Well it is finally here, The Rio 2016 Olympics Swimming has begun and it is set to be an absolutely incredible set of events. One of the true highlights of the games, the interest is huge in these events with countries all over the world represented in some aspect of the racing.
Some of the names to watch out for in the day one preliminaries are Daiya Seto (JPN) and Kosuke Hagino (JPN) in the 400m Individual Medley (IM), Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), Dana Vollmer (USA) and Jeanette Ottesen (DEN) for the 100m Butterfly, Mack Horton (AUS) and the ever controversial Sun Yang (CHN) in the 400m Freestyle, Katinka Hosszu (HUN), Elizabeth Biesel (USA) and Maya DiRado (USA) in the 400m Individual Medley (IM) and finally Adam Peaty (GBR) and Cameron Van Der Burgh (RSA) in the 100m Breaststroke. The final event of the first session of day is the 4x100m Freestyle, bringing about the first relay event of the tournament. If this is day one, just imagine what this has in store.
Men’s 400m IM: Favourite – Daiya Seto, Japan
Heading into the Race, Seto was the top seed, however the Americans are notoriously strong in the event, and alongside Hagino, the Japanese pair would have their hands full with Chase Kalisz (USA) and Jay Litherland (USA).
In the first heat, Seto had his first head-to-head meeting with Kalisz and Litherland, and although Seto was able to lead for most of the way, with a huge lead after the butterfly and the backstroke. Kalisz however put in a very strong Breaststroke to bring himself back into the race, chasing down Seto on the Freestyle leg to take the heat and the first seed into the final, beating his medal rival by .35 of a second. Litherland finished the heat third and subsequently got into the final with the fourth seed.
The third seed into the final was the other Japanese swimmer Hagino who won his heat without much trouble winning by nearly two seconds and leading from pretty much the word go. He was followed home by Max Litchfield (GBR) and Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS) who were far behind qualifying for the final fifth and sixth respectively.
Rounding out the final were Travis Maloney (AUS) and Joan Luis Pons Ramon (ESP) which gave us the final eight. Even though Kalisz won his heat, Seto still went into the final as the favourite as he will have done enough to reach the final without exhausting himself. While Hagino was nearly two seconds back on the other heat, he still won his heat comfortably, and had the slower men in there with him. Unless Litchfield can produce the swim of his life, the medals will be going home with either the Americans or the Japanese. Before the competition the Japanese were favourites to do the double, however the Americans are looking to play spoiler, and who would bet against them?
Women’s 100m Butterfly: Favourite – Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden
The first of the women’s events were the 100m Butterfly, with the world record holder Sjostrom looking to set out a marker against the reigning Olympic champion Vollmer in the heats. Both Women were looking to make huge statements going into the Semi Finals in an attempt to deal the first psychological blow.
The final three heats were seeded, and therefore were likely where the medallists would come from. Heat 4 featured a very strong Swim from Vollmer, who for her efforts claimed the second fastest spot going into the semi-finals. She swam one of her better times this year, and this swim told Sjostrom that if she wanted this title she won’t be given it, she would have to take it.
The fifth saw victory for another American in Kelsi Worrell (USA), who won her heat in fairly impressive fashion. She herself in the conversation, qualifying for the semi-finals in fourth overall. She wasn’t considered a favourite before the event, however she could definitely push the others close going into the next round.
The final heat saw favourite and world record holder Sjostrom win her heat in the fastest time of the day, throwing the marker Vollmer had set right back at her. While she wasn’t overly challenged for the heat win, she was pushed all the way by Penny Oleksiak (CAN) who, in the process, managed to set a new junior world record.
The rest of the qualifiers for the semi-finals were Lu Ying (CHN), Jeanette Ottesen (DEN), Chen Xinyi (CHN), Rikako Ikee (JPN), Emma McKeon (AUS), Liliana Szilagyi (HUN), An Sehyeon (SKO), Farida Osman (EGY) Kimberly Buys (BEL), Daynara De Paula (BRA), Daiene Marcal (BRA) and Natsumi Hoshi (JPN).
With four women under 47 seconds going into the next round, if they all keep swimming this way, the final will be very fast and could go anywhere.
Men’s 400m Freestyle: Favourite – Mack Horton, Australia
This race has become somewhat of a personal battle with Sun Yang taking the 2012 Olympic title and since then also receiving the title of most disliked man in swimming. His out of the pool issues are too many to list, however this doesn’t usually seem to affect his swimming.
He started the defence of his Olympic title with a win in the first heat, however he was pushed incredibly hard by Connor Jaeger (USA), Park Tae-Hwan (SKO) and Ryan Cochrane (USA) before ultimately winning his heat. This would prove vital with the second heat being faster and only Yang and Jaeger managing to make the final.
The second heat was not only faster, but incredibly well fought as well. Horton was looking for the heat win, however he was beaten by Conor Dwyer (USA) to the touch. With such an infernal pace, a massive six swimmers came through this heat to make it to the final, with Gabriele Detti (ITA), David McKeon (AUS), James Guy (GBR) and Jorda Pothain (FRA) rounding out the final places.
Finishing third in the heat and not making the final must have hurt for Tae-Hwan, however winning your heat and only qualifying fourth fastest is even more ominous a task for Sun Yang to have in front of him. In the battle for gold, Horton and Yang seemed so busy trying to outdo each other that Dwyer was able to come in and spoil the party. The final to this one is going to be fantastic and we might officially have our first shock of the day.
Women’s 400m IM: Favourite – Katinka Hosszu, Hungary
If there is an out and out favourite from the first session of day one, then Hosszu is that person. This race also produced the first of many shocks that the games will surely be dealt. For Hosszu the heats were just a formality, and for the rest of the field, it was very much aim for Silver and hope Hosszu bottles her own race.
Hosszu put down a marker from the second she dived into the pool, with 100 metres to go, she was over three seconds ahead of the world record. While the world record didn’t end up falling, this is less because of Hosszu, and more of the fact that when Ye Shiwen (CHN) set the record in 2012, her final 50 was faster than Ryan Lochte, who had just set the second fastest time in men’s history in the 400m IM.
These games however would not see Ye Shiwen in the final, as she finished well out of contention. The other qualifiers from the Hosszu heat were Mereia Belmote Garcia (ESP), Hannah Miley (GBR), 2012 Silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel (USA) and Sakiko Shimizu (JPN). While this was a quick heat, the gap between Hosszu and the others was astounding.
The second heat was won Maya DiRado (USA) who managed to finish third overall in qualifying for the final, being joined by Aimee Willmott (GBR) and Emily Overholt (CAN). DiRado had a strong swim to win her heat, however she was still nearly five seconds behind Hosszu.
The gold medal is all but around Hosszu’s neck, but more interesting is the battle for silver and bronze. The favourite is Belmonte Garcia, however after the times in the heats, anyone from second to seventh looks within reach of a medal. Once Hosszu has gone out in front, that is when the race begins.
Men’s 100m Breaststroke: Favourite – Adam Peaty, Great Britain
While Hosszu is favourite for Gold in her event, no one has been more dominant than Peaty in recent times in the 100ms Breaststroke. He is the current World, European and Commonwealth champion, and victory here would give him the grand slam of titles. With all that expectation, the field will be desperate to beat him, but if he hits his times, no one is even close this year.
Adam Peaty laid down the marker to his rivals in his heat, smashing the world record, a record which he had previously held, beating it by .37 of a second. Bearing in mind this was just a heat, for Peaty to go out so hard, showed his rivals it was his gold medal to lose, not theirs to win.
Leading the chasing pack into the semi-finals was Yasuhiro Koseki who was the only other swimmer to go under 59 seconds. This is obviously impressive, however it becomes less impressive in racing terms when you realise that Peaty still beat him by well over a second.
The top five moving into the semi-finals all look up for the challenge of attempting to dethrone Peaty, even though there seems to be a gulf in class where the current world record holder is concerned. Felipe Franca (BRA) was a favourite with the home crowd and qualified third overall, with Kevin Cordes (USA) and Cody Miller (USA) coming through in fourth and fifth respectively.
The rest of the qualifiers for the semi-finals were Jake Packard (AUS), Cameron Van der Burgh (RSA), Joao Gomes (BRA), Ross Murdoch (GBR), Dimtriy Balandin (KAZ), Li Xiang (CHI), Giedrius Titenis (LIT), Vsevolod Zanko (RUS), Jorge Mario Murillo Valdes (COL), Christian Vom Lehn (GER) and Glenn Snyders (NZL).
This truly is a race for second place, with Peaty alone out from, the only way he loses this gold medal is if he beats himself, because in all honestly no one is even close to him. With silver and bronze still very much up for grabs though, it could be any of the top ten joining him on the podium. This time, however, it is the Adam Peaty show.
Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay: Favourite – Australia
The heats of the 4x100m relay brought us a new Olympic record for an Australian team pretty much at half strength, which in itself in very scary. Add to that they have quicker swimmers, including the current world record holder at the 100m Freestyle to come in, and its likely they break that record again and will be setting their sights on the gold and the world record.
The best of the rest were the USA who again not using their full squad were second with Canada bringing in a close third. This seems to be where the medals will be won and lost, and with both of these teams bringing in faster swimmers, it is sure to be a close final.
The other teams through to the final are Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Japan and France, and although you have to be in it to win it, judging by the times posted in the heats, only three teams are within touching distance of a medal.
Expect it to be more competitive in the final, with all the top teams bringing in their fastest swimmers, however it is difficult to look past Australia who own every major record in this race.
Overall a very interesting first day of racing in the pool, some exciting match-ups coming into view, as well as some huge markers being thrown down, and even some records just to add to the fun. Nothing is guaranteed in swimming, however half of the medals are seemingly decided from the heats of the day, while anything can happen, with such dominance of people like Hosszu and Peaty on the first day, sometimes the favourites do actually win.