2019 World Champs Preview: USA V. Aussies V. Canada in Women’s Medley Relay


  • 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

Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay

  • World Record: 3:51.55, USA (Baker, King, Dahlia, Manuel), 2017
  • World Championship Record: 3:51.55, USA (Baker, King, Dahlia, Manuel), 2017
  • World Junior Record: 3:58.38, Canada (Hannah, Knelson, Oleksiak, Ruck), 2017
  • Defending 2017 World Champion: USA (Baker, King, Dahlia, Manuel), 3:51.55

Since 2005, the women’s medley relay has been a game of musical chairs. The Aussie women won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2007, followed by China’s 2009 medley relay title. In 2011, the US women won their first title since 1998 and earned their first back-to-back title in 2013. China then came out on top in 2015, with the Aussies settling for bronze and the US women falling to fourth.

But, 2017 the US women dominated the medley relay with a world record time of 3:51.55. Imposing threats on the American quartet, however, are the Aussies, the Canadians, and the Russians. With the relay scheduled on the final day, rather the first day in previous editions, it can be a dogfight for the finals stroke spot for any country’s relay.

Kylie Masse (photo: Mike Lewis)

Returning Worlds/Pan Pacs members Kathleen Baker and Canada’s Kylie Masse will for sure duke out the opening leg of the race. Both Baker and Masse have held the 100 back world record at different points in time. Masse comes in as the defending World champion, where she held the WR for a year at 58.10. Then, Baker broke that WR at 2018 US Nationals with a 58.00, which is also a year old. Yet, in the updated US Worlds roster, Baker chose to drop the 200 IM and focus only on backstroke after getting sick in April that led to a rib fracture from an associated cough. The #2 spot for the US backstroke leg is Olivia Smoliga, who swam a national-leading time of 58.73 this year. Baker’s season best hails from her most recent meet in mid-March with a 59.00.

The Aussie relay, on the other hand, will not have the experienced Emily Seehbom opening their relay after finishing 4th at Aussie Trials. Instead, Minna Atherton and Kaylee McKeown will continue to carve out their senior careers. At Trials, Atherton won the 100 back with a 59.20 with McKeown also qualifying in a 59.28. With only a tenth separating the duo, who will fill in Seehbom’s shoes?

Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova FINA 2017 World Championships Budapest

Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

After the backstroke, Canada and the USA will likely take the early lead with the open Aussie leg closely behind. Another American world-record holder, Lilly King, will steal the spotlight in her signature event. For Canada, Kierra Smith‘s season best of 1:06.53 will allow Canada to stay in top 3 contention. Aussie breaststroker Jessica Hansen swam a 1:06.91 this season, but split a 1:05.82 for the 2018 Pan Pacs winning relay.

Yet looming around the corner is Russian breaststroker Yulia Efimova, who has split under 1:04 before in her career. Russian backstroker Anastasiia Fesikova will also even out the backstroke race, as in 2017 when Russia, the USA, Canada, and Australia were all separated by six-tenths. As in 50/100/200 breast, Efimova will be King’s closest challenger when entering the water.

Entering in for butterfly will be Kelsi Dahlia, and while her season best is 57.45, the national champion split 56.30 during the 2017 world record performance. 19-year-old Canadian Maggie MacNeil and 25-year-old Aussie Emma McKeon have swum faster than Dahlia this season, putting up 57.04 and 56.85 respectively. Alongside Russian flyer Svetlana Chimrova, it will be a great race between the teenage newcomer and the veterans.

The final leg of the race among the countries can truly be unpredictable. The Americans have Simone Manuel, who split 52.23 during the 2017 final and 52.22 during the 2018 Pan Pacs final. Manuel’s season best is 53.30, which is 0.03s ahead of Mallory Comerford‘s SB of 53.33. Manuel has the most experience, considering she has been anchoring the medley relay since the Rio Olympics, but could face a challenge if Comerford comes out as the “hot swimmer” in the individual event.

Cate Campbell (photo: Mike Lewis)

However, the Canadians and the Aussies’ freestyle legs can impose a great challenge on Manuel. Australia’s Cate Campbell swam the world-leading time this season at 52.12, which is 0.09s off her lifetime best of 52.03 from the 2018 Pan Pacs. After Campbell’s underwhelming 100 free performance at the 2016 Olympics, she has been slowly gaining back her ground.

At the 2018 Pan Pacs final, Campbell anchored the Aussies with a blistering 51.19 to win the title. Alongside her SB, Campbell could upset defending Olympic champ Manuel.

For the Canadians, backstroke ace Taylor Ruck will flip on her stomach to swim this relay. At Pan Pacs, Ruck anchored the Canadians to a 51.72, which placed 4th in the medley relay final. Ruck’s season best stands at 53.26, just 0.34s ahead of Olympic champ Penny Oleskiak’s 53.60. The Russians may fall behind in this final leg, with freestylers Maria Kameneva and Veronica Andrusenko only swimming 53.80 and 54.89 this season.

Adding up the American, Canadian, Australian, and Russian’s fastest season bests for each eligible swimmer, the USA has a narrow 0.07s lead on Canada and 0.15s off of the Aussies.

Country Back Breast Fly Free Projected Time
USA Kathleen Baker 59.05 Lilly King 1:05.13 Kelsi Dahlia 57.45 Simone Manuel 53.30 3:54.93
Canada Kylie Masse 58.16 Kierra Smith 1:06.54 Maggie MacNeil 57.04 Taylor Ruck 53.26 3:55.00
Australia Minna Atherton 59.20 Jessica Hansen 1:06.91 Emma McKeon 56.85 Cate Campbell 52.12 3:55.08
Russia Anastasiia Fesikova 59.71 Yulia Efimova 1:05.51 Svetlana Chimrova 57.63 Maria Kameneva 53.80 3:56.65

Looking strong to improve on their 8th-place finish in 2017 is the Italian women, headlined by backstroke ace Margherita Panziera. Panziera has been sub-59 this season alongside Masse with a 58.92. Martina Carraro is also a 1:06 breaststroker, and along with 57-flyer Elena Di Liddo, should be able to keep up with the rest of the top contenders. World record-holder Federica Pellegrini will anchor the Italians, who has been 53.66 this season.

The Swedish team will feature world record-holder Sarah Sjostrom on the freestyle leg as NCAA champ Louise Hansson will swim butterfly. Hansson has been 57.35 this season while Sjostrom has been 52.76 in the freestyle just six-tenths behind Campbell.

China and Japan will also be top 8 contenders. The Japanese team will have a big hole to fill with Rikako Ikee out of the butterfly leg, who aided the team to a 3rd-place finish at the 2018 Pan Pacs. Stepping in Ikee’s spot will be Hiroki Makino, who has swam 58.39. While underwhelming, the Japanese will have 1:06-breaststroker Reona Aoki contend in the second leg of the relay. With the Chinese Worlds roster still unknown, they will have 1:07-breaststrokers Jingyao Yu and Ye Shiwen contend for the spot and power on the relay.

Top 8 Picks:

Place Country 2018 Best 2017 Finish
1 USA 3:53.21 1st
2 Canada 3:55.10 4th
3 Australia 3:52.74 3rd
4 Russia 3:54.22 2nd
5 Italy 3:57.00 8th
6 Sweden 4:03.94 5th
7 China 4:02.67 6th
8 Japan 3:59.26

Dark Horse: The South African women were dead-last, 17th place, at the 2017 World Championships in this relay. They were a whopping 14 seconds away from a top 8 finish. In the last year, though, the women’s swimming scene in South Africa has exploded. Tanja Schoenmaker is now down to a 1:06 in the 100 breaststroke; in Erin Gallagher and Tayla Lovemore, the country has a pair of 58-second-or-better caliber butterfliers (Gallagher was 57.6 at Nationals). They need some work on the bookends, but teenager Mariella Venter has already been 1:01.5. If Lovemore is able to drop another few tenths in her 100 fly (she broke the South African Record on Friday in the 50, so it seems feasible), that allows Gallagher to shift to freestyle (where she’s been 54.3 this year), and suddenly this is a 3:59 relay. Only took 4:01 to final in 2017. The challenge is that South Africa seems hesitant to stack this relay – they didn’t use Schoenmaker at the Commonwealth Games, for example.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

The British team looks solid to me. I’d be surprised if they didn’t make the final. They swam 3:56.91 at last year’s Euros.
They lack a “superstar” to give them an edge, though.

Individual times from 2018 Euros (relay splits)

Georgia Davies: 59.36 (59.44)
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: 1:06.99 (1:07.22)
Alys Thomas: 58.44 (57.56)
Freya Anderson: 53.61 (52.69)

5 years ago

Tend to agree with the author that this one looks a narrow “Lean USA” with King being the decisive factor. There are, certainly, “IF” factors that could see either CAN or AUS come out on top but this is banking on all those IFs playing out perfectly on the night.

For CAN, these are Smith splitting 1.06 v low at worst/pref sub 1.06; either Oleksiak or McNeill splitting 56low or better and either Oleksiak or Ruck splitting sub52. All are quite plausible on their own but all 3 at the same time ?

For AUS, it is predicated on either McKeown or Atherton breaking the 59sec barrier minimizing the deficit at first change and Hansen reattaining her 2018 level with… Read more »

5 years ago

I wouldn’t discount the Swedes for medal contention! Let’s say they go with the most predicted lineup. Coleman should be able to go under the minute for the first time, so let’s give her a 59.5-59.9 split, the vast improving Sophie Hansson threw down a PB at Swedish Nationals last week and will probably produce a 1:06 mid split. Then we move onto the other Hansson, she has already been 57.3 twice this year and will probably break 57 for the first time in the individual with a longer taper. This means she may well produce a 56 low to midish split and will hand over to Sjöström the 100 free world record holder at 51.71. We all know that… Read more »

5 years ago

USA wins. Canada Australia USA are effectively a wash on back/fly/free with US strong all around Masse likely to give Can slight back advantage and Campbell super strong on relays. But unless Can or Aus can pull a 1:04/1:05 low breast let out of somewhere King gives huge advantage to US. As for silver I see Can with higher potential but I’m also less certain they’ll be at that potential. Macneill had a fantastic season and could pop a 56 flat but is also new to the major international scene, Ruck/Oleksiak solid on free but nothing spectacular so far. Masse and Smith seem consistent (as long as Smith doesn’t dq). Could see a 58.0 1:05.9 56.0 51.7 for a 3:51.6… Read more »

5 years ago

Actually Cate Campbell’s national record is no longer 52.06. She swam a 52.03 at the Pan Pacifics last year.

Reply to  Ben
5 years ago

Didn’t Jess Hanson split a 1.05 ?? At pan PACs relay ?
It will be closer then u think …….I haven’t seen SwimSwam predict any other country besides the USA to win anything at worlds so far 🤦‍♂️

Reply to  Paddy
5 years ago

Then you haven’t been looking very hard. Here’s the index (which is pinned to the home page slider) of all of our picks so far:


We’ve predicted the USA to win 5 out of 8 events we’ve previewed so far, and many of the races where Americans are definitely not favored are yet to come (men’s 800/1500, men’s 200 fly, men’s breaststrokes, women’s 50 free, women’s butterflies).

Reply to  Braden Keith
5 years ago

W 200 IM is like this for sure and I think w100free and m200back too. Can be a problem e.g in any women’s backs, w 200free, men’s IMs.

Reply to  Paddy
5 years ago

Lol don’t worry USA will win the lucky door prize as well

5 years ago

Smith 58.1, King 1:03.9, Dahlia 55.8, Manuel 51.9

Reply to  Heyitsme
5 years ago

Thats best case scenario

5 years ago

Australia not in contention for gold due to poor breastroke depth at present .. I’m happy for a minor medal for now

Slimmer Jim
5 years ago

I’d like them to try out smith king dahlia then Comerford I think that would be a relay wit lots of potential

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Slimmer Jim
5 years ago

Comerford is consistent but she lack’s Manuel’s raw talent level and ability to take it up a notch in situations like this

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick has had the passion for swimming since his first dive in the water in middle school, immediately falling for breaststroke. Nick had expanded to IM events in his late teens, helping foster a short, but memorable NCAA Div III swim experience at Calvin University. While working on his B.A. …

Read More »