2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
- When: Pool swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Open Water swimming: Wednesday, August 4 – Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Where: Olympic Aquatics Centre / Tokyo, Japan
- Heats: 7 PM / Semifinals & Finals: 10:30 AM (Local time)
- Full aquatics schedule
- SwimSwam Event Previews
- Start Lists & Results
Mixed 4×100 medley relay
- World Record: China (Xu, Yan, Zhang, Yang) – 3:38.41 (2020)
- Olympic Record: N/A
- World Junior Record: USA (Grant, Matheny, Huske, Walsh) – 3:44.84 (2019)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: N/A
*With this mixed medley relay offering lots more lineup choices, we’re zeroing in on the lineups we’d project. We’ll list the top two potential lineups when a nation doesn’t have a clear-cut top option. Aggregate times are put together using the best relay splits we could find for that athlete stretching back to the year 2018, but no earlier than that.
About This Relay
The mixed 4×100 medley relay will join the Olympic lineup for the first time in 2021. The event is swum in traditional medley relay order (back, breast, fly, free), with two men and two women filling out the four legs. Each nation can choose which legs will be swum by the men and which will be swum by the women.
The event is still a relative newcomer to international swimming in general, not just the Olympics. FINA’s World Championships have only featured the event since 2015. A different nation has won every World Championships gold in this race: Great Britain in 2015, the United States in 2017, and Australia in 2019.
The event will swim heats on the evening of Thursday, July 29, with finals on the morning of Saturday, July 31. Here are the two sessions and the events that will double up with this relay at the Olympics:
Thursday, July 29 (Evening Heats Session)
- Women’s 800 free (heats)
- Men’s 100 fly (heats)
- Women’s 200 back (heats)
- Mixed 4×100 medley relay (heats)
Saturday, July 31 (Morning Finals Session)
- Men’s 100 fly (final)
- Women’s 200 back (final)
- Women’s 800 free (final)
- Men’s 50 free (semifinals)
- Women’s 50 free (semifinals)
If teams choose to prioritize fresh athletes for the mixed relay, we might tend to see more male backstrokers and female butterflyers, with any 100 freestylers who don’t swim the 50 free getting a bump, too. We’d expect most nations to focus on covering for their weakest strokes first and foremost, but the event order might help as a ‘tie-breaker’ of sorts when a nation has two very comparable lineups to choose between.
We’ll start with the past three world champs in this event, plus the world record-holders:
|Kathleen Dawson||58.08||Kathleen Dawson||58.08|
|Adam Peaty||57.13||Adam Peaty||57.13|
|James Guy||50.61||Laura Stephens||57.55|
|Anna Hopkin||52.65||Duncan Scott||46.14|
The one piece that shouldn’t move on Great Britain’s relay is Adam Peaty, probably the most difference-making single leg of any relay. We’d expect Kathleen Dawson to lead off after her stellar 58.08 from European Championships in May. The only reason to keep Dawson off this relay would be if she popped a big 200 back at any point and had a medal chance in the final.
As far as the two lineup above go, the lineup on the right comes up slower even when factoring in Duncan Scott‘s ridiculous 46.1 split from 2019 Worlds – not something many expect to be repeated. But the second lineup also saves James Guy from a potential double with the 100 fly final.
|Regan Smith||57.57||Ryan Murphy||51.94|
|Michael Andrew||58.14||Lilly King||1:04.72|
|Caeleb Dressel||49.28||Torri Huske||55.66|
|Abbey Weitzeil||52.66||Caeleb Dressel||47.23|
For Team USA, the biggest decision is how to best use Caeleb Dressel, currently the best sprint weapon on the planet. Dressel is potentially the best 100 flyer and 100 freestyler not just on the U.S. team, but in the entire field. One interesting note: Dressel rarely swims a 100 free from a relay start. He’s almost always the leadoff leg of the free relays, and typically has swum fly on the U.S. medleys. With a flat-start 47.0, Dressel certainly has a chance to go 46-low on a free leg, though his relay starts typically don’t give him as much of an advantage over his flat start compared to what you’d expect.
This relay comes late enough in the meet that Team USA can perhaps work around who is swimming well. Ryan Murphy and Regan Smith might be swimming off for this spot in their respective 100 backs. If either can crack a world record, it’ll be hard to pick the other. Smith, Michael Andrew and Torri Huske are all Olympic rookies, so if any of them struggle in the massive spotlight, the relay has options to pivot elsewhere.
The U.S. has two sneaky Hail-Mary type options here, too. If Simone Manuel seems to regain form, she could be an anchor option – though she’s expected to swim the 50 free semifinals just before this relay. (So are Dressel, Weitzeil, and Andrew, for that matter). The really gutsy option would be Smith/King/Andrew/Dressel, as many suspect Andrew could have been the second-best U.S. flyer at Trials had he not scratched the race to focus on the 200 IM.
The other somewhat-gutsy option would be to leave Dressel off this relay, allowing him to focus on the 100 fly/50 free combo (maybe still swimming prelims of this relay to add a medal). That would allow the U.S. to swim the traditional man/man/woman/woman lineup with Murphy/Andrew/Huske/Weitzeil, and also avoid most of the lineup conflicts, outside of Weitzeil.
|Mitch Larkin||52.38||Kaylee McKeown||57.45|
|Matthew Wilson||59.16||Matthew Wilson||59.16|
|Emma McKeon||55.91||Emma McKeon||55.91|
|Cate Campbell||51.10||Kyle Chalmers||46.60|
The defending World champs have almost as many options as the Americans. Kaylee McKeown is on fire after breaking Regan Smith‘s world record in the 100 back. But Larkin is a solid leg as well, and could get Australia clean water out front if most of the top nations lead off with female backstrokers (as we would roughly project). There’s an argument, though, that McKeown might be even faster if she can draft off a male backstroker in another lane.
Breaststroke is the weakness on both sides, so Australia’s focus is (1) minimizing the breaststroke weakness and (2) taking full advantage of four very strong options on fly and free. Kyle Chalmers and Cate Campbell should be among the best anchor legs in the field, and every team in the pool will have to remember 2019 Worlds, where Campbell torched the field in 51.1 to run down everyone and win this relay, while Chalmers anchored the men’s medley in a wicked 46.6, effectively bringing his crew from dead last into the middle of the field.
Emma McKeon could be the flyer or the freestyler – she’s got a chance to be a Dressel-like difference-maker on the back half. Matthew Temple could easily be in the mix on fly, too.
We should note that we included Matthew Wilson as the male breaststroker above for his 59.1 split at 2019 Worlds. Zac Stubblety-Cook might actually have the edge based on a 59.6 this year.
|Xu Jiayu||52.17||Xu Jiayu||52.17|
|Yan Zibei||57.96||Tang Qiating||1:06.04|
|Zhang Yufei||55.32||Zhang Yufei||55.32|
|Yang Junxuan||52.68||Yu Hexin||47.92|
Compared to those top three, who swept the medals at 2019 Worlds, China didn’t even contest this relay. But they put together their four best legs in the fall of 2020 to earn an Olympic berth as a wild card. They didn’t just earn the Olympic spot, they also smashed the world record in the process.
This relay lines up almost perfectly for China in every way. Their overall roster strengths fit with this relay’s best strategy in a vacuum: using two men first, followed by two women. Xu Jiayu might be the best male backstroker in the field. Yan Zibei split 57.9 on breaststroke in October, one of the few who has ever done so. Meanwhile Zhang Yufei has been China’s best swimmer on the women’s side and is a fly/free monster who will probably swim fly here.
Three of the best splits above came from that October 2020 world record swim, so China has already proven they can put together best times on the same day. They also should be free from almost all doubles: with a likely male backstroker and female flyer, they avoid the 200 back and 100 fly conflicts other teams will have. And their anchor is probably not going to be one of their top 50 freestylers, as Yang is more of a 100/200 type than a pure sprinter. There’s a chance Zhang swims the 50 free, but it’s very low on her list of top events, and it might make more sense to focus on this race, where China could make Olympic history as the first gold medalists ever.
We’ll run through some of the other teams more quickly (since we’re already doubting how many swim fans are dedicated enough to read this entire block of text instead of glancing at the time charts and jumping directly to the comment section to vent):
|Evgeny Rylov||51.97||Evgeny Rylov||51.97|
|Yulia Efimova||1:03.95||Kirill Prigoda||58.22|
|Andrei Minakov||50.54||Svetlana Chimrova||56.78|
|Maria Kameneva||52.80||Maria Kameneva||52.80|
Admittedly, Yulia Efimova‘s split here is three years old (from 2018 Euros), and the aggregates change significantly if she’s closer to the 1:05.7 she split at Euros in May of this year. Both of these aggregates use Evgeny Rylov‘s faster time from 2019, but we’d expect Kliment Kolesnikov to be on this relay, either instead of Rylov on back, or as the freestyler. Anton Chupkov may also be the breaststroker over Kirill Prigoda.
The Dutch don’t really have any other good options on the men’s side, but this relay still lines up pretty well for them, with Arno Kamminga among the best male breaststrokers in the field and Kira Toussaint and Femke Heemskerk providing two top-tier bookends on back and free. They’ll look to come back from a DQ out of the Worlds final in 2019.
|Thomas Ceccon||52.84||Thomas Ceccon||52.84|
|Nicolo Martingenghi||57.84||Arianna Castiglioni||1:05.67|
|Elena di Liddo||57.33||Elena di Liddo||57.33|
|Federica Pellegrini||52.53||Alessandro Miressi||47.16|
Italy has strong breaststroke legs on both sides. Sticking to man/man/woman/woman makes sense, if Thomas Ceccon continues to swim well as the male backstroker (probably Italy’s weakes spot on the women’s side).
|Kylie Masse||57.70||Markus Thormeyer||53.35|
|Gabe Mastromatteo||1:00.11||Gabe Mastromatteo||1:00.11|
|Maggie MacNeil||55.56||Maggie MacNeil||55.56|
|Yuri Kisl||47.89||Penny Oleksiak||52.48|
Germany should be in the mix, with Marius Kusch a likely 50-point fly leg and Anna Elendt rising fast in breaststroke. Host nation Japan could make a run, but it’d require Rikako Ikee swimming back to her elite level on fly or free. Belarus should be flying on breaststroke with Ilya Shymanovich and could sneak into the final.
TOP 8 PICKS
Pure math favors the U.S. But we see the busy session adding up more for Team USA’s contenders than some of the other top competitors. Dressel can easily swim three events (100 fly final / 50 free semifinal / 4×100 mixed medley relay) in one session – but that load might reduce him from an unbeatable machine to just a great leg.
The difference-maker for Great Britain, meanwhile, should be fully primed. Peaty does not have a busy Olympic schedule and should be able to really gear up for this race, along with the men’s medley relay and the individual 100 breast.
The Brits might have to deal with doubles for Dawson and/or Guy. The Australians might with McKeown, Temple, and/or Campbell. The U.S. probably will with Dressel, Andrew, and Weitzeil, though Regan Smith isn’t swimming the 200 back and won’t have a double there.
China, meanwhile, might have four fresh legs in the optimal man/man/woman/woman order. That’s going to make China’s relay very hard to beat here, and it’s why we’re selecting them as the pre-meet favorites.
2019 Worlds Finish