By Will Li
Stanford is no stranger to Olympic superstars. World record-holders Regan Smith ’25, Katie Ledecky ’20 and Simone Manuel ’18 are just three of a total of 11 former and current Stanford swimmers who competed at the Tokyo Olympics. Representing six countries, the Cardinal group combined for two gold, five silver and three bronze medals.
More Cardinal competed in swimming than any other discipline at the Games.
In the women’s 100-meter backstroke, Smith, who holds the world record in the event in 57.57 seconds, set the Olympic record in a preliminary heat with a time of 57.96. Continuing to raise the bar, she bested her own record in the semifinals with a 57.86, and she won bronze in the finals with a 58.05.
Smith’s second medal came in the 200-meter butterfly, in which she finished with a personal best of 2:05.30 and a silver medal. Despite being in third at the 150-meter mark, nearly a second behind fellow American Hali Flickinger, Smith swam with a vigorous tempo in the final 50 meters, helping her creep past Flickinger in the final strokes.
In the 400-meter freestyle, Ledecky took silver, suffering her first-ever defeat in an Olympic race. She was ahead of Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus at the 300-meter mark, but Titmus flip-turned ahead of Ledecky with 50 meters to go and maintained her lead until the end of the race.
“I could see her and I knew that she wasn’t fading,” Ledecky said in a press conference after the race. “I felt like I was still right there.”
Ledecky and Titmus faced off in three other races at the Games — the 4×200-meter freestyle relay and the 200- and 800-meter freestyle.
Ledecky finished fifth in the 200-meter freestyle but won gold in the 800-meter and 1500-meter freestyle. She set an Olympic Record with a time of 15:35.35 in the prelims of the 1500-meter, which debuted as an Olympic event in Tokyo.
“After the 200, I knew I had to turn the page very quickly,” Ledecky said, who only had 70 minutes between the 200-meter freestyle final and the 1500-meter freestyle final.
She also anchored the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, in which she caught up two seconds to surpass Australia’s anchor, Leah Neale, allowing the U.S. to win silver, break the world record and set an American record of 7:40.73. However, China narrowly defeated the U.S. in the finals and set a new world record of 7:40.33.
The first Black woman to win an individual Olympic gold in swimming, Manuel anchored the 4×100-meter freestyle relay in 52.96 seconds. The U.S. won bronze and narrowly missed second place to Canada by 0.03 seconds. In the 50-meter freestyle, Manuel was just 0.3 seconds away from making the final. Prior to the Olympic Games, she had suffered from overtraining syndrome that forced her to leave the pool for three weeks in April.
“I didn’t reach my goals this time around, but I didn’t fail,” Manuel wrote in an Instagram post reflecting on the Games. “I can confidently say I’m a champion.”
As a first-time Olympian, Torri Huske ’25 took fourth with a 55.73 in the individual 100-meter butterfly, only 0.01 seconds away from bronze. In the mixed-gender 4×100-meter medley relay, which debuted as an Olympic event this year, she also swam butterfly and helped the U.S. finish fifth despite the American breaststroker’s goggles falling off.
Huske also joined forces with Smith in the women’s 4×100-meter medley relay, with Huske swimming butterfly and Smith swimming backstroke. In this relay, the U.S. won silver, losing to Australia by a tenth of a second after a neck-and-neck freestyle leg. In a rare instance, Smith tied her finals time in the backstroke leg of the women’s 4×100-meter medley relay.
The Russian Olympic Committee’s Andrei Minakov ’24 also finished fourth in the men’s 100-meter butterfly, slightly off his best with a 50.88. He also swam butterfly to help bring his relay team to fourth in the men’s 4×100-meter medley relay.
In the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, Minakov led off in 47.71, and his team finished seventh.
Additional Stanford swimmers
Six other swimmers represented the Farm at the Games. Shane Cadogan ’23 of St. Vincent and the Grenadines set a Vincentian record and simultaneously won his 50-meter freestyle heat with a time of 24.71.
Israel’s Ron Polonsky ’25 competed in the 200-meter breaststroke, as well as the 200-meter and 400-meter individual medleys. Although Polonsky missed the semifinals in his events, he dropped a personal best in the 200-meter individual medley with a 1:58.95.
Alberto Mestre ’21 of Venezuela competed in the 50- and 100-meter freestyles. His 50-meter freestyle prelim time of 21.96 advanced him to the semifinals, where he missed the finals by a half second. In the 100-meter freestyle prelims, he added just 0.01 seconds to his best time. Mestre’s father had represented Venezuela in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, and his Olympian brother Alfonso swims at the University of Florida.
Despite testing positive for COVID-19 twice, Brooke Forde ’21 anchored the 4×200-meter freestyle relay in the prelims and helped the U.S. win its heat.
Andrea Murez ’13 of Israel competed in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle prelims, setting a personal best in the 100-meter with a time of 54.06. She anchored the mixed 4×100-meter medley relay, helping Israel finish eighth.
Canada’s Taylor Ruck ’22 made the finals in the 200-meter backstroke, where she swam a 2:08.24 and earned sixth place. In the 100-meter backstroke, she made the semifinals but missed the finals. She also swam the prelims of the women’s 4×100-meter free and medley relays, which won silver and bronze in the finals, respectively.