2018 SHORT COURSE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
4×50 Free Relay
- World Record: 1:33.91, Netherlands, 2017
- World Championship Record: 1:34.24, Netherlands, 2014
- 2016 World Champions: 1:35.00, Canada
Canada won two free relays at Short Course Worlds in 2016, but with most of their top athletes not competing in Hangzhou, it should be fresh blood atop the women’s 4×50 free relay.
The Netherlands were second in 2016, and though they don’t have Kira Toussaint (who fell ill before the meet), they’re still in solid shape with sprint stars Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Femke Heemskerk, Kim Busch and Maalke de Waard.
The Americans are a strong challenge, using flyer Kelsi Dahlia and backstroker Olivia Smoliga to supplement sprinters Madison Kennedy and Lia Neal. It’s possible Mallory Comerford could also be in the mix – she anchored this relay in prelims in 2016, splitting a decent 24.0.
China might have the most consistent relay across all four splits. They don’t have one standout, but do have 24.0 Zhu Menghui and 24.2 Wu Yue to build around. Similarly, Russia has Rosaliya Nasretdinova and Maria Kameneva to bookend their squad.
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4×100 Free Relay
- World Record: 3:26.53, Netherlands, 2014
- World Championship Record: 3:26.53, Netherlands, 2014
- 2016 World Champions: 3:28.82, USA
The Netherlands will be tough to touch in the 4×100. Ranomi Kromowidjojo (51.01 already this year) and Femke Heemskerk (51.29 already this year) are among the best in the field, and Kim Busch has been 52.71. Losing a likely 52/53 from the absent Kira Toussaint hurts, but Maalke de Waard has been 54.13 this season.
The American team isn’t made up of a lot of pure sprint freestylers, but there is plenty versatility on the roster. Lia Neal and Mallory Comerford are locks, with flyer Kelsi Dahlia probably crossing over along with backstroker Olivia Smoliga. All four are capable 52s – in fact, Dahlia split 51.0 and Comerford 51.9 on this relay two years ago.
China has a lot of depth, led by a likely 51-split from Zhu Menghui. Russia should be pretty solid across four leg, with Maria Kameneva a potential 52-low type. Brazil has three great legs that should be 53-mid or better: Larissa Oliveira, Etiene Medeiros and Manuella Lyrio, but they only have one option for their fourth leg: flyer Daiene Dias.
Japan has two strong legs up front, but struggle for depth without Rikako Ikee.
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4×200 Free Relay
- World Record: 7:32.85, Netherlands, 2014
- World Championship Record: 7:32.85, Netherlands, 2014
- 2016 World Champions: 7:33.89, Canada
Sure, all eyes may be on the U.S. and China, who usually duke it out in this relay. But don’t count out the Russians, who took bronze in 2016 and return several key legs, including a 1:52.4 anchor from Veronika Andrusenko. They also have Anna Egorova (1:54.1 this year) and probably have the best depth of the field, with times of 1:54.2 and 1:55.1 coming out of Russian nationals for Anastasia Guzhenkova and Valeria Salamatina.
China’s relay has better top-end speed (potential individual 200 free champs Wang Jianjiahe and Yang Junxuan) and only slightly less depth than Russia. Meanwhile the U.S. team returns Leah Smith and Mallory Comerford from the silver medal team two years ago, and Melanie Margalis and Lia Neal could fill in for solid depth.
Ariarne Titmus is an impact swimmer for Australia, and pairs with Carla Buchanan, but they’ll likely need some more support to medal. Japan is led by Tomomi Aoki and Chihiro Igarashi, but has some of the same issues in the back end.
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4×50 Medley Relay
- World Record: 1:43.27, USA, 2016
- World Championship Record: 1:43.27, USA, 2016
- 2016 World Champions: 1:43.27, USA
The shorter medley could be a tight battle between a tough American squad and a Dutch crew that will have to get creative on lineups.
The Americans beat the field by two seconds in 2016, setting a new world record. They return flyer Kelsi Dahlia, who outsplit the field by four tenths. While they don’t have difference-making breaststroker Lilly King this time around, Molly Hannis is still likely the top threat, with the best breaststrokers swimming for nations that don’t have relays in Hangzhou. (Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson and Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte). Kathleen Baker is coming off a huge summer and had some solid short course meters swims on the World Cup. She holds down the backstroke leg, and either Lia Neal or Mallory Comerford should be strong anchor legs.
The Dutch relay lost its star backstroker when Kira Toussaint fell ill and withdrew from the meet. That’s going to cause a ripple effect – sprint star Ranomi Kromowidjojo has been 26.1, not much slower than Toussaint. But Kromowidjojo is also a difference-maker in fly (where she’s arguably better than Dahlia over a 50) and free (where she’s the best swimmer in the field by a longshot), so the Dutch will have some lineup decisions to make. Maalke de Waard could also swim back or fly. She’s been a few tenths slower than Toussaint/Kromowidjojo in back and about eight tenths slower in fly. So the best relay is probably De Waard on back, Kromowidjojo on fly and Femke Heemskerk on the free leg. Kim Busch should hold down the team’s breaststroke leg, not as fast as Hannis, but good enough to keep the team in striking distance for its star anchors, Heemskerk or Kromowidjojo.
The battle for bronze should be great as well. China has four solid legs. Zhu Menghui is one of the better anchors in the field, and Zhang Yufei should be able to keep up with the top few flyers. It comes down to backstroker Fu Yuanhui and breaststroke options Feng Junyang, Suo Ran and Shi Jinglin. Meanwhile Russia has two high-quality breaststroke options in Mariia Temnikova and Vitalina Simonova, plus some versatile sprint types in Rosaliya Nasretdinova (fly or free) and Maria Kameneva (free or back).
Then, too, keep an eye on Australia, which has almost the inverse problem it normally has on medley relays: a strong breaststroke leg from Jessica Hansen with some uncertainty as to who will anchor. Carla Buchanan is the likely option. Emily Seebohm continues to be a stellar backstroke leg, but she could also use her versatility in either fly or free, letting youngster Minna Atherton swim back.
Brazil could be a real threat if they had a breaststroker, but it appears they don’t on the women’s side. Japan and Italy are consistent on all three legs. Germany is a little weaker over the front half, but has a strong fly leg from Aliena Schmidtke.
Top 8 Picks:
4×100 Medley Relay
- World Record: 3:45.20, USA, 2015
- World Championship Record: 3:47.89, USA, 2016
- 2016 World Champions: 3:47.89, USA
The longer medley swings much more in the favor of the United States. Kelsi Dahlia has a bigger advantage over the fly field, with a lot more fly endurance than Ranomi Kromowidjojo, who can match Dahlia in a 50, but likely not a 100. Kathleen Baker is probably better over 100 meters than 50 as well; so is probable anchor Mallory Comerford, and Molly Hannis remains arguably the top breast threat in the field.
A world record is probably a tall order, though Worrell was on the record-setting Dual in the Pool relay and should be faster now, plus Baker is already faster than Courtney Bartholomew was leading off that team. It’ll probably take really big swims from Hannis and Comerford to challenge the world mark.
The battle for the minor medals looks like Russia vs China, though the Netherlands challenge, too. Russia’s four are pretty locked in: Anastasiia Fesikova on back, either Vitalina Simonova or Mariia Temnikova on breast, Svetlana Chimrova for fly and Maria Kameneva on free. Russia has a fly advantage with Zhang Yufei, but Russia probably has the breaststroke advantage over Shi Jinglin. Fu Yuanhui on back and Zhu Menghui on free should be pretty close with their Russian counterparts.
The loss of Toussaint stings the Netherlands hard. They’re down to just four women at the meet, so Maalke de Waard likely has to take over backstroke, with Kim Busch on breast, Ranomi Kromowidjojo on fly and Femke Heemskerk on free. Heemskerk is a scary anchor leg who could charge after the top contenders, but Kromowidjojo is much less imposing in a 100 fly (lifetime-best 56.6) than she is in the 50 fly (lifetime-best 24.5), and the breaststroke leg will be tough for the Netherlands to weather as well.
Italy has a relay of names coming off outstanding summers, though they’ll need big drops to contend for a medal. European 200 back champ Margherita Panziera should lead off, with fast-rising breaststroker Arianna Castiglioni likely one of the better breaststroke legs in the field. It’ll probably be Ilaria Bianchi or Elena Di Liddo on fly, with veteran anchor Federica Pellegrini always capable of a shocking swim.
Japan will be somewhere in that mix, with Kanako Watanabe set for a strong breaststroke leg and Tomomi Aoki becoming a pretty reliable free relay option. Australia again struggles in the back half, with two outstanding backstrokers (Emily Seebohm, Minna Atherton) and a pretty good breaststroker, but no real 100 flyer to speak of. Germany has a great fly leg and is decent on breast, but backstroke will be an issue. Once again, Brazil is one breaststroker away from contending. Austria could actually be a factor, with pretty good breast and free legs, depending on what their flyer and backstroker can do.
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