TOKYO: The focus may be on the big name Americans and Australians but this could be the Games where Russian swimmers could make their biggest splash in the men’s events in 25 years.
No Russian man has won a swimming gold in the Olympics since the Atlanta Games in 1996 when Alexander Popov and Denis Pankratov both topped the podium twice.
But it would be a major disappointment for the Russians if that remains the case.
The best chance of Russia breaking their barren spell is the 200 metres backstroke where Evgeny Rylov is favourite to beat the American defending champion Ryan Murphy.
Rylov has beaten Murphy in the last two World Championships and holds five of the fastest swims in the history of the event.
The 24-year-old posted his fastest-ever time, 1:53.23, at the Russian Olympic Trials in April, almost a full second ahead of Murphy’s top time this year.
In the 200m breaststroke, Anton Chupkov is the world record holder, setting his 2:06.12 in the 2019 World Championships and…