Men’s 4×100 Free Relay: 2015 World Championships Preview
- Day 1, Sunday August 2nd (Day 5)
- 2013 World Champion: France (3:11.18)
- 2013 Silver Medalist: United States (3:11.42)
- 2013 Bronze Medalist: Russia (3:11.44)
The 4×100 free is generally considered as the marquee event of any major swimming championship, and the swimming portion of the 2015 FINA World Aquatics Championships will feature this event on the very first day. We’ll examine each of the likely finalists below, listed in order of their top four combined times from 2015 of swimmers who are actually on each country’s World Championships roster.
Vladimir Morozov – 47.98
Alexander Sukhorukov – 48.33
Danila Isotov – 48.41
Andrey Grechin – 48.64
Total – 3:13.36
Two years ago, the Russian team was lights out in front of the home crowd for the World University Games, but then took a small step back at the World Championships, finishing third behind France and the United States, although their time from the WUG’s would have been good for gold in Barcelona. Russia took silver in this event at last summer’s European Championships.
At the moment, sprint star Morozov is tied for the fastest time in the world this year in the 100 free, and will probably need to throw down a relay time on par with his individual time if Russia is to win this event. Outside of Morozov, however, Russia has plenty of international experience. Isotov has split under 48 seconds multiple times, as has Nikita Lobintsev, who currently only has the fifth-fastest time among Russian men this year, sitting at 48.74.
Chances are that the fourth spot will either go to Sukhorukov or Grechin, both of whom have split under 48 seconds before on relay legs. Thus, the Russians should be primed and ready to go, with at least three sub-48 splits, if not four, and they should be neck and neck with France in the battle for gold on Sunday.
Mehdy Metella – 48.44
Jeremy Stravius – 48.50
Fabien Gilot – 48.53
Clement Mignon – 48.58
Total – 3:14.05
Even without Yannick Agnel, France has a really good chance of winning yet another gold medal this year. France has won this event at the last Olympics, World Championships, and European Championships (where they were without Agnel), and given the struggles that the United States and Australia have had, and on paper, at least, Russia looks to be the only team that’ll challenge them for gold.
This is an experienced team that should include ¾ of the gold medal team from 2013, including Gilot, who memorably split a 46.90 the third leg of that relay, providing the crucial difference. They’ll also have all of their gold medal team from last year summer, including Florent Manaudou, whose 48.77 this year is only fifth-fastest among French swimmers who will be at these championships. Metalla has been faster this year than the 48.69 he led off with in last summer’s final, and Gilot, Manaudou, and Stravius all have a track record of splitting sub-48 practically at will.
Luca Dotto – 48.40
Marco Orsi – 48.50
Filippo Magnini – 48.79
Michele Santucci – 48.84
Total – 3:14.53
Continuing a common theme, Italy will be bringing ¾ of their 2013 worlds team, plus Santucci, who swam in the preliminary heat there. Unfortunately, their only sub-48 swimmer from last summer’s bronze medal winning team, Luca Leonardi, is not on the roster for Kazan.
Italy has been one of the most consistent teams over the past four years. They’ve made finals at both the 2011 and 2013 World Championships, as well as at the London Olympics and last year’s European Championship, where they picked up a bronze. They finished between 4th and 7th at each of the other three meets, and they seem to likely to do so again this summer.
Cameron McEvoy – 48.06
Tommaso D’Orsogna – 48.54
Kyle Chalmers – 48.69
Matthew Abood – 49.33
Total – 3:14.62
Australia seems to have been the favorite in this event for the past few years now, but they’ve had a hard time matching their individual best times in the relays at international meets. Whatever chances they had in this relay took a big blow when star sprinter James Magnussen bowed out of this meet due to injury.
With Magnussen out, veteran Abood stands next in line to join this relay. Last summer he split a 48.23 on Australia’s gold-medal winning relay at Pan Pacs, and a 48.77 on the relay that won the Commonwealth Games. At 29 years old, he’ll be the oldest and most experienced member of this team.
There’s still some young talent here, highlighted by McEvoy, whom Magnussen recently predicted would win gold in the individual 100 free in Kazan and who took gold in that event at Pan Pacs last year. D’Orsogna is a bit of a wildcard. He split 47.78 at London in 2012, but only swam a 49.29 and 49.26 leading off this relay last summer at Pan Pacs and the Commonwealth Games, respectively.
Chalmers is the rising star at only 17 year of age, but suffered an injury this spring while playing Australian football for his school. If there are no lingering effects, Chalmers could provide the kind of lights-out swim that Australia will need to contend for a medal.
Marcelo Chierighini – 48.80
Cesar Cielo – 48.97
Henrique Martins – 48.98
Joao De Lucca – 49.04
Total – 3:15.79
Brazil has been the trendy pick for this relay in a lot of the internet chatter, especially as the country gears up to host next summer’s Olympics. Brazil boats the current world record in both the 50 and 100 freestyles in Cielo. Those suited times are six years old at this point, but he’s still one of the premier sprint stars in the world, and in an interview a few months ago, Cielo expressed his desire to see a stronger relay culture for Brazil’s team, which seems to indicate he’s planning on taking this event seriously, even if he’s not swimming the individual 100 free.
There’s depth in this relay, for sure, and even beyond what we see in those four fastest times from this season. NCAA champ Chierighini has split under 48 each of the past three years and should be a safe bet to do so again. Although not in Brazil’s top four based on this season’s performances, Matheus Santana has a personal best time of 48.25 from last year’s gold medal-wining Youth Olympics performance, which also broke the junior world record. He was over 49 in both the individual 100 free and leading off the 4×100 free at the Pan American Games a few weeks ago, but he can get back to last year’s time, he’ll be in the mix for this relay as well.
Fratus is more of a 50m specialist, but he went 48.0 at last year’s Pan Pacific championships in this relay, and 48.5 at the Pan Am games this year. De Lucca and Nicholas Oliveira also have experience on this relay, and could be in the mix for spots in the final.
Benjamin Proud – 48.70
Calum Jarvis – 48.79
Robbie Renwick – 49.12
Duncan Scott – 49.19
Total – 3:15.80
When I was combing through this year’s rankings in the men’s 100 free, I was rather surprised to find that while Japan and Germany both had a couple of swimmers with good times, neither had four in the top 100. Great Britain does, however, setting them up for the possibility of making finals here. It took a 3:15.4 to make finals in 2013, so Great Britain, rather sneakily, has a reasonable chance this year.
Nathan Adrian – 48.85
Jimmy Feigen – 49.17
Conor Dwyer – 49.40
Matt Grevers – 49.70
Total – 3:17.12
The USA men had only the 6th-fastest time in the world last year in this event, and on one hand, they look like they’ll be weaker without Michael Phelps. On the other hand, the entire team looked to be under the weather at Pan Pacifics last summer, and I think it’s reasonable to assume that most of the team should bounce back nicely this year. Still, there are a lot of the questions.
The only swimmer who should be 100% without-a-doubt a lock on this relay is Nathan Adrian, who’s taken over the freestyle star role once occupied by legends like Jazon Lezak, Gary Hall Jr., Matt Biondi, and Rowdy Gaines. The big question is: where does he end up on this relay. He anchored in 2010 and 2011, led off in 2012 and 2013, and swam in the second position in 2014.
Feigen will be the USA’s other swimmer in the individual 100 free, and while he should be on the relay, that’s a little less certain. He’s only swimming the individual because of Phelps’s absence and Lochte declining the spot, and he’s had at least one notable relay misfire while anchoring the Barcelona free relay. On the other hand, he’s the only US swimmer on this roster, other than Adrian, to go under 48 on a flat start, and he’s been sub-48 on a relay start as well, so he should be swimming this.
What I’m about to say may cause howls of protests from some quarters, but objectively speaking, Lochte should be on this relay. He may not be known as a “sprinter,” but he’s still clearly one of the fastest men in the US. Whether that’s more of an indication of the relative paucity of the US men in this event or a sign of just how good Lochte is I’ll leave up to the reader to decide. The fact remains that he was the third-fastest in the US in the individual 100 free last year and that he’s the only swimmer other than Adrian to go sub-48 on a relay split three times in the post-2009 era. He’s probably not going to get to 47.5 or below — whereas the next two swimmers have that potential — but you can almost consider him a lock for 47.8 — and I think you have to go with the sure bet.
Dwyer, Anthony Ervin, and Matt Grevers are all slated to swim in preliminaries. If Ervin or Grevers can match the 47.4 or 47.5 they did in 2013 and 2012, respectively, that’ll put the US men in far better shape than they look right now. If 2014 was merely an aberration, and all the stars align, and if one of those two can split around a 47.5 in finals, if Feigen can go sub-48 again (preferably to lead-off) and if Adrian and Lochte get back to their usual splits, then it is possible that the USA could be in the 3:10 range and win gold. I’m not saying that’s likely — instead, they’ll probably be battling Brazil for bronze — but I wouldn’t be totally shocked, either.
Zetao Ning – 48.34
Hexin Yu – 49.11
Yongquing Lin – 49.86
Qiheng Xu – 49.93
Total – 3:17.17
All of the above except Xu swam in the finals of last year’s Asian Games, where China’s 3:13.47 set a new Asian Games record. If they can repeat that time, that will definitely get them into the finals here, although it’ll still probably fall short of a medal. However, the fourth swimmer on that relay was Sun Yang, who split a 48.5. It’s hard to say for sure if Sun will swim this event at all, and whether China has enough firepower to make to finals without him swimming preliminaries.
Paul Biederman – 49.24
Marco DiCarli – 49.43
Maximilian Oswald – 49.43
Steffen Deibler – 49.62
Total – 3:17.72
Three of those four men comprised Germany’s 2012 Olympic squad in this event, and all three swam either preliminaries or finals in Barcelona in 2013. If Germany adds Biederman into that mix, they should once again be a lock to at least make finals here, even if they are not likely to challenge for a medal.
- United States
First out: Great Britain