2017 Worlds Preview: U.S., Australia A Cut Above In Mixed Free Relay

2017 FINA World Aquatics Championships

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

400m Mixed Freestyle Relay

  • World Record: 3:23.05, United States, 2015
  • World Championship Record: 3:23.05, United States, 2015
  • Defending World Champions: United States (Lochte, Adrian, Manuel, Franklin), 3:23.05

Unlike the mixed medley relay, where there are so many possible combinations different countries can utilize, the mixed free is more black and white. The fastest two male freestylers will join up with the fastest two female freestylers and race. That’s it.

While the medley event was added to the 2020 Olympic schedule, the mixed free was not. Despite not being an Olympic event, World Championship medals will be on the line and most countries will field their best possible lineup.

There are two clear front-runners in this race: the U.S., and Australia. Adding up their fastest four swims done this year, they come out three seconds ahead of anyone else.

The American team is the fastest, at 3:21.79. Nathan Adrian and Caeleb Dressel went 47.96 and 47.97 at U.S. Trials, and Mallory Comerford (52.81) defeated reigning Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel (53.05) to win the women’s event. All four will be able to take the event off during prelims with so many available options on the U.S. squad, giving them an even bigger advantage over some of the other countries. Their men’s add-up (1:35.93) and women’s add-up (1:45.86) are also both fastest among anyone this year.

The Australians would be the gold medal favorites if they weren’t missing two key pieces this year. Women’s 100 free world record holder Cate Campbell opted out of Worlds this year, and men’s Olympic champ Kyle Chalmers withdrew to undergo heart surgery.

For a point of reference, Australia’s aggregate add-up based on 2016 times (3:19.26) comes in nearly 2.5 seconds ahead of the U.S. (3:21.61). What’s even more amazing, the Olympic gold medal winning time for both men and women, multiplied by two, totals a time of 3:20.56. That tells you both how incredibly fast the Aussies were last year and how off form they were in Rio (other than Chalmers).

This year, their women are only a tenth slower than the Americans, with Bronte Campbell (52.85) under 53 once again and Emma McKeon (53.12) fast as well. Cameron McEvoy is back under 48 in-season at 47.91, and up-and-comer Jack Cartwright (48.43) has been improving steadily. They come in at 3:22.31, just half a second behind the Americans.

It will be a two-team race for gold, but I give the edge to the Americans. I see at least three of them improving their times in Budapest, and considering what happened in Rio, we can’t say the same for Australia.

Assuming teams go all-in on this race, the scrap for the bronze medal shapes up to be a good one.

Five teams add-up to 3:25-something, and three more are 3:26-low. Though they’re bringing a much smaller team than usual to Worlds, France leads the way at 3:25.11. Despite only four men, they’re well covered in the 100 free department with Mehdy Metella and Jérémy StraviusCharlotte Bonnet is their top women at 53.6 this year, and Béryl Gastaldello (54.55) will likely be the fourth member.

Then you’ve got the Italians, fairly even throughout their lineup with two men at 48.6 and women at 53.9 and 54.1. Japan and Russia are in there as well, both stronger on the male side with Vladimir Morozov (48.28) and Katsumi Nakamura (48.26) leading the way.

The Canadians and the Dutch are much stronger on the female side, led by the last two Olympic champs Penny Oleksiak (53.64) and Ranomi Kromowidjojo (53.07). Canada slides in just behind Italy for the 5th best add-up, and did win bronze in Kazan. They may fly under the radar, but are in a position to do so again. Yuri Kisil just missed the Olympic final last summer in 48.2, and Markus Thormeyer split a full second under his best time in both the heats and final of the 400 free relay. The Netherlands will feel the loss of 2012 Olympic finalist Sebastiaan Verschuren, who retired in December. They have the slowest men of the top-12 teams, but the 3rd fastest women.

Great Britain has one bright spot in world #1 Duncan Scott, but are fairly average other than that. China will be without Ning Zetao, and probably won’t use Sun Yang, their fastest man this year, so don’t expect them to final.

Brazil is stacked on the men’s side but very weak for women, Hungary is average, and the Danes are only bringing one man who’s been under 51 seconds this year. Sweden has no male sprint freestylers, so they won’t be a factor.

In terms of order, all teams will almost definitely swim two men first. No reason to fall way behind if you don’t have to.

1 United States Dressel, Adrian, Comerford, Manuel 3:21.79 3:20.94 3:20.8 WR
2 Australia McEvoy, Cartwright, Campbell, McKeon 3:22.31 3:20.79 3:21.1
3 Canada Kisil, Thormeyer, Mainville, Oleksiak 3:25.40 3:23.96 3:22.9
4 France Metella, Stravius, Bonnet, Gastaldello 3:25.11 3:23.68 3:23.3
5 Japan Nakamura, Shioura, Igarashi, Ikee 3:25.73 3:25.00 3:23.6
6 Italy Dotto, Vendrame, DiPietro, Pellegrini 3:25.37 3:23.93 3:23.7
7 Netherlands Schwletert, Pijnenburg, Heemskerk, Kromowidjojo 3:25.86 3:24.48 3:24.4
8 Russia Morozov, Izotov, Popova, Nasretdinova 3:26.03 3:24.58 3:24.5

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3 years ago

I doubt The Australians will take it seriously!!

Aussie crawl
Reply to  MichaelTran
3 years ago

We didn’t even bother in Kazan because it wasnt a olympic event.
Come Tokyo it will be different.
4 boys swimming 47 something by then and C1 & C2 hopefully with no injuries.
It could work well for the Aussies.

Reply to  Aussie crawl
3 years ago

Just one small snag with that one …. its the mixed medley relay that’s an Olympic events not this one (mixed free).

I completely agree that they’ll be fielding their best possible team in the MMR at next Worlds and in Tokyo ….. but there will still be the issue of whether they’ll bother throwing their top seeds at this non Olympic event when some of them may have multiple individual events and up to 4 other relays

3 years ago

Dressel will be goosed by then, this relay is after 50fre final and 100fly final, no way he goes first and doubt he’d be on it. Adrian and Haas or whoever drops a monster on relay and isn’t dead by day 7.

Reply to  Skoorbnagol
3 years ago

Haas ussally performs really well on relays anyway

Just sayin
Reply to  Skoorbnagol
3 years ago

Although that seems likely let’s see what dressel can do before we count him out. He swims for Troy he’s tough.

3 years ago

Don’t think Dressel Will be in the final after 2 big events 50m free-100m fly!!!

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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