2018 LEN EUROPEAN AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
- August 3-9, 2018 (swimming portion)
- Glasgow, Scotland
- Tollcross International Swimming Centre
- Psych Sheet
There are three women-only relays on offer at the European Championships: the 400 free relay, the 400 medley relay, and the 800 free relay.
400 free relay:
There are 5 clear top contenders in the women’s sprint freestyles, and then a big gap thereafter to the rest of the field: Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, and Hungary.
The favorites continue to be the Dutch, who are on the tail-end of a generation of dominance in the discipline, but still took bronze at last year’s World Championships. They are facing a sudden shortage of depth, though, without Maud van der Meer or Marrit van Steenbergen on their roster for Europeans.
Their next-best options to fill out the 4th spot on the relay fall between Marjolein Delno, Kira Toussaint, and Robin Neumann, who each have been 55-mid this season. Toussaint, primarily a sprint backstroker, has shown the most recent upside in the sprint freestyles, though all 3 could comfortably get a shot at this relay in prelims to determine who gets the spot in the final.
The Dutch’s big ace in the hole is that they have two stars, Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Femke Heemskerk, to anchor their relay. No other country in Europe can boast a 1-2 freestyle punch of that caliber at this meet. Sweden has the 1, the World Record holder Sarah Sjostrom, but with no Michelle Coleman at this meet, that likely pulls a 56-second freestyler onto the relay: which probably sinks their chances at gold unless Sjostrom does something truly legendary on the leadoff. Louise Hansson slides into that #2 spot as an able 53-high relay swimmer.
Denmark likewise has one top-gun, which is 50 free Olympic champion Pernille Blume. After the Olympic success, the 24-year old has shown even more speed this year, having already been a lifetime best in the 50 (23.92) and close to the same in the 100 (52.72 – .03 off).
She’s got a solid supporting cast: nothing as spectacular as the two relays ahead of her, but enough depth that a trio of sub-54s is possible. Signe Bro, the country’s second-best sprinter, was only 56.60 on the relay at Worlds last year. Even a best time wouldn’t have moved Denmark more than 1 spot, but with Sweden’s woes this year, she could be the difference between silver and off-the-podium.
The darkhorse here is the British team. A team of only English swimmers swam 3:38.40 at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, which is faster than Denmark went.
There nation’s female sprint talent is heavily-concentrated within England, so there’s not much more to do with this relay aside from give some swimmers a break in prelims (and maybe Lucy Hope could earn a spot over Eleanor Faulkner). This is a young relay, including 17-year old Freya Anderson, who led the UK in the 100 free in 2017, and they didn’t swim at Worlds last year.
If the Brits are the darkhorse, then Hungary is the wildcard of the race. They came in 9th in prelims at the World Championships last year, and don’t really have any standout sprinters (their fastest this year is Zsu Jakabos in 55.51). There’s two swimmers that Hungary could take a chance on, though, and still find their way to the podium. One is Katinka Hosszu, who is a legit world-class sprinter. She’s only entered in 3 individual events at this meet, which is a tiny schedule by her standards. We’re hoping that she’s loading up to swim on a lot of relays, and if so, Hungary’s medal chances become pretty serious.
The other is 16-year old Ajna Kesely, who is really more of a distance swimmer but seems to have the Ledecky-esque sort of range. She’s been 56.22 in thee 100 free already this year, at a meet of no particular interest, and was 55.53 last year. She seems like she should have 54-second potential, given her improvements everywhere else.
Top 8 Picks
800 Free Relay
Russia was the highest-placing European team, among none that medaled, at Worlds last year, in a new European Record. This is the one relay where the loss of Andrusenko doesn’t really hurt them.
That moves the Hungarians, with Kesely, Hosszu, and a couple of 1:58s, into that position for this year’s meet, and it’s not that close. Only 4 European nations even attempted this race at Worlds last year, with the third being the Netherlands – who will put forth a relay of Femke Heemskerk and some young, rapidly-improving swimmers. France didn’t, but they’ve got 3 of the top 9 seeds in the 200 free individually (Charlotte Bonnet at 1:55.53, Margaux Fabre at 1:58.14, and Marie Wattel at 1:58.18). Assia Touati gives them another sub-2 minute swimmer (lifetime best from June is 1:59.82) to round out that relay.
The only other real contenders for the podium are the Brits, where the English relay was 7:55 at the Commonwealth Games. They had an opportunity to improve that stead by sliding a Scotswoman (Camilla Hattersley – 1:58.17 split) into that group, but she was left off of Britain’s European roster without public explanation, in spite of meeting the qualifying standards.
Note: Sweden isn’t entered in this relay.
Top 8 Predictions:
- Great Britain
400 Medley Relay:
Again: with Andrusenko, Russia is a prohibitive favorite in this relay.
Even without Andrusenko, they remain one of the true no-doubt favorites at this meet. The loss of their anchor really doesn’t cost them as much as it does in the other two relays, because 18-year old Maria Kameneva has shown that she’s as good, and about to pass her, as the best Russian sprint freestyler (only .07 slower at Russian Nationals). So, while the rest of the field is fighting for 3:57s and 3:58s, Russia will run away with a 3:53 or 3:54 gold medal.
Russia and Sweden still each have one thing that no other relay in Europe can come close to match. For Russia, that’s breaststroker Yulia Efimova, who is seeded seven-tenths of a second better than any other breaststroker in Europe, and two-and-a-half seconds better than any other breaststroker relevant to the medals in this medley relay.
That gap grew significantly when Sweden’s breaststroker Jennie Johansson retired earlier this year.
On balance, the loss of Johansson costs this relay a second-and-a-half, while the loss of Coleman costs them two-and-a-half (their next-best butterflier and freestyler, Louise Hansson, are the same swimmer, so it’s about a wash on shifting Sjostrom to freestyle).
They still have a butterflier, in Sarah Sjostrom, that nobody else in the world can touch, least of all Europe. She takes this from an “also-ran” Swedish relay to one that still has a chance on the podium.
They should finish at right about 4 minutes.
That brings Britain and Italy right into the thick of this race.
For the Brits, the upside is from breakout butterflier Alys Thomas, which means they should be good for at least a 3:58; the fate of Italy, who have a well-rounded relay, will place their fate on what Federica Pellegrini can do on the anchor. She’s never been a great relay swimmer, relative to her individual exploits, so Sweden should be able to muster enough to hold them off for bronze.
Top 8 Predictions:
- Great Britain
- Hungary (with Katinka Hosszu)
- Czech Republic