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
Women’s 4×100 medley relay
- World Record: USA (Smith, King, Dahlia, Manuel) – 3:50.40 (2019)
- Olympic Record: USA (Franklin, Soni, Vollmer, Schmitt) – 3:52.05 (2012)
- World Junior Record: Canada (Hannah, Nelson, Oleksiak, Ruck) – 3:58.38 (2017)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: USA (Baker, King, Vollmer, Manuel) – 3:53.13
*For all of our aggregate times below, the first column (Season-Best) is the aggregate of each leg’s best flat-start time between September 2020 and June 2021, not factoring in relay starts. The second column is a little more predictive, but also a little more rose-colored glasses, pulling the best time or split (that we could find) for that athlete since the summer of 2018.
The U.S. women are the two-time defending Olympic champs (2012 and 2016) and two-time defending World champs (2017 and 2019) in this event, plus the reigning world record-holders. But things are shaping up for a much, much closer showdown in 2021.
Team USA and Team Australia are expected to go head-to-head for gold here, and no matter how you slice it, aggregate times add up to a very close battle.
We’ll start with Australia, which actually holds a very slight edge in aggregate times. The Aussies have long had a stellar close to this relay, with the world’s deepest and strongest group of 100 freestylers. Emma McKeon is the nation’s fastest 100 flyer and 100 freestyler, but she’s widely expected to swim fly with former world record-holder Cate Campbell available to take over the free leg.
Campbell has been a relay monster, with multiple 51-low splits and even a wicked 50.93 split from 2018 Pan Pac to her credit. She’s not at her peak anymore at age 29, but should still be plenty capable of going 51. McKeon’s lifetime-best fly splits have only been 56-low, but in those meets, she’s typically been 56-mid in the 100 fly. Now broken into the 55s, there’s a track record for McKeon to split 55-mid or better here.
The rise of Kaylee McKeown gives Australia a star backstroker to match up with the U.S. McKeown is the new world record-holder in this event.
The only real question mark is breaststroke, where Australia lost 1.2 seconds to the U.S. at 2019 Worlds. Chelsea Hodges went a lifetime-best 1:05.99 to make the Olympic team, and has dropped a second and a half over the past year.
The U.S. comes in just hundredths behind the Australians in the aggregate of season-best times, and a few tenths back based on relay splits over the quad. Lilly King is likely the difference-maker as the world record-holder in breaststroke. But it’s worth noting that while she’s been 1:04.1 from a flat start, she’s rarely been faster with a flying relay start at the international level. When she set the world record in 2017, she was 1:04.4 on the medley relay. King split 1:04.8 at 2018 Pan Pacs and then 1:04.8 and 1:04.9 at 2019 Worlds between the women’s and mixed medley relays. Projecting a 1:04-mid-to-high is probably a fair baseline.
Regan Smith is the former 100 back world record-holder. Maybe the silver lining of her 200 back Olympic roster miss is that she can focus in on her backstroke speed for this relay and the individual 100 back. Between the 19-year-old Smith and the 18-year-old Torri Huske, there’s lots of youth on this U.S. roster. That probably carries a higher level of risk, but also the upside of an explosive swim, like Smith’s world-record-setting relay leadoff at 2019 Worlds when she was just 17.
The big question is whether Abbey Weitzeil holds onto the freestyle leg, or whether world champ Simone Manuel returns to form in time to nab the anchor spot on this relay.
Canada is probably the bronze-medal favorite, with a chance to make some waves in the back half of the relay. They’re built fairly similarly to Australia, with great back, fly, and free legs and a breaststroke deficit compared to the U.S. Kylie Masse is yet another former world record-holder in backstroke, and broke through with that 57.70 earlier this month. Maggie MacNeil is probably going to be the best fly leg of any relay in the field. And Penny Oleksiak has surged in sprint free lately. MacNeil’s 55.5 split and Oleksiak’s 52.4 split both came from 2019 Worlds.
Kelsey Wog is the real newcomer to this relay internationally. She did swim on this relay at Pan Pacs in 2018, splitting 1:07.2, though she’s been faster from a flat start this year.
Other Medal Contenders
The other top medal contenders are probably Great Britain and China.
The Brits have a great backstroker of their own, and Kathleen Dawson‘s 58.08 happened just a month ago at Euros. Their big question might be the anchor leg. Freya Anderson has hit the high 52s on relay splits multiple times, including 52.6 at 2018 Euros, 52.9 at 2019 Worlds and 52.8 at 2020 Euros. We actually used Anna Hopkin‘s split in the projected columb above – she was 52.65 at 2019 Worlds and 52.65 & 52.66 at 2020 Euros.
China’s Zhang Yufei could challenge MacNeil for the best fly split, and Yang Junxuan can probably split better than her flat-start best on free. They’ll need Fu Yuanhui to return to her 59.2 backstroke form from the summer of 2018 (or better yet, her 58.7 form from the 2016 Olympics). She’s only been 59.5 so far this season.
Some Sneaky Picks
|Elena di Liddo||57.85||57.33|
Italy has a very high ceiling – among a bunch of teams with weak breaststroke legs, the Italians could take advantage. Both Arianna Castiglioni and Martina Carraro have set the Italian national record in 2021. Castiglioni has split 1:06-low a number of times, and has clearly made improvements this year. Federica Pellegrini has been 52.5 on a relay as recently as 2019.
Russia has typically used Yulia Efimova on this relay, but the youngster Evgenia Chikunova did beat her at Russian Olympic Trials. Svetlana Chimrova could be another fly option – she’s the one whose been 57.3, though that was back in 2018. Kameneva’s 52.80 anchor split comes from 2019 Worlds and could be a key closing leg.
Sweden looks intriguing, with a standout breaststroke leg (Sophie Hansson has been 1:05.69 this year). If Sarah Sjostrom is healthy, that relay has four really strong legs.
Japan has lots of options. Like Sweden, they’re banking on the return of a star (Rikako Ikee) to full health. If she’s back, Japan could swim her on fly or free.
The Netherlands will have one of the better backstroke leadoffs in Kira Toussaint, who went 58.65 this season. They’ll bookend with veteran Femke Heemskerk on free.
Germany has an intriguing lineup, too, with Anna Elendt going 1:06.5 in breaststroke this year and Annika Bruhn capable of a strong anchor leg.
Top 8 Picks
2019 Worlds Finish