2017 Worlds Preview: King The X-Factor For Americans In Medley Relay

You can find links to all of our event-by-event previews and a compilation of our predicted medal-winners here.

2017 FINA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay

  • World Record: 3:52.05, United States (Franklin, Soni, Vollmer, Schmitt), 2012
  • 2016 Olympic Champions: United States (Baker, King, Vollmer, Manuel), 3:53.13
  • 2015 World Champions: China (Fu, Shi, Lu, Shen), 3:54.41

For the last decade the U.S. women have been hit-or-miss in the medley relay. They’ve either won decisively or haven’t come close, with the exception of 2008 where the Australians edged them by six tenths for gold.

After missing the 2009 World Championship final, they were dominant winning four straight titles from 2010 through to 2013, including setting the world record that still stands today in London at 3:52.05. Then, after being handily beat by the Aussies at the 2014 Pan Pacs and whiffing on the medals at the last World Championships, they’re right back on top form.

With breakout Olympic performances from Kathleen BakerLilly King and Simone Manuel, along with the ever-reliable Dana Vollmer, they won gold by nearly two seconds in Rio. Their depth is highlighted by the fact their prelim team, featuring four completely different swimmers, would’ve won silver in the final with their morning time.

All four of their members last summer won individual medals in their respective 100m races, which made them the overwhelming favorites, but this time around they matchup a bit closer with the Australians.

The two teams are relatively even on three of the legs, as the Australians have Emily SeebohmEmma McKeon and Bronte Campbell who are basically on par with Baker, Kelsi Worrell, and Manuel (or Mallory Comerford). However, the breaststroke leg is where the division will come, as King has been 1:04.95 this year, just 0.02 off her Olympic winning time, while Australia’s Jessica Hansen is over two seconds slower at 1:07.06.

Of course anything can happen on a relay, as King split nearly eight tenths slower in Rio than she went individually, but with such a substantial gap on one leg it looks like that will seal the deal for the Americans. Using their season-best times, the Americans come out just over two seconds ahead, 3:53.71 to 3:55.80. Using lifetime best times the gap narrows a bit for Australia, but is still over a second and a half.

In Rio there was an absolute dog fight for the minor medals behind the US. The Australians should manage to have a bigger gap than one one-hundredth this year, but the battle for bronze will remain fierce.

The Danes, who won bronze last summer, have lost two key legs and will scramble to even make the final. 2015 World Championship medalist in the 100 back Mie Nielsen withdrew after initially being named to the team citing a lack of motivation since Rio, and 100 fly 2015 World silver medalist Jeanette Ottesen isn’t competing this year either.

They return 50 free Olympic gold medalist Pernille Blume and 200 breast world record holder Rikke Moller Pedersen, but are relatively weak after that. Emilie Beckmann is a solid replacement on fly, holding a season-best of 58.5, but it’s the backstroke where they are really in trouble. They’ll have to go with Sarah Bro, who has been just 1:03.0 this year.

The three teams who just missed medals last year were the Chinese, Canadians, and Russians. Those three, and potentially the Swedes, are shaping up to duke it out for bronze once again.

Looking at season-best times, China and Russia are nearly identical, but if Lu Ying is around where she was in Rio on fly, China will have the advantage. If her or Zhang Yufei are in the 57-range the two teams are about even, with China strongest on back with Fu Yuanhui and Russia strongest on breast with Yuliya Efimova.

Canada has a dynamite opening leg in Kylie Masse, and has some more star power in Penny Oleksiak. They’ll need to decide whether they want her on fly or free, but that will be made after those individual events. Based off this year, they’re faster using Oleksiak on fly and Sandrine Mainville on free rather than Katerine Savard on fly and Oleksiak on free. Both Rachel Nicol and Oleksiak (on either stroke) were quite a bit faster in Rio than they’ve been this year, so Canada has a good shot at bronze. Going off lifetime bests they have the potential to be competitive with Australia.

The Swedes have three possible combinations that render nearly the same result. Either way it goes their season-best times put them in 3:56-high to 3:57-low range, possibly contending for the bronze. Jennie Johansson will be the breaststroker, but the rest is up for debate. The fastest team has Michelle Coleman on back, Louise Hansson on fly and Sarah Sjostrom on free, but of course Hansson and Sjostrom could flip-flop, which is the relay that won silver at 2015 Worlds. Ida Lindborg could also do back with Sjostrom on fly and Coleman on free. All three add-up times based off this year are within just over two tenths of each other. We’ll have to wait and see what they go with, but anyway you put it they’re potential medalists with the star power of Sjostrom and a solid supporting cast.

The Brits shape up to be finalists once again, but it’s a stretch for them to contend for a medal. They’re pretty solid all around with Georgia DaviesSarah VaseyAlys Thomas and Freya Anderson, and Siobhan Marie O’Connor potentially filling in somewhere, but lack the one star who’s going to medal in their individual race required to fight for a medal.

Those seven project to be in the final, and the last spot will likely go to Italy, with Denmark having a slight chance if they all swim lights out. Japan lacks a backstroker and the host Hungarians lack a breaststroker.

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS

 Rank COUNTRY PREDICTED LINEUP SEASON BEST ADD-UP BEST TIME ADD-UP PREDICTED TIME
1 United States Baker, King, Worrell, Manuel 3:53.95 3:52.68 3:53.0
2 Australia Seebohm, Hansen, McKeon, B. Campbell 3:55.80 3:54.62 3:54.6
3 Canada Masse, Nicol, Oleksiak, Mainville 3:56.82 3:55.2 3:55.1
4 China Fu, Shi, Lu, Zhu 3:57.06 3:55.18 3:55.4
5 Sweden Coleman, Johansson, Sjostrom, Hansson 3:57.13 3:56.68 3:55.6
6 Russia Fesikova, Efimova, Chimrova, Popova 3:56.63 3:54.11 3:55.6
7 Great Britain Davies, O’Connor, Thomas, Anderson 3:58.34 3:57.88 3:57.0
8 Italy Panziera, Carraro, Bianchi, Pellegrini 4:00.47 3:57.69 3:58.7

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dude 2.0
4 years ago

It could be. But King split105 high at the olympics which is a pretty bad swim given her individual

Team USA
Reply to  dude 2.0
4 years ago

Also, Katie Meili’s prelims relay split was almost a second faster than King’s was that night.

commonwombat
4 years ago

A significantly lower quality race than last year and realistically, USA would need to self destruct not to win this. They could probably ring for a pizza and have it delivered by the time the next team arrives !!

Who will it be ?? Whilst I suspect that CAN may well prove very serious competition to the USA in the lead-in to Tokyo; I’m not seeing this as being the year we see that challenge seriously rear its head. Without a real quality 2nd freestyler in this team, they face a quandry on where to place Oleksiak. A reasonably sound medal bet but unsure of colour.

The other podium spot looks quite tenuous as AUS remains weak on its middle… Read more »

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  commonwombat
4 years ago

CHN lacks a serious weapon? Did you forget Fu?

commonwombat
Reply to  Coach Mike 1952
4 years ago

When I refer to weapons, I refer to those who can either break the race open for their team or be able to seriously bring back time. Fu is a colossal 50 backstroker but over the 100, is she going to be able to take the race away from the likes of Masse or Baker ….. realistically she’s more likely to be keeping CHN “in the game” at the first change. Hope this answers your question.

Aeswimfan
4 years ago

Is there going to be a Pickem for worlds this year?

leclave
Reply to  Aeswimfan
4 years ago

Look on the front page, its already out!

75M FREE
Reply to  Aeswimfan
4 years ago

Yes. And there will also be a Pickrem for worlds this year. Her name is Sydney.

marklewis
Reply to  75M FREE
4 years ago

Do you have Sydney placing in the top 4 in any event? I am considering her for 4th in the 200 IM

seetst
4 years ago

meili had a faster relay split than king at the olympics, right?

AvidSwimFan
Reply to  seetst
4 years ago

Yes she did. After, Meili’s insane split, I expected a lot from King and was disappointed. Vollmer and Manuel secured the victory despite King. King needs to get the memo: A relay split should be faster than a flat start especially if you’re the “hardest working breaststroker”.

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  AvidSwimFan
4 years ago

Amen!

bob
Reply to  AvidSwimFan
4 years ago

If someone as mundane as you or I realize this, I’m sure someone as spectacular as the Olympic Gold medalist realizes this. I’m sure she did her best and I have a feeling if given the opportunity she will do quite well. Have faith maybe?

Dee
4 years ago

Canada would be fools to anchor Mainville over Vanlandeghem. No disrespect, but of she’s in shape, Chantal is supreme on relays. Always 53low, and dipped under 53 twice. Breaststroke breaks Canada’s hopes for me.

1. USA
2. Australia
3. PR China

Gonna be hard remembering my pick’em selections for these predictions

pooholla
Reply to  Dee
4 years ago

i’ve been having a grand time this past week putting mine into my own spreadsheet for easy access B-)

Dee
Reply to  pooholla
4 years ago

I wish I had your patience!

commonwombat
Reply to  Dee
4 years ago

With respect, not sure it does …. at least not out of medals. I don’t see the CAN brs leg as being any weaker that AUS (Hansen a first timer, McKeown a history of crumbling on this relay. Oleksiak likely to better McKeon (who’s shaky on this relay). I see them finishing ahead of AUS ….. maybe SWE could perform out of their skins and finish ahead of both or maybe RUS can but I’m probably seeing it as
1.USA
2. prob CHN
3. CAN

Regrettably this is probably the weakest AUS team (as a whole) sent to a World level event since the early 90s.

Dee
Reply to  commonwombat
4 years ago

Sweden could be interesting:

1.01.5
55.2
1.05.8
52.8

All very capable, gives you 3.55.3… I’d let Lindborg lead off and save Coleman for anchor.

Dee
Reply to  Dee
4 years ago

Apart from fly & breast being the other way around of course

commonwombat
Reply to  Dee
4 years ago

A very interesting hypothesis ….. and one that I’d really kinda like to see come off, just for the egg on faces of so many dimwitted TV talking heads so wound up over how “their” team is faring that they totally ignore SWE coming through the field !!

If they swam that time then they will be very close to the podium. AUS & CAN are probably the most vulnerable of the “leading fancies” and if there’s a poor leg on either/both then SWE COULD pull off a very sneaky medal “heist”

Dee
Reply to  commonwombat
4 years ago

I agree: Middle of Aussies race needs to hold up, Canadian breast leg needs to deliver then pray their anchor can hold off the charge from Campbell/Coleman et al… Both vulnerable to Sweden

commonwombat
Reply to  Dee
4 years ago

Fair enough. My read is that people are assuming Seebohm is back to her 2015 level … she isn’t; she’s merely “good Seebohm” not “superb Seebohm”. I suspect Masse may outmatch her, maybe not by much. Best case scenario for AUS on brs is a 1.06low but it may well be north of the 1.07 mark. Don’t think CAN will be worse, potentially better. Fly … McKeon for whatever reason has never really fired up on this relay and this is where CAN can most likely steal a significant gap via Oleksiak. AUS should be able to close significantly on anchor but will it be from too far back ? People are imagining the C2 of Kazan ….. but that… Read more »

G.I.N.A
Reply to  commonwombat
4 years ago

That is 2017 . I hear there are several patriotic boys lining up for transgendering to help our gorls breastroke leg . They are undergoing their psychological testing as we write .

Why do you want to do this ? To stop Aust SwSw commentators sliding off their couches in embarrassment on the w breastroke leg . Oh yes – a wonderful humaniarian gesture you’ll be doing .

Just wait world

Swimcoach242
Reply to  G.I.N.A
4 years ago

This isn’t even remotely funny.

G.I.N.A
Reply to  Swimcoach242
4 years ago

But if it were to happen they’d be lauded for personal bravery till they beat your favourites . .

Prickle
4 years ago

It just occurred to me that Katie Ledecky can compete with practically any WC finalist team of W400Med relay. And only the team of four Olympian medalists including two champions can have a body length advantage.
Someday we may see such exhibition races that will (I’m sure) gather big crowd end earn good money for participants. That is how professional swimming can be promoted: entertainment and competition at high level.

Prickle
Reply to  Prickle
4 years ago

Interesting, that similar situation is impossible to imagine in men swimming when one swimmer overswims four best strokers when three of them have advantage of flying start. Why? It is either there is no swimmer of such dominance on men’s side or women stroke competition is not that much developed as men’s one.

G.I.N.A
Reply to  Prickle
4 years ago

Has happened when there is an outstandi ng 400 swimmer whose 400 time is superior to the then 4x100m WR . Eg Debbie Meyers 4. 24vs 4 .25 , Shane Gould 4.19 vs 4.20 Tracey Wickham 4.06 vs 4.7.9 . In fact 3 girls Tracey , Sippy & Kim Linehan beat the then wr in both free & weref all faster than the DDR’s medley record from Montreal .

Ledecky is about tge same as Janet Evans – a few secs behind . So Ledecky is not as great comparatively as the 5 mentioned earlier !

Prickle
Reply to  G.I.N.A
4 years ago

I don’t know much how well developed women competition in swimming was 40-50 years ago. I think it is incomparable to what we have nowadays. Do we have examples of similar level of dominance in freestyle in such wide range of distances? I know that Shane Gould’s period of keeping simultaneously multiple world records was short lived.
But the interesting point is that during all history of women competitive swimming regardless the differences in technique, equipment, stroke rules, coaching, diets etc we have many examples when strong freestyle swimmer is capable to beat 400Med relay. Very interesting conclusion can be made of such statistics: women are by nature freestylers in everything. That is their strongest feature 🙂

gator fan
4 years ago

58.7 Baker
1:04.8 Meili (After they realize King can’t be trusted for relays
56.1 Worrell
52.5 Manuel

3:53.1 FTW

Coach Eve
Reply to  gator fan
4 years ago

I watched King swim relays at NCAAs this year, she was unbelievable. In the finals of the 400 medley, she swam her leg and went from 8th to 1st, and nearly the same in the 200 Medley. I’m sure she would be the first to admit the MR was not her best, but still good enough for gold. And she earned her spot on the relay by winning Gold in the 100 breast.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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