Quite often when the discussion for the fastest man on the earth is held, the name of Usain Bolt springs to everyone's mind. If the same question is asked for the fastest one in water, the retired Olympic legend Michael Phelps cannot be missed. With the Tokyo Olympics just days away, the stage is set for some new swimmers to grab the headline and the grandest stage of them all.
Here is a look at the fastest swimmers in the 100m (long course) freestyle, 100m backstroke, 100m breaststroke, and 100m butterfly events at Tokyo 2020.
100m Freestyle - Caeleb Dressel
Having won the world championship in the 100m butterfly event in 2017 and 2019, Caeleb Dressel is one of the stars of the United States swimming team. The 24-year-old qualified for the Olympics with a timing of 46.96s at the 18th FINA World Championship in 2019. While the American was certainly the fastest in qualifying, he fell short by 0.05s of breaking the world record. The world record is currently held by César Cielo with a time of 46.91s.
If Dressel can repeat his qualification performance at the Tokyo Olympics, he would not only put himself in a position to win the gold medal but would also break the Olympic record held by Eamon Sullivan at 47.05s.
100m Backstroke - Evgeny Rylov
Evgeny Rylov finished 6th at the Rio Olympics with a time of 52.74s. He has only gone on to improve after 2016. The Russian won the silver at the 2019 World Championship with a timing of 52.67s. Rylov achieved qualification for the Tokyo Olympics clocking a time of 52.12s at the Russian National Swimming Championship (2021) and is one of the favorites for a gold medal. However, he'd be mindful of the threat from his countrymen, Kliment Kolesnikov, who was the second-fastest in qualification at 52.13s achieved at the 2021 Russian National Swimming Championship.
Evgeny may be the best of all in qualification but he's still far off from the World and Olympic record holder Ryan Murphy, who achieved the feat with a timing of 51.97s at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
100m Breaststroke - Adam Peaty
Simply put, Adam Peaty is the best in the world in the 100m Breaststroke event. His timing of 56.88s, achieved at the 18th FINA World Championships 2019, was not only the best timing in qualification but also a new world record in the event. The Englishman broke his previous world record, which was set at 57.10s.
To put it in context in terms of how far ahead Peaty is from his competitors, the second-best qualification timing achieved by Arno Kamminga stands at 58.10s. It would be a major shock if Adam Peaty isn't able to bring it home at the Tokyo Olympics.
100m Butterfly - Caeleb Dressel
Similar to Adam Peaty, Caeleb Dressel has dominated in the 100m butterfly event over the past couple of years. The American broke Michael Phelps's ten-year-old world record with a timing of 49.50s at the World Aquatic Championship in 2019. The timing was recorded as the fastest in the Olympic qualification while all the other competitors in the qualification were above the fifty-second mark.
The fact which impresses the most about Dressel is his consistency. The swimmer has seven of the ten fastest swims in the history of 100m butterfly event, with five of the seven below the fifty-second mark. Dressel's consistency makes him one of the favorites to win a gold medal and he would also be eyeing the Olympic record, currently held by Joseph Schooling at 50.39s.