a new World Record (55.48), and perhaps more significantly, Canada’s 16-year-old wunderkind Penny Oleksiak who swam a 56.46, making her the 5th fastest woman of all time and the 3rd fastest since the demise of tech-suits. Vollmer finished 3rd in 56.63.
The 200 freestyle saw two Americans move through the semi-finals to compete tomorrow night for a medal. Conor Dwyer and Townley Haas both posted 1:45s to advance; however, they will face stiff competition from Japan’s Kosuke Hagino (already sporting a gold medal this Olympic Games), world record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany, and Chinese powerhouse Sun Yang.
In the women’s 100m breast semifinals the USA saw both Katie Meili and Lilly King advance to the finals. King posted a 1:05.7 to take the top spot, a time that should not hold up tomorrow. If we see drops from the competition like Russia’s Yefumova, who received word yesterday she could compete despite failing two doping tests, and Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte who stunned the world in 2012, then it will take a 1:05 low to grab gold. Katie Meili went a 1:06.5 which got her through to the final but won’t get much traction on the medal podium, so she and I are both hoping for a solid drop in the final.
The men’s 100m breaststroke final saw, if nothing else, the most excited swimmer of the evening. American Cody Miller earned a spot on the podium catching bronze behind Adam Peaty, the Brit who obliterated the World Record by half a second going 57.13. Looking at their reactions though, you might confuse who had actually won. Peaty looked thrilled, but Cody Miller could have been the happiest boy in the world for earning his first Olympic medal, a hard-won bronze! Cameron Van der Burgh of South Africa grabbed himself silver, and American Kevin Cordes, who has been consistently solid as the best American breaststroker for years, posted a solid 4th with a time he was likely disappointed with (59.22). He’ll have another crack at some hardware in the 200m breaststroke later this week.
The women’s 400m free final showcased the most dangerous swimmer in the freestyle world, Katie Ledecky, operating at her finest. Ledecky left no doubt she would smash the World record and crush the field going into this race, and that’s exactly what she did. Out well under record pace, Ledecky left the field in the dust, posting a new record almost 2 seconds below her previous best. She owns the ten fastest swims in history, and no one is close to catching her. Watching her pace and smoothness makes a swimmer jealous, and it makes me actually scared about how fast her 800m free will turn out.
In the men’s 100m back semifinal, David Plummer beat Australian standout Mitch Larkin and France’s Camille Lacourt to win the second heat; Teammate Ryan Murphy took the top seed in the first heat, swimming .01 faster. They’ll all go at it again tomorrow in the final which will likely be one of the closest races in this Olympics.
The women’s 100m back semifinals saw the sheer energy of the USA’s Kathleen Baker – up against a tough field including Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu and Yuanhui Fu of China, Baker will be truly tested. Surprisingly, favorite Emily Seebohm and American Olivia Smoliga rank 7th and 8th going into the final, so they’ll both need big swims in outside lanes to find the podium.
Finally, after teasing for hours, NBC delivered Michael Phelps in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay. Nevermind that Phelps didn’t swim the event at Olympic Trials at all, he time trialed in camps, and every knows he can add that magic touch to a relay like no one else. Not to take away from Phelps, but the US had a solid squad to begin with: rookie Olympian and short course world record holder Caeleb Dressel started things off fast with a 48.1. Phelps doubled down with a 47.1 to follow, giving the US a comfortable lead. However France had saved their best two for last, sending in the big guns with Franz Manauodou against NC State’s Ryan Held, who fittingly held on to a lead for anchor Nathan Adrian. Adrian would not be caught and the US clinched the Gold.
Monday, Murphy and Plummer fight for medals in the 100m back, King and Meili in the 100m breast, Phelps is back in the 200m fly heats and semi-finals , Ledecky will race teh semifinals 0f her most contested event this Olympics in the 200m free.