2019 World Champs Previews: Redemption, Tokyo Bids On Line In Men’s 4×100 Free


  • 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
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Men’s 4×100 Free Relay

  • World Record: 3:08.24, USA (Phelps/Weber-Gale/Jones/Lezak), 2008
  • World Junior Record: 3:16.96, Australia (Blake/Leong/Jones/Horton), 2013
  • World Championships Record: 3:09.21, USA (Phelps/Lochte/Grevers/Adrian), 2009
  • Defending 2017 World Champion: 3:10.06, USA (Dressel/Haas/Pieroni/Adrian)

Not too long ago, the French were on a tear in this event, winning titles at the 2012 Olympics, 2013 Worlds and 2015 Worlds. But they faded to silver by six tenths at the 2016 Olympics, and didn’t contest the event at 2017 Worlds. 2018 could have offered a return to international medals, but France fell to an embarrassing 9th-place prelims finish at Euros and missed the final.

Since then, it’s been the Americans on a run of their own – though it ended in similarly ignominious fashion. The U.S. won the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds, but last summer at Pan Pacs took a disqualification for a mistake high-level teams rarely make: swimming out of order. The U.S. touched first in a 3:11.67 that would have been the world’s #1 time, but the swimmers swam in a different order than what the coaching staff entered, and the team was disqualified.

This year’s worlds will offer both nations chances at redemption, but an extremely deep field of relays won’t make it easy.

Let’s start with the Americans, who have got to be the odds-on favorites. Caeleb Dressel was a world-beater at 2017 Worlds, routinely going 47-lows in the 100 free. He struggled last summer after crashing his motorcycle (why, else?), but was still 48-low, and already went 47.8 this year. He should be a 47-second leadoff, but it’s really up to your level of optimism whether he’ll be 47-high, -mid or -low (or 46-high, if you’re feeling especially patriotic after the Fourth of July). The rest of the relay has lots of options and little clarity. Blake Pieroni was the fastest American last summer at 48.0, and it’d be hard to justify leaving him off this relay. Nathan Adrian is a reliable vet with a 47.2 split to his name from 2017 Worlds, but he missed some training this year in treatment for cancer. Zach Apple split 47.5 and went 47.7 on a leadoff leg just last week at World University Games. Those seem like the most likely four, but the relay could just as easily include Townley Haas (split 47.4 on the winning relay at 2017 Worlds) or the rising Michael Chadwick.

Maybe the foremost threat is Brazil, a proud sprinting nation that inherited Pan Pacs gold last summer when the U.S. took its DQ. Since September of 2017, Brazil has more 47-second swimmers on its relay than any other nation. They’ve also got two men who have split 46 in previous years. Marcelo Chierighini has been 47.6 this year and split 46.8 at 2017 Worlds. Pedro Spajari split 46.9 at Pan Pacs last summer. Breno Correia is just 20 and rising fast enough to be a 47-contender (he’s been 48.1 individually) and Gabriel Santos has gone 47.9 from a flat start.

The other team that could quite possibly see 47s across the board is Russia, last year’s European champs. Stocked with sprint firepower, Russia is dual-wielding Vlads in Vladislav Grinev (second in the world at 47.43 this year) and Vladimir Morozov (47.4 at Euros last year from a flying start). Yet their fastest split last year wasn’t from either of them: backstroker Kliment Kolesnikov was 47.3 on the anchor leg to hold off Italy. Kolesnikov has dealt with shoulder issues this year and dropped the 200 back from his Worlds lineup – if he’s struggling with health, he may not be up for this relay in what should already be a busy schedule for the 19-year-old (50 back, 100 back, men’s medley relay, mixed medley relay). Danila Izotov and Evgeny Rylov have both been 48.3 individually, so if Kolesnikov can’t go, Russia doesn’t completely crater, but their path to gold gets a lot tougher.

From there, we can pretty safely categorize the rest of the contenders into a few groups: high-ceiling teams that haven’t yet put it all together and teams that swam out of their minds at one of three meets over the past few seasons:

High-Ceiling Teams

Australia should be in contention for gold… but it appears they left one of the best legs home. Kyle Chalmers might be the best swimmer out there on this relay, leading the world at 47.3 this year. Jack Cartwright split 47.5 at 2017 Worlds and has been 48.0 individually, but he’s not on the Australian Worlds roster, unless he’s been added late as a relay-only swimmer. That leaves a handful of likely 48-low splits, including Cameron McEvoywho was at one point one of the best 100 freestylers in the world.

Italy looks like a powerhouse – they were second at Euros last year and added international free agent Santo Condorelli to their roster. Alessandro Miressi was the 100 free European champ and split 46.9 last summer. The rest of the crew have been 48-mid individually, and good exchanges and splits from all three could put together something like 48-47-47-46, assuming Miressi anchors again.

Then there’s France, looking to rebound after last years disappointment. The reason they missed the final at Euros last year was a 50.0 leadoff from Clement Mignon and a 49.9 leg from Jordan Pothain. Mignon has already been 48.4 this year, and it’s unlikely he’ll be as off as last year’s relay. Jeremy Stravius is a solid 48-second leadoff leg, and Mehdy Metella is a rising star with a 47.4 split on a mixed relay last summer.

The Dutch team had some intriguing 2017 splits, and their depth has come around recently. Kyle Stolk had a 47.8 split on a mixed relay at 2017 Worlds, though he was just 48.6 at 2018 Euros. Jesse Puts was 48.8 in 2017. Meanwhile Stan Pojnenburg and Nyls Korstanje have risen since then, with at 48.1 split and a 48.8 leadoff, respectively. If all four put things together, this relay could have upset potential.

Teams That Swam Lights Out At…

2017 World Championships

Hungary took bronze at 2017 Worlds with a young lineup that looked like a powerhouse for years to come. Richard Bohus was 47.2 on that anchor leg, but only 48.6 at Euros last summer, with Hungary missing the medals in fourth. Nandor Nemeth is a potential 47-second leadoff with a 47.1 split last summer, and Dominik Kozma has been 48.8 individually and 48.2 on a relay recently, though he was 48.1 leading off this relay at 2017 Worlds. They’ll need Bohus and Kozma back at 2017 levels to contend for another medal.

2018 European Championships

Poland bested Hungary for bronze at Euros last summer, getting a big 48.0 split from Jakub Kraska(For reference, he’s only been 49.1 individually). Jan Switkowski led off in 48.68, just his second time ever under 49, per SwimRankings.net’s database. Meanwhile Kacper Majchrzak has been 48.3 individually after splitting 48.4 last year, and this relay seems to be heating up at the right time.

Greece, meanwhile, well outperformed its individual times with its 2017 splits. Kristian Gkolomeev split 47.5 – he was only 49.1 individually that year. That was a trend for the Greeks: Apostolos Christou split 48.7 despite being only 49.7 individually and Odysseus Meladinis split 49.1 despite a 49.7 individual time. Maybe the Greeks have figured something out on relay starts that no one else is doing, or maybe their team just gets extra charged up for the relay events. Either way, add a career-best 49.13 leadoff from Andreas Vazaios and this team was on fire in 2018.

2018 Asian Games

Japan and China put up a great Asian Games race, with both teams well outpacing their best times from both 2017 Worlds and the 2016 Olympics. Japan could very easily fit into that high-ceiling category. They’ve got three legs who have already been 47 from a relay start and one of them from a flat start, too. Katsumi Nakamura can lead off in 47-high. Katsuhiro Matsumoto split a blazing 47.6 at Asian Games, and Juran Mizohata was 48.1 (he’s only 49-low individually, so that was a great swim). While Shinri Shioura led off that relay, he also split 47.9 anchoring the medley in another great Asian Games race with China. That quartet could be 3:11, adding up Nakamura’s best flat start with the best splits from the other three.

China is hamstrung a little with former world champ Ning Zetao retiring. But Yu Hexin split 47.3 holding off Shioura on the medley relay, and He Junyi has been 48.1 individually.

Tokyo 2020 Qualification Begins

All Olympic relays start their qualification here: the top 12 nations in each relay qualify a relay in that event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. That’s especially important in this event, with a big, loaded field all shooting for top 10 spots – it’ll make prelims almost as exciting as the final.

Count ’em up above: we mentioned 12 teams above, all with chances to make the top 8. There are a few more that could load up their team in prelims to try to catch one of the top teams sleeping and steal their spot in the top 12:

  • Canada was 6th at Worlds in 2017, and most of that relay has gotten faster. Markus Thormeyer is already 48.7 individually, and Yuri Kisil split 47.8 at the Commonwealth Games.
  • Great Britain has a star in Duncan Scott (47.8 individually, 47.3 split at Euros), but they’ll need a big split from James Guy (48.3 last year) to make up for two 49-high individuals on the other two legs. They also have Ben Proud (who split 47.9 last year) to swap in. But, the question for this team, which has serious top-end potential, but lacks depth to give too many breaks in prelims, is who do they want to have burn through 2 relay swims on day 1 of the meet? For Proud, this would be 4 swims in one day (along with prelims and semis of the 50 fly), though it would leave him plenty of time to recover before the crucial 50 free begins on day 6. They didn’t swim this relay at the 2017 World Championships.
  • Serbia nearly had straight-48s at Euros last summer. Velimir Stjepanovic led off in 49.03 and the others were all 48.6 or 48.7. Stjepanovic has also been 48.7 individually as recently as 2017.
  • Germany had a nice relay at Euros as well, beating Serbia by .04. Damian Wierling led off in 48.6 and Marius Kusch split 48.5, but he’s already been 48.7 individually this year.

Top 8 Picks

Place Country 2018 Best
2017 Worlds Finish
1 USA N/A 1st
2 Brazil 3:12.02 2nd
3 Russia 3:12.23 4th
4 Italy 3:12.90 DQ (in Final)
5 Japan 3:12.54 5th
6 Australia 3:12.53 DQ (in Final)
7 France 3:17.15 N/A
8 Hungary 3:14.51 3rd

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Lol at “international free agent”.

The US should get this unless something goes wrong, just too much depth. If someone turns up who’s slightly off, they just call the next man up with little or no drop off. Perhaps the coaches will sharpie giant numbers on their chests this year to make the order clear?

Anyway, best get the first insane predictions in before the US wakes up:

Dressel: 46.2 lead off and individual WR
Blake: 46.5
Apple: 47.0
Adrian: 46.7

Ol' Longhorn

I had Dressel at 45.9.


i had him at negative 1

Aussie crawl

Dressel 46.2…… keep dreaming


It’s a joke, seemed everyone on the medley had all 4 swimmers dead on or better than flat PB -0.4. Very unlikely to actually happen.


He might actually go that in Tokyo. Idk why yall doubting Dressel


Blake 46.5 is more outrageous than dressel 46.2.


How conservative …
Why not having Farris lead off in sub 46, then sub 45 for Dressel, another sub 46 for Apple and then 46 mid for Adrian -> New world record by 3 or 4 seconds …

WV Swammer

If the plastic suits never got banned..


I had dressel swimming 45 seconds


They can get 3 splits 47.0 or better. Not likely but possible.


I had Dean swim the 400 in 2:59.


Brazil expect time
Chiereghini 47,5
Spajari 47,1
Breno 46,8 (fastest split on 200 scm world top 5 fastest and 45 split on 100)
Fratus 47,2

Will be at least as close as 2017


Lack of mentions to fratus is disturbing on the force

Ol' Longhorn

He’s going to have a terrific 50. Could win it. Not sure about his 100 on the relay, though. I think he’s 47 high at best.


He went 47,1 in 2017 I think he can go about the same

Ol' Longhorn

Not convinced he’s back to 100 level fitness after the shoulder tweak. He was great on that relay in 2017. Hope you’re right. Big fan of his. Fastest swimmer on the planet when you subtract the Proud/Dressel start.


Fratus won’t beat dressel lol


I was not talking flat start


He’s been on record as saying the 100 is too long for him now. Now does he mean individually swim or that he just isn’t putting in the endurance work for it with his shoulder injury and reconvert?

I have no doubt he can be 47-high at worst

Brazil has guys that can they can contend for gold with, no doubt. Much like my questions regarding Farris, Marcelo has one out of this world relay split from 2017 and one flat start under 48. Are those two outliers or the start of a trend for him?


When he said the 100 is too long??


An interview after one of the fina champion events


June 3, 2019 in Indianapolis

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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