2019 World Champs Preview: Great Britain Going for Three Straight in 800FR

by Robert Gibbs 59

July 19th, 2019 News


  • All sports: Friday, July 12 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • Pool swimming: Sunday, July 21 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • The Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center, Gwangju, Korea
  • Meet site
  • FinaTV Live Stream
  • Live results

Mens 4×200 Free Relay

  • World Record: 6:58.55, United States, 2009
  • World Championship Record: 6:58.55, United States, 2009
  • World Junior Record: 7:10.95, Hungary, 2017
  • Defending 2017 World Champion: Great Britain, 7:01.40

This event is shaping up to be one of the more exciting ones this week. Great Britain has won the past two World Championships in this event, but Michael Phelps help delivered gold in Rio in 2016, and the USA had the fastest time in the world last summer. On the surface, it appears that those two teams should be the favorites once again, although several other squads, including an exciting Aussie squad, will be in the hunt.

Andrew Seliskar (photo: Jack Spitser)

We’ll start with the Americans, whose team was based on last year’s results, and thus most of the team hasn’t had a chance to show their hands so far this season.  Townley Haas, Andrew Seliskar, and Blake Pieroni were all under 1:46 last summer, and each swimmer’s in-season top times so far this year (1:47.09, 1:46.89, and 1:47.20, respectively), indicate that they should be able to at least match last season’s times once fully tapered. Haas now has a history of lightning-quick relay splits, and assuming Seliskar and Pieroni can match their times from last year, the USA only needs a 4th leg that’s close to 1:46 to flirt with the 7:00 barrier once again.

That fourth leg could go to one of several men. Zach Apple is in Gwangju as a relay-only swimmer, having already won a gold at the World University Games with a time of 1:46.80, and he was 1:46-low last season. Jack Conger should be line for a prelims swim after Conor Dwyer’s withdrawal from the team. Conger wasn’t able to match his best time either of the last two summers, but he split sub-1:46 in Rio and at 2017 Worlds, and if he’s on, he could be clutch for Team USA. Jack LeVant is also available as a relay-swimmer after missing NCAAs and World University Games due to what he eventually revealed were mental health issues. Finally, we have to mention that Caeleb Dressel is on record as saying he’d like to be part of this relay, and he currently has the 6th-fastest time among USA swimmers this season, but this event falls the same day as the prelims and semis of both the 100 fly and the 50 free.


Duncan Scott, photo: Ian MacNicol for Scottish Swimming

As we mentioned, Great Britain will be going for their 3rd-straight title in this event, something hitherto only done by the United States and Australia. 2015 Worlds 200 gold medalist James Guy and Duncan Scott give Great Britain two legs that could hang with just about any other team’s duo. Last summer, both split 1:45-mid at last summer’s Euros, and Scott dipped under 1:45 swimming for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games. The year before, Scott split 1:44.60 and Guy anchored in 1:43.60, providing the dynamic back half that secured gold for Great Britain in Budapest. They’ll likely be joined by Calum Jarvis and Thomas Dean, who were 1:47.18 and 1:46.86 at British Nationals, times right in lines with their splits on this relay last year.

Russia is coming off two straight silver medals in major international, having taking 2nd both at 2017 Worlds and 2018 Euros. They also won silver at last winter’s short course world championships. So far, they’ve had four swimmers at 1:46.5 or better this year. Martin Malyutin  leads the way with a 1:45.46, and Mikhail Dovgalyuk, Aleksandr Krasnykh, and Ivan Girev have all been between 1:46.0 and 1:46.5. The roster also includes Mikhail Vekovishchev, who led off that Euros relay last year, and was on the team that won silver at the 2017 Worlds. It’s worth noting that Krasnykh put up a 1:44.80 anchor in Budapest. This roster could be capable of three or four splits under 1:46, which should very much keep them in the medal hunt.

Clyde Lewis 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

Australia won this event at last summer’s Commonwealth Games, and since then, this squad has arguably only gotten better. Clyde Lewis emerged at Aussie Trials with a 1:45.88, joining wunderkind Kyle Chalmers in the 1:45 club. Alex Graham and Jack McLoughlin have both been 1:46 this year, and there’s also Mack Horton waiting in the wings. One note — Elijah Winnington, who split 1:45.97 on that CG relay, did not make the team this year, and they’re also missing Jack Cartwright, who split 1:45.52 at Pan Pacs. Still, like Russia and the United States, this is a team that should have at least three men under 1:46, and could possibly have four.

Japan had the 3rd-fastest time in the world last year with their 7:05.17 gold medal effort at the Asian Games. That relay was anchored by Katsuhiro Matsumoto, who leads the team this year with a 1:45.63. They’ll be missing both Reo Sakata and Kosuke Hagino from that relay. They do return Kaito Ehara, and have Keisuke Yoshida, but it’s not clear who the 4th leg will be.

Brazil is bringing the same four swimmers who set the world record in the short course version of this event this past December. Both Fernando Scheffer, who split sub-1:45 at Pan Pacs last year, and Breno Correia have been 1:46 so far this season, and Luiz Melo and Joao DeLucca (not on that world record relay, but who has plenty of international experience) have both been 1:47-low. They’re probably not a medal threat, but should have a good shot at the final.

You can’t count China out when they have Sun Yang, although he didn’t swim this event in 2017, and as a result, the team failed to make the final. But China won silver at summer’s Asian Games with a squad that included Sun, Ji Xingjie, Shang Keyuan, and Wang Sung. Xu Jiayu replaced Shang at the 2018 short course Worlds, and this squad won the bronze medal in an Asian Record time. If Sun swims here, this is a team that should be squarely in the thick of things in the final.

The rest of the possible players mostly hail from Europe. Kristof Milak‘s emergence gives Hungary another strong 200 freestyler to pair with Domink Kozma. Italy won bronze at Euros last year, and has a pair of strong legs in Filippo Megli and Gabriele Detti. Poland has made the final the last two iterations of Worlds, and Germany should be in the mix as well.


1 USA 7:04.36 3rd
2 Great Britain 7:05.32 1st
3 Russia 7:06.66 2nd
4 Australia 7:04.70 4th
5 Brazil 7:11.65 N/A
6 China 7:05.45 11th
7 Hungary 7:18.19 10th
8 Italy 7:07.58 6th


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Just for the record.. Melo was 1:46:73 on the opening leg relay of Brazil Trophy

De Lucca has a PB of 1:46:42 from 2015 Pan Am (It was the SA record until scheffer broke it twice)

WV Swammer

Seliskar 1:45.58
Peironi 1:45.77
Conger 1:46.03
Haas 1:44.31
7:01.69 (nice) GOLD

Dean 1:46.56
Jarvis 1:46.69
Guy 1:44.50
Scott 1:44.24
7:01.99 SILVER


I think Haas can be 1:43

WV Swammer

I also thought he wouldn’t go 1:31.80 at NCAAs….can never tell. This is a conservative estimate


So who would you bet on if a third team was Lochte, Dean Ferris, Zach Apple and Caleb Dressell? The US has a lot of bench strength and potential – throw in a few of the up and coming stars Urlando, Foster etc and will be quite a battle at trials next year. Hopefully 2 1.43 splits and two 1:44 splits

WV Swammer

I think with another year under their belts, the squad of Haas/Seliskar/Pieroni/Next man up will go sub-7:00 in Tokyo

Ol' Longhorn

I’d lead off with Peironi. Remember his 1:29 leadoff at NCAAs? All four of those guys are usually beasts on relays.


We need Dean to have another big drop to win this. Fear the US is just too deep though.


For a sec I thought you were talking about another Dean…


There is only one Dean


I think it’s possible. He looked good at the Mare Nostrum.


Dean is the one GBR swimmer I am looking forward to seeing more than any other. Fast times are in there; When he’ll pop them is the question in my head.


Tom Dean and Jarvis are going to be feeling the pressure. They’re the wild card for this race, if they can swim well with all the expectations for Team GB to win the gold again.


I’d say even if they swim to form the USA will win fairly comfortably. Somebody needs to drop substantially to win gold.

Peaty the Potato

Be more optimistic please

Peaty the Potato

Duncan Scott is consistently swimming world class times right now and I wouldn’t be surprised if he can replicate a 1 44 off a relay start again. Tom Dean’s trajectory, if it continues into this world champs would probably put him 1 46 low or 1 45 high given he has improved massively every time he’s done the 200 last couple of years. I guess it comes down to Guy and Jarvis in that sense. Yes Guy hasn’t been as good as we might have expected last year and this year, but assuming he didn’t quite hit a taper at British Nats we could be in for something special. Both his Bath training partners have been making improvements this year… Read more »


I hope you’re right, but I feel the US will have too much this time round. Alas, the debate will be over next year when little Matt pops a 1.45 at Nationals anyway 😉