By Annika Johnson on SwimSwam

Tokyo Olympic Games

  • Friday, July 22 – Sunday, August 8, 2021
  • Swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
  • Tokyo, Japan

Men’s 50 free

  • World Record: Cesar Cielo (BRA) – 20.91 (2009)
  • Olympic Record: Cesar Cielo (BRA) – 21.30 (2008)
  • World Junior Record: Michael Andrew (USA) – 21.75 (2017)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Anthony Ervin (USA) – 21.40

World Record holder Caeleb Dressel has been untouchable when it comes to the 50 free these past few years.

Dressel has ended this season and the past two seasons as the fastest swimmer in this event in the world.

The 6’3” butterfly and freestyle sprint machine Caeleb Dressel will have some competition in the 100 fly with the likes of Andrei Minakov and Kristof Milak and the 100 free with Kyle Chalmers and Kliment Kolesnikov.

But in the 50? The next closest swimmer to him this season was Russia’s Vlad Morozov who trails Dressel’s 21.04 by .37 this season. While his 100 free has not been the strongest this season, he still seems locked into the final in the 50 free.

A few things create that gap between Dressel and everyone else. First is his powerful start and his 4.8 second first 15 meters off the blocks. With just a straight shot down the pool and no turns, it’s hard to see what could take the gold away from him.

The 2016 Olympic relay medalist will be put on World Record watch in this event, as the current men’s 50 free world record was set back in 2009 by Brazil’s Cesar Cielo at 20.91. 

We’ve only seen this World record fall once on the Olympic stage and it was when USA’s Matt Biondi took it down at the 1988 Seoul Olympics with a 22.14.

Another thing to look out for: the most gold medals won in this event by the same person is two. Russia’s Alexander Popov did it in 1992 and 1996, Team USA’s Anthony Ervin and Gary Hall Jr. tied for gold in 2000 and each won gold again on their own in the following years.

The only swimmer on track to compete that feat in Tokyo is France’s Florent Manaudou, but he hasn’t been under 21.50 since the 2016 Olympics. His best time in that time period is 21.56 from January 2020.

This season, he posted a 21.67 at the recent European Championships to place 5th.

Manaudou decided to retire after the Rio Olympics where he was out touched by gold medalist Ervin in the 50 free by .01. He turned to handball in his retirement before returning to pool competition in March 2019. You can read more about his comeback journey here.

Notably, Australia’s Pinnacle Sports Book does not consider him in line to win the event in Tokyo.

Finland’s Ari-Pekka Liukkonen won that race at the European Championships with a season-best time of 21.61 to become the 6th fastest 50 freestyler in the world this year. Standing at 6’10”, Liukkonen surprised the world when he won his first major international title in the event with only one dolphin kick off the start. 

You can see his race video here.

 Great Britain’s Ben Proud and Greece’s Kristian Gkolomeev took 2nd (21.69) and 3rd (21.73), respectively at the European Championships.

26-year-old Proud finished 4th in this event at the Rio Olympics, juist .19 behind bronze medalist Nathan Adrian of Team USA. Gkolomeev made it all the way to semifinals in this event, and placed 13th overall.

Proud’s 21.11 from the 2018 European Championships is the third fastest 50 free since the 2016 Olympics. And the only two swims that were faster? Dressel’s pair of 21.04’s in 2019 and 2021.

Gkolomeev’s fastest 50 free since Rio was a 21.44 from the 2018 European Championships.

At the U.S. Olympic Trials Wave II, Michael Andrew made himself a serious contender for the podium in this event by blasting a 21.48. He is ranked 4th in the world this season, just .06 behind Proud.

Andrew is coming off an incredibly strong performance at the U.S. Olympic Trials where he broke the American Record in the 100 breast twice. While he snagged 2nd behind Dressel in the 50 free by .44, he out touched 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Adrian by .25.

Thom de Boer of the Netherlands is also ranked within the top 10 this season with a  lifetime best time of 21.58 from July to rank himself 5th in the world this season and break his own Dutch National record.

29-year-old De Boer has been very consistent in this event, posting a time of 21.62 in December 2020. He took 4th place in this event at the recent European Championships with a time of 21.80, edging out Manaudou by .01.

One name to watch who is not ranked within the top ten in the world this season is Brazil’s Bruno Fratus who finished 6th in this event at the Rio Olympics. His fastest time since then was a 21.27 he posted at the 2017 World Championships.

He recently won gold in this event at the Sette Colli Trophy with a time of 21.71.

The 50 free is the only individual event entry for Proud, Morozov, Manaudou, Gkolomeev, and de boer. 

Breaststroke, IM, and sprint free specialist Andrew is set to swim the 100 breast, 200 IM, 50 free so he will have already had a few swims before the 50 free.

Dressel has the 100 free, 100 fly alongside the 50 free and Liukkonen is entered in the 100 free as well.

Top Performances in 2016-2021 Olympic Cycle (1 Per Person)

  1. Caeleb Dressel, USA – 21.04 (2019,2021)
  2. Ben Proud, GBR – 21.11 (2018)
  3. Vlad Morozov, RUS) – 21.27 (2019)
  4. Bruno Fratus, BRA – 21.27 (2017)
  5. Andrea Vergani, 21.37 (2018)
  6. Kristian Gkolomeev, GRE – 21.45 (2018)
  7. Pawel Juraszek, POL – 21.45 (2018)
  8. Michael Andrew, USA – 21.46 (2018)
  9. Cameron Mcevoy, AUS – 21.55 (2017)
  10. Florent Manaudou, FRA – 21.56 (2020)

Top Times in 2020-2021 Season

2020-2021 LCM Men 50 Free


2 Vlad
RUS 21.41 04/09
3 Ben
GBR 21.42 04/17
4 Michael
USA 21.48 06/20
5 Thom
de Boer
NED 21.58 07/03

View Top 27»

SwimSwam’s Top 8 Picks

Place Swimmer Country Best Time Since 2016 Olympics
1 Caeleb Dressel USA 21.04
2 Ben Proud GBR 21.11
3 Vlad Morozov RUS 21.27
4 Florent Manaudou FRA 21.56
5 Michael Andrew USA 21.46
6 Bruno Fratus BRA 21.27
7 Kristian Gkolomeev GRE 21.45
8 Ari-Pekka Liukkonen FIN 21.58


Dark Horse: Pawel Juraszek of Poland is another swimmer to watch in Tokyo. His season-best time of 21.72 from April ranks him But he did fall off a bit at the recent European Championships, finishing 9th with a time of 21.97

Juraszek posted a 21.45 at the 2018 Polish Championships. The 50 free is also Juraszek’s only individual event entry in Tokyo.

Read the full story on SwimSwam: Tokyo Olympic Previews: Caeleb Dressel on World Record Watch in Men’s 50 Free

Source: Swimming – SwimSwam