2017 Worlds Previews: USA Spells Trouble for AUS in W. 400 Free 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

Simone Manuel (Photo: Tim Binning)

After a strong showing in the 100 free at U.S. Nationals, the American women are now a serious threat to the Australians in the 400 free relay at the upcoming 2017 FINA World Championships. The Americans have never headed into a major international meet with a woman sub-53, and now they have 2 swimmers going in with lifetime bests in the 52-high range thanks to Olympic champ Simone Manuel and National champ Mallory Comerford. Relay veteran Lia Neal threw down a personal best 53.59 at Nationals, so it isn’t inconceivable to think she could pull out a 52.9 from a relay start, especially since she was a fantastic relay swimmer at NCAAs and has been a staple of the 400 free relay for years now. Additionally, Kelsi Worrell broke 54 seconds for the first time today, and she has the speed to put up a 53-low split. Throw Katie Ledecky, who put up a sub-53 anchor split in Rio, into the mix, and the USA is arguably the favorite for gold. Olivia Smoliga, who placed 5th at trials with a 54-low, will also get a chance to show what she can do since she’s qualified to swim prelims of the relay in Budapest.

While the Americans certainly have a chance, the Australians look very hard to beat even without World Record holder Cate Campbell, who is sitting out of the World Championships this summer. The top-ranked Australians other than C. Campbell this year are Bronte Campbell (52.85), Emma McKeon (53.12), Shayna Jack (53.40), and Madison Wilson (54.24). The Aussies may opt to use a different swimmer for the 4th leg, as there will be a couple of veterans available. Brittany Elmslie, who swam on the winning relay in Rio last summer, will also be heading to Worlds with the Aussies, but her best time so far this year is a 54.38. Emily Seebohm isn’t far behind this season with a 54.39.

Ranomi Kromowidjojo (Photo: Tim Binning)

Ranomi Kromowidjojo headlines a dangerous Dutch squad, as she’s been very fast already this season. Her season best of 53.07 is already faster than what she went in the final in Rio, and she’s a lightning fast relay swimmer. The Dutch also have Femke Heemskerk (53.75) and Marritt Steenbergen (53.98) who have both been sub-54 this year. Steenbergen was due play a huge role here after she showed great speed with a 53.3 split at European Juniors, but she has opted not to swim at Worlds. Their 4th fastest swimmer so far this year is Maud van der Meer, who turned in a 54.56 in Eindhoven.

The Canadians, led by Olympic champ Penny Oleksiak, look to return to the medal stand after taking bronze in Rio. Joining her will be Rio relay teammates Chantal Van Landeghem (54.16) and Sandrine Mainville (53.95). Taylor Ruck won’t make the trip this time around, as Michelle Toro will serve as the 4th member of that relay. Toro went a personal best 54.14 at Canadian Trials to qualify for the team, and could dip into the 53-low to 53-mid range with a relay start.

Sarah-Sjostrom (Photo: Peter Sukenik)

Sweden is a definite medal threat, but they really need one more swimmer in the 53-range to be in contention for gold. Sarah Sjostrom is a monster relay swimmer and she scared the World Record in the 100 free with a 52.08 on the Mare Nostrum tour. Michelle Coleman has been 53.36 this season and should be able to throw down a 52 split from a rolling start. Louise Hansson, who had an explosive freshman season at USC, is their 3rd fastest swimmer this year with a 54.79. That’s nearly her best time, which stands at a 54.62 from 2014, so she could be due for a big swim on taper. It could go a long way for Sweden if she’s able to split in the 53-range. Nathalie Lindborg is currently the 4th fastest swimmer this year for the Swedes with a 55.94. Her sister, Ida Lindborg, has only been a 56.22 so far this season, but she threw down a quick 54.4 relay split in 2016 so she may be going a lot faster come taper time.

Pernille Blume, who took gold in the 50 free in Rio, headlines the Danish sprint squad with her season best 53.52. Denmark has 2 additional swimmers, Signe Bro (54.64) and Mie Nielsen (54.99), who have been sub-55 already this year. The 4th spot will likely go to Sarah Bro (55.54).

China’s Zhu Menghui (53.42) and Zhang Yufei (54.09) are both ranked in the top 25 this year and will look to lead their team to a top 8 finish. A young Russian squad will also be fighting for a top 8 finish, led by Veronika Popova (54.36) and Rozaliya Nasretdinova (54.86).

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS:

Place Team Predicted Time
1 USA 3:31.6
2 AUS 3:31.9
3 NED 3:32.9
4 CAN 3:33.2
5 SWE 3:35.5
6 CHN 3:36.8
7 DEN 3:37.0
8 RUS 3:38.5

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marklewis
5 years ago

Who will the USA put on for the anchor leg? You know it’s going to come down to the final 2 swimmers from AUS and USA.

Megan Romano swam that electrifying anchor leg to get by Coutts when the USA won the last time. Maybe Simone Manuel can do the job for the USA this time.

Prickle
Reply to  marklewis
5 years ago

If it is the Stanford relay reinforced by Mallory Comerford then Comerford will swim first to avoid exchange miscommunication. Plus I’m not sure about Comerford’s relay experience. The anchor leg will be Neal. I personally prefer to see Manuel finishing the race. That will push her swim to the limits if racing conditions require that.

Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

2016 FINA World Swimming Championships (25 m)

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_FINA_World_Swimming_Championships_(25_m)#Women.27s_events

Anonymous
Reply to  marklewis
5 years ago

I think best line up would be Comerford-Neal-Ledecky-Manuel

Prickle
5 years ago

Very simple arithmetic. Australians replaced #1 with #5. That is a one and a half seconds down. That is about the same advantage Australians had over Americans in Rio. To beat Australians the Americans need to have at least as fast team as they had in Rio. With Comerford and Neal being a good match to Weitzeil and Vollmer it means they need the fourth member of the team with the split well below 53 sec. Who of Worrell, Smoliga and Ledecky will do it? Don’t see who unless Ledecky has this Annus Mirabilis of 2016 again.
Another look. The sprint trio of Manuel, Commerford, Neal are almost exact match to Australian counterparts of Bronte Campbell, McKeon and Jack.… Read more »

commonwombat
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

But its not all a matter of arithmetics. Your uncertainties re the US are very valid ones but they are just as great on the AUS side of the ledger.

– Who do you put off the gun ? Its very rare to see a sub53 in the lead-off of a relay …. who does USA put there and who does AUS counter with ? Does AUS put McKeon or C2 there …. and thus probably rule out one of only 2 potential sub53 splits ?
– Jack had a breakout AUS season and her 53.4 at AUS Trials has to be respected but she has not raced since. Add to the fact that this is her first LCM… Read more »

Prickle
Reply to  commonwombat
5 years ago

CW, no arguing – relay has a lot of uncertainties. McKeon can be anywhere between 52.8 (2016 best) and 53.4 (her time in Rio relay), Manuel can have 52.4 (rio medley relay split) or 53.36 (free relay leadoff), Bronte Campbell can be as good as 52.15 (Rio relay split) and can be a half of a second slower. Comerford and Jack have no proven record of being capable to swim near their bests. The exchange by itself can give 0.4-0.6 sec advantage or DQ. It is a relay – everything can happen. But it is also averages mistakes and success of four legs. My point was that if American want to win regardless possible average fluctuations in performance of members… Read more »

commonwombat
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

Very fair points, just think that its the case that USA has the forward momentum at this point and its best swimmers with recent fast times whereas AUS really hasn’t ….. and probably greater question marks on their side of the ledger.

USA’s top seed is fully fit …. AUS’s is demonstrably not. Weight that in USA’s favour
Ledecky producing a stormer leg would most certainly be the icing on the cake but they really may not need that.
AUS has at least 2 rather debateable legs (question whether they will split sub54 let alone sub53), US most likely only has one.

Much as this (half) Aussie would like to see it otherwise, I’d rather be betting… Read more »

Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

Day 1 Schedule
Women’s 400 m freestyle – heats and final
Women’s 4 x 100 m freestyle relay – heats and final

I don’t expect Katie Ledecky to swim the women’s 4 x 100 m freestyle relay after swimming the heats and final of the women’s 400 m freestyle on the same day. During the 2016 Rio Olympics, the women’s 4 x 100 m freestyle relay was Day 1 (August 6, 2016) while the women’s 400 m freestyle was Day 2 (August 7, 2016).

Prickle
Reply to  Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
5 years ago

It is all true what you said. But if you think who can be chosen #4 from the list of Worrell, Smoliga and Ledecky I would lean in favor of Ledecky. Worrall has tough double as well. Her semi 100fly won’t be a walk in the park. Smoliga’s expected performance may not be sufficient to make relay win. Katie is very reliable under pressure. Her NCAA final relay in the session where she also had double proves this point. USA Coaches may take a risk choosing Ledecky.
But it is also depends on Katie’s personal plans. She may take it easy on 400 final swimming it in cruise control mode for the win only. She will be able to… Read more »

Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

Katie Ledecky has been off in the 100 m freestyle during 2017:

54.69, 54.70, 54.35

Ledecky’s personal best in the 100 m freestyle is 53.75 (Jan 15, 2016).

I’m a firm believer of form and Ledecky has not been in form in the 100 m freestyle this year.

Since when does Katie Ledecky ever swim it for the win? Katie Ledecky went all out in the women’s 1500 m freestyle final in Kazan knowing full well that the 200 m freestyle semifinals was scheduled the same evening.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7I86zZ27N0

Prickle
Reply to  Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
5 years ago

Ledecky was tapered for 53.75 in Austin in January 2016. At the same meet she was 1:54.4 at 200 and set world record at 800. I think she wanted to show what she was capable of in Kazan shouldn’t she have 1500 race. Her performance in Omaha last year after this January firework was very depressing and discouraging. Missing 400 relay with 53.99 only at 100. Then you know what’s happened in three weeks – 52.6 split.
I have no idea what form she is at now. But her 53.35 doesn’t look much different to me than 53.99 last year. Plus she was less rested than last year at trials. She looked very exhausted after 100 and especially 200… Read more »

Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

Ledecky did not have to double for the women’s 4 x 100 m freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Prickle
Reply to  Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
5 years ago

To see her seventh at last turn in 200 semi in Kazan was the hardest thing for Ledecky’s fans to watch when see wasn’t in charge as usually but terribly losing after spectacular world record. And there was no power in her strokes to give some hope of her traditional strong finish. She was done. How she managed to finish third and how 1:56.76 was enough for final I don’t know. There is a God and he likes her.
If a world record can be ever called a stupid thing then it was the stupidest thing to do to go for world record in 1500 final having such tough double. Even after getting to the final she was lucky… Read more »

Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

Name me one time during the World Championships or Summer Olympics when Katie Ledecky was asked to do a double in the morning and a double in the evening.

gigglewater
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

3 events between 400 final and 4×100 free relay, are you sure it has only 20 min between?
Regardless, I say throw both Ledecky and Worrell in prelims, let their split to decide who is taking the double better and who will go to final.

Prickle
Reply to  gigglewater
5 years ago

Three events – 5 races.
M100 BR Semi-finals – 1min each = 2min
W200IM Semi-finals – 2.5 min each = 5min
M4x100FR final – 3.5 min
Total swimming time: 10-12 min.
Add five minutes between each race – 30min
So Ledecky will have up to 40 min to decompress after 400 final.
I’m not sure when and how medal ceremony will be held.

Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

Katie Ledecky posted her worst time in the women’s 200 m freestyle in Kazan after doubling in the women’s 1500 m freestyle.

2015 World Championships
Women’s 200 m freestyle
heats – 1:55.82
semifinals – 1:56.76
final – 1:55.16

GII
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

So your 20 min prior is purely your own calculation?
I saw the TV time table broadcast, I think there is at least 50 min between 400 final and 4×100 free relay.
Of cause 100 fly semi is ahead of 400 free final, Worrell has much more time than Ledecky.
Worrell, shorter race, much more warm down time, no podium duty since she only has semi Ledecky has final, placed higher than Ledecky at Indy.
That’s why I said let their prelims split to decide.

Prickle
Reply to  GII
5 years ago

🙂 I would not call my calculations “pure”. Just some idea of what possibly it can be. I don’t have a document with official start time for each race. Do you?

Prickle
Reply to  GII
5 years ago

What do you think Kelsi Worrel can show in 400 free relay. If what she can do is enough for the relay gold medal by coaches’ choice calculations then I would prefer to see her in final 400 relay and Ledecky with world record at 400.
But if it is not enough then Ledecky will swim. Why? Because Katie had already once this 52 splits and she is fighter. So if the chances for the win are not curtain I would go with Ledecky. But I’m not US coach and don’t know all circumstances surrounding this decision. Just in 9 days we will see.

ERVINFORTHEWIN
5 years ago

Yipiii – 6 or 7 more days to wait before the fireworks are lit

Aussie crawl
Reply to  ERVINFORTHEWIN
5 years ago

Let the show begin.
Who posted the negative feedback.
Cant wait for the aussie vs yank banter !! 🙂

Iain
5 years ago

SB add ups – top 10 entered teams:

USA – M. Comerford, S. Manuel, L. Neal, K. Worrell
52.81, 53.05, 53.59, 53.85 – 3:33.30
AUS – B. Campbell, E. McKeon, S. Jack, M. Wilson
52.85, 53.12, 53.40, 54.24 – 3:33.61
CAN – P. Oleksiak, S. Mainville, M. Toro, C. Van Landeghem
53.64, 53.95, 54.14, 54.16 – 3:35.89
SWE – S. Sjostrom, M. Coleman, L. Hansson, N. Lindborg
52.08, 53.36, 54.79, 55.94 – 3:36.17
CHN – M. Zhu, Y. Zhang, Y. Ai, Y. Wu
53.42, 54.09, 54.41, 54.58 – 3:36.50
NED – R. Kromowidjojo, F. Heemskerk, M. Van Der Meer, R. Neumann
53.07, 53.75, 54.56, 55.19 – 3:36.57
ITA… Read more »

commonwombat
5 years ago

The most open W4X100 for a few years. C1’s absence and C2 remaining sub-par physically brings AUS back to the field. If it still were the case that C2 was fit and Elmslie was clearly in Rio shape, it would still probably be Adv AUS (although Jack’s 1st senior team) but its now back to nigh line-ball.

USA doesn’t yet have a sub52 splitter but they have sub53 splits in Manuel, Ledecky (if on form) and maybe Comerford (cautionary note that this is her 1st senior team). 4th leg is still potentially a question mark but AUS has similar vulnerability.

I would expect CAN to join the battle in coming years (maybe ever supplant AUS) but this is not likely… Read more »

Swimswamswum
Reply to  commonwombat
5 years ago

Mallory was on the SC worlds, so while not a major LC international meet, she does have fairly high level international experience. I’m not 100% sure, but I think she delivered some pretty killer relay splits at SC worlds along with Worrell. Yes both have great underwaters and are great short course swimmers, but I think these Louisville women really get up and going for relays. I would not be surprised to see Worrell on the night relay especially judging how her 100 fly was quite a ways off her best.

bobo gigi
5 years ago

Considering that the American relay has a new sprint star with Mallory Comerford and that Cate Campbell is absent, it would be disappointing for the US team to not win the gold in my opinion.

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

they will win gold ….they are hungry for it

Anonymous
Reply to  ERVINFORTHEWIN
5 years ago

They’re very Hungary for the gold in Budapest

Robbos
Reply to  Anonymous
5 years ago

I Think most swimmers are very HUNGARY for Gold in Budapest!!!

bobo gigi
5 years ago

Worlds
1973. East Germany
1975. East Germany
1978. USA
1982. East Germany
1986. East Germany
1991. USA
1994. China
1998. USA
2001. Germany
2003. USA
2005. Australia
2007. Australia
2009. Netherlands
2011. Netherlands
2013. USA
2015. Australia

Olympic games
1912. GB
1920. USA
1924. USA
1928. USA
1932. USA
1936. Netherlands
1948. USA
1952. Hungary
1956. Australia
1960. USA
1964. USA
1968. USA
1972. USA
1976. USA
1980. East Germany
1984. USA
1988. East Germany
1992. USA
1996. USA
2000. USA
2004. Australia
2008. Netherlands
2012. Australia
2016. Australia

Patrick S
5 years ago

Mie Nielsen isn’t competing at the World Championships, so i doubt that Denmark will make the final.

Dee
Reply to  Patrick S
5 years ago

Kinda ruins the Danish medley relay, too.

Patrick S
Reply to  Dee
5 years ago

Ottesen being pregnant, and Pedersen’s poor form isn’t helping their chances either…

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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