Swimming from Boca Raton to Tokyo
Izaak Bastian left his home in the Bahamas at the age of 13 to pursue a career as a student-athlete at St. Andrews in Boca Raton. His bet on sport has proven to be a rewarding one, as he is getting ready for his Olympic journey to Tokyo tonight. “All of the early mornings and late nights and no naps in between classes and weights after swimming are paying off,” Bastian says with a smile. “It took a bit for it to sink in that I’ll be competing in the Olympics.” Sid Cassidy, the aquatics director and club coach at St. Andrew’s, recalls Bastian’s arrival in Boca Raton over a decade ago with fondness.
Soon after, he would show the determination and agility that led to him swimming for Florida State and now qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics as a Bahamas representative. After breaking three records for the Bahamas at their National Championships, he will race in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. “He’s the type of guy who believes the sky is the limit,” Cassidy says. “If he chooses to swim for four more years — and I doubt he will — he may be terrific. We only have three years until the Paris Olympics, so we have to persuade him. We’re going to get at least two Olympics out of him.” Cassidy will also be in Tokyo as an Olympic official for Open Water Swimming. He wants to be on hand to witness Bastian go for the gold.
Here are some of the top athletes Bastian will compete against for glory.
The men’s 100 breaststroke prelims ended the first session of the 2021 Olympic trials on a high note, with Michael Andrew setting an American record in 58.19. The crowd erupted in applause, as he got closer to the wall before bursting when the time was displayed on the screen above the pool at Omaha’s CHI Health Center. Andrew’s swim shattered the previous record of 58.64 established by Kevin Cordes. He had a good prelims swim but fell short of the American record pace. Andrew is now third all-time in the race after Great Britain’s Adam Peaty (56.88) and the Netherlands’ Arno Kamminga (57.90).
Andrew could find himself in individual medal contention if he can make it through the semifinals and final, which would be a significant step up since he finished 19th at the 2019 World Championships, and the highest American in that race finished sixth.
Matt Wilson suffered disappointment as Zac Stubblety-Cook stormed into Olympic gold medal contention in the 200m breaststroke. Stubblety-Cook sealed his ticket to Tokyo with a mind-blowing swim of 2:06.28, barely 0.16 seconds slower than Russian Anton Chupkov’s world record. The idea that Stubblety-Cook had bought his ticket astounded him, and he could not stop grinning. “I have no idea what to say.” He exclaimed, “I’m just happy. All I wanted to do tonight was execute a process. I did well at nationals and worked my way up to this competition. I was content with the 100 and where it stood, and I knew my strength lay in the back end.”
Adam Peaty, a British swimmer who recently held all 20 of the fastest 100m breaststroke times in history, has redefined the notion of domination in a single race. Before the British selection trials in April, the reigning Olympic champion had already guaranteed his spot in the Tokyo Games. However, instead of taking it slowly, he surged out of the blocks, winning in 57.39 seconds, the fifth-fastest time in the event’s history. With that performance, he had swum the top 20 fastest times in the 100m breaststroke, almost precisely six years after breaking the world record in the 2015 British championships. However, others have subsequently pushed their way onto the list.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Peaty, at 26, became the first British male Olympic swimming champion, since 1988. He also helped the 4x100m medley relay team earn a silver medal. Swimming’s governing organisation, FINA, awarded him the Best Male Swimming Performance Award at those Olympics after he smashed his own world record in the heats and then again in the final. At the 2019 global championships in South Korea, he set a new world record of 56.88 seconds.
There will be 33 sports and 339 medal events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, hosted at 42 venues around Japan. The women’s football and softball games kick out on Wednesday, July 21st, with group matches. On Friday, July 23rd, the Olympic Stadium will host the opening ceremony for the 33rd Summer Games. The first medals will be awarded the following day. The competition will run until Sunday, August 8th, with a closing ceremony later that day.