Team USA made waves at the Olympic pool in Tokyo.
Across nine exciting days, the U.S. totaled 30 swimming medals: 11 gold, 10 silver and nine bronze. Team USA’s overall swimming medal count is 10 more than the next-best country, Australia. The total is three fewer than the American swimming medal count at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Some legends returned for the U.S., while other legends were born. Some races were dominant performances, while others came down to the wire.
Here are the best moments from the beginning of a new era in U.S. Olympic swimming:
Caeleb Dressel wins five Olympic golds in Tokyo
The 2020 Olympics were the first since Michael Phelps’ retirement. Without the 28-time Olympic medalist, there was room for someone to step up for the American men.
In came Caeleb Dressel.
The 24-year old Florida native won two gold medals at the Rio Olympics, with both coming in relays as Phelps’ teammate. The Tokyo Games offered Caeleb Dressel a chance to become the face of U.S. men’s swimming, and he delivered.
Dressel earned five gold medals in six total events. His gold medals came in the men’s 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 50m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle relay and 4x100m medley relay. He became just the fifth swimmer to take home five holds at the same Olympics.
Records were not safe on Dressel’s path. He set individual Olympic records in the 50m freestyle (21.07) and men’s 100m freestyle (47.02). He also broke two world records, setting new marks in the men’s 100m butterfly (49.45) and 4x100m medley (3.26.78).
Katie Ledecky adds four to her Olympic medal total
The queen of distance swimming collected four more Olympic medals in Tokyo.
Katie Ledecky won gold in the women’s 800m and 1500m.
She set an Olympic record in the inaugural 1500m competition and claimed her third straight gold medal in the 800m, an event where she holds other-worldly dominance:
It took a pair of record performances to keep Ledecky from sweeping her events. China set the world record in the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay, while Ledecky’s Team USA earned silver. Australian Ariane Titmus, who won silver in the 800m freestyle, set an Oceania record to win gold in the 400m freestyle. If you need context for how wild Titmus’ win was, just look at her coach’s reaction.
With two golds and two silvers, Ledecky’s Olympic medal count is now at 10 with seven being gold. She became the first female swimmer to ever win six individual Olympic golds.
The 24-year-old said she will return to the Olympic stage at the 2024 Paris Games as she sets her sights on more history.
Bobby Finke takes home two gold medals in distance events
The U.S. was expected to dominate the distance races on the women’s side, but Robert Finke emerged as a surprise two-time Olympic champion on the men’s side in Tokyo.
Like Ledecky, Finke won gold in both the 800m and 1500m. He beat Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri by 0.24 seconds in the 800m final on Wednesday before beating Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk by more than a full second in the 1500m final on Saturday.
Finke, Ledecky and Dressel were the three U.S. swimmers to earn multiple gold medals in Tokyo.
Lydia Jacoby pulls off stunning upset in women’s 100m breaststroke
An American was expected to win the women’s 100m breaststroke final, but a surprise member of Team USA ended up standing atop the podium.
Lydia Jacoby, 17, fended off two record holders in Monday’s final and won with a time of 1:04.95. South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker, the Olympic record holder in the event, earned silver with a time of 1:05.22 and American Lilly King, the world record holder, got bronze with a 1:05.54 mark.
Jacoby accomplished the feat wearing pink goggles she received at 12 years old from two-time Olympic medalist Jessica Hardy. As the first Olympic swimmer from Alaska, Jacoby’s hometown fans also were ecstatic about the win.
Chase Kalisz upgrades to gold in men’s 400m IM
Chase Kalisz is the last of five Team USA swimmers to win an individual gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Kalisz and fellow American Jay Litherland finished first and second, respectively, in the men’s 400m individual medley final on the second day of the swimming competition. The two medals were the United States’ first of these Olympics.
Kalisz’s gold medal is the second of his Olympic career after he won silver in the event in Rio.
Team USA hauls in silver and bronze across the board
While gold is the goal, American swimmers got second- and third-place finishes in the pool.
Here are the individual medals won by Team USA swimmers who did not earn an individual gold medal in Tokyo:
Silver: Erica Sullivan, women’s 1500m freestyle
Silver: Ryan Murphy, men’s 200m backstroke
Silver: Lilly King, women’s 200m breaststroke
Silver: Regan Smith, women’s 200m butterfly
Silver: Alex Walsh, women’s 200m individual medley
Silver: Jay Litherland, men’s 400m individual medley
Silver: Emma Weyant, women’s 400m individual medley
Bronze: Kieran Smith, men’s 400m freestyle
Bronze: Ryan Murphy, men’s 100m backstroke
Bronze: Regan Smith, women’s 100m backstroke
Bronze: Lilly King, women’s 100m breaststroke
Bronze: Annie Lazor, women’s 200m breaststroke
Bronze: Hali Flickinger, women’s 200m butterfly
Bronze: Kate Douglass, women’s 200m individual medley
Bronze: Hali Flickinger, women’s 400m individual medley
One notable swimmer who did not receive an individual medal in Tokyo was Simone Manuel. After failing to qualify in the women’s 100m freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials, she entered the Olympics with just one individual event in the women’s 50m freestyle. After making it through the heats, she finished 11th overall in the semifinals and missed out on a chance to medal in the final.
She did take some hardware, though, as she received a bronze medal as part of the women’s 4x100m freestyle team.
Australia’s Emma McKeon makes history with seven medals
Emma McKeon earned some historic hardware in Tokyo.
The Australian swimmer became just the second ever female athlete to win seven medals at the same Olympics, joining Ukrainian gymnast Maria Gorokhovskya’s mark from 1952. McKeon’s seven total medals include four golds and three bronzes.
McKeon shattered records in each of her four gold races. She helped set a world record time of 3:29.69 in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay and posted Olympic record times in the women’s 50m freestyle (23.81), women’s 100m freestyle (51.96) and women’s 4x100m medley relay (3:51.60).
She won her three bronzes in the mixed 4x100m medley relay, 100m butterfly and 4x200m freestyle relay.
McKeon was a key part in Australia doubling its swimming medal count from the 2016 Games.
New Olympic records set in 20 events
Dressel, Ledecky and McKeon weren’t the only ones who set new Olympic records in Tokyo.
With 20 new Olympic bests in all, here are the ones reached by other competitors:
Men’s 800m freestyle: Mykhailo Romanchuk, Ukraine, 7:41.28
Men’s 200m backstroke: Evgeny Rylov, ROC, 1:53.27
Men’s 200m breaststroke: Zac Stubblety-Cook, Australia, 2:06.38
Men’s 200m butterfly: Kristof Milak, Hungary, 1:51.25
Women’s 200m freestyle: Ariarne Titmus, Australia, 1:53.50
Women’s 100m backstroke: Kaylee McKeown, Australia, 57.47
Women’s 100m breaststroke: Tatjana Schoenmaker, South Africa, 1:04.82
Women’s 200m breaststroke: Tatjana Schoenmaker, South Africa, 2:18.95 (world record)
Women’s 200m butterfly: Zhang Yufei, China, 2:03.86
Women’s 4x200m freestyle relay: China, 7:40.33 (world record)
Mixed 4x100m medley relay: Great Britain, 3:37.58 (world record)
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