wsls logo

What a splash! 5 takeaways from the swimming competition in Tokyo

Athletes are already looking toward Paris 2024

Members of the U.S. men's 4x100-meter medley relay team, Caeleb Dressel, Zach Apple, Ryan Murphy and Michael Andrew, carry a sign that reads, "Thank you, Tokyo," after winning the gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Members of the U.S. men's 4x100-meter medley relay team, Caeleb Dressel, Zach Apple, Ryan Murphy and Michael Andrew, carry a sign that reads, "Thank you, Tokyo," after winning the gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Well, that was as fast as Caeleb Dressel swimming the 50-meter freestyle.

Saturday was the final day of swimming at the Tokyo Olympics, with competition wrapping up after what seemed like a quick week of comebacks, surprises and historic performances where swimmers became household names around the world.

One thing that wasn’t surprising though was the dominance of the U.S. and Australia, which combined to win 50 medals (30 for the U.S. and 20 for Australia), which was just five fewer than all other countries combined.

Here are five takeaways from the swimming competition.


1. That celebratory scene in Alaska still gives us the chills, in a good way, of course.

Lydia Jacoby of the United States waves after winning the final of the women's 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Throughout the action, TV cameras focused on family members or friends of the swimmers, especially those who gathered at Universal Studios in Orlando -- as spectators weren’t allowed to travel to Tokyo due to rising COVID-19 cases -- to cheer on their loved ones.

And while scenes from those gatherings were touching, there was no more heartwarming celebration than in the tiny town of Seward, Alaska.

Seward is the hometown of 17-year-old swimmer Lydia Jacoby, who became the first Alaskan swimmer to make the U.S. team.

Jacoby trained at the only Olympic-sized swimming pool in the entire state, which is 120 miles north of Seward. The pool at her high school is only 25 meters.

Jacoby not only competed in Tokyo, but won the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke, setting off an incredible celebration at a watch party in Seward.

Anyone watching the town’s reaction will have all the feels -- now and forever.


2. Caeleb Dressel becomes a legend.

Caeleb Dressel, of the United States, celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 50-meter freestyle final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Dressel joined some elite company of legendary U.S. male swimmers by becoming the fourth American man ever to win at least five gold medals at a single Olympics. The others are Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi.

The 24-year-old Dressel established himself as the sprint king by winning the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events. He also won the 100 butterfly and was a part of two gold medal-winning relay teams.


3. This Australian woman takes home seven medals.

Emma McKeon, of Australia, celebrates after winning the gold medal in the women's 100-meter freestyle final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

While Dressel was the male star of the Olympics, the best female and overall standout was Emma McKeon of Australia.

McKeon won the most medals of any swimmer, taking home seven for the Aussies, four of which were gold.

The 27-year-old McKeon won individual golds in the 100 and 50 freestyle events, and was part of two relay teams that won gold. McKeon added an individual bronze in the 100 butterfly and was a part of two relay teams that won bronze medals also.


4. Bobby Finke’s electric final laps.

American swimmer Bobby Finke surprised the field in Tokyo by winning gold in the first-ever men's 800m Olympic final. (NBC Olympics)

The 800-meter and 1,500-meter races are the two longest swimming events, so it’s sometimes hard to pay attention to the entire race.

Fortunately, with U.S. swimmer Bobby Finke, all you had to do in each of those races was watch the final lap, given what he did.

Trailing by a healthy margin in each race going into the final lap, Finke couldn’t have demonstrated a final finishing kick any better, coming out of nowhere in the final lap of each race to sprint past the leaders and take gold medals in each event.

It’s almost as if the 21-year-old Finke was sandbagging it until the very end.


5. See you in Paris!

Bronze medalists of Team USA -- Simone Manuel, Natalie Hinds, Abbey Weitzeil and Erika Brown -- are shown during the medal ceremony after the 4x100-meter relay on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 25, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images) (2021 Jean Catuffe)

This was a relatively young U.S. team going into Tokyo, with 35 members (20 women, 15 men) being first-time Olympians and 11 teenagers on the roster.

With the youth of the roster and the fact that there’s a quicker three-year turnaround until the next Summer Games in Paris, fans can expect to see the likes of Dressel, Finke, Jacoby, four-time medalist Katie Ledecky (who’s still only 24) and Katie Grimes (who’s 15 years old this year) again in 2024.

No doubt, it will be hard for newer swimmers to crack the Olympic roster in three years.


What was your favorite part about the swimming competition at the Olympics? Let us know in the comments below.


About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.