2022 Short Course Worlds Picks and Previews: Women’s Medley Relays


The women’s medley relays at the 2022 Short Course World Championships are shaping up to be a thrilling six-way showdown between defending champion Sweden, Canada, the U.S., Australia, China, and the Netherlands.

Women’s 4×50 Medley Relay – Saturday

Sweden tied the world record in the event (1:42.38, matching the United States’ mark from 2018) at the 2021 Short Course World Championships, but without Sarah Sjostrom on the roster this time around, it’ll be an uphill battle to defend the crown against a competitive field. The 29-year-old sprint star is taking the rest of the year off to rest in preparation for the 2023 World Championships and 2024 Paris Olympics. 

Sara Junevik has a personal-best 50 butterfly time (25.36) that’s within a second of Sjostrom’s lifetime best (24.50), so the Swedes should still challenge for a medal even though the veteran’s absence will be felt. They return the other three swimmers (Louise Hansson, Sophie Hansson, and Michelle Coleman) from last year’s winning quartet compared to just one returner from the U.S. quartet (Claire Curzan), which finished more than a second behind Sweden last year.

With Rhyan White dropping out of the meet Monday due to an undisclosed illness, the Americans are now without either of their backstroke specialists from last year’s medley relays (Katharine Berkoff isn’t on this year’s roster). U.S. coaches might need to get creative with their relay order. Curzan is one option for the opening backstroke leg, but they might need to save her for the freestyle anchor. Plus, at International Team Trials in April, Erika Brown actually edged Curzan by .04 seconds in the 50 back heats, where they both clocked their personal-best 50 back times in LCM. Theoretically, though, both Brown and Curzan work in either the first or last relay positions. 

With Lilly King swimming breaststroke and Torri Huske handling butterfly duties, the numbers actually favor the U.S. over Sweden here, though not by much. 

Sweden’s Projected Lineup Lifetime Best

(Flat Start)

U.S.’s Projected Lineup Lifetime Best

(Flat Start)

50 Back Louise Hansson 25.83 Erika Brown 26.62
50 Breast Sophie Hansson 29.55 Lilly King 28.77
50 Fly Sara Junevik 25.36 Torri Huske 24.88
50 Free Michelle Coleman 23.59 Claire Curzan 23.80
Total 1:44.33 1:44.07

Looking down the updated entry list, China’s young squad appears to pose the biggest threat to the U.S. 

At Chinese Nationals in October, 18-year-old Letian Wan just threw a 26.12 50 back, 18-year-old Qianting Tang clocked a 29.19 50 breast, and 17-year-old Yujie Cheng fired off a 23.90 50 free. On the butterfly leg, 24-year-old Yufei Zhang (24.91) will likely replace Yiting Yu, the lone change from last year’s fifth-place squad. Overall, their best flat-start times add up to a total of 1:44.12, just .05 behind the U.S. 

The Americans may have to come from behind with a back-half surge if they want to pull off this victory. Wan owns a half-second advantage over Brown, and it’s conceivable that Tang out-splits King despite the discrepancy in their lifetime bests. King went 29.16 at the recent World Cup stop in Indianapolis, and she hasn’t been sub-29 since her personal-best 28.77 in 2020. Huske and Curzan, now teammates at Stanford, might need to manufacture some heroics down the stretch. 

China’s Projected Lineup Lifetime Best

(Flat Start)

U.S.’s Projected Lineup Lifetime Best

(Flat Start)

50 Back Letian Wan 26.12 Erika Brown 26.62
50 Breast Qianting Tang 29.19 Lilly King 28.77
50 Fly Yufei Zhang 24.91 Torri Huske 24.88
50 Free Yujie Cheng 23.90 Claire Curzan 23.80
Total 1:44.12 1:44.07

Both Netherlands and Canada have a good shot of sneaking onto the podium if the U.S., China, or Sweden slip up. The Dutch team returns three members of last year’s bronze-medal squad: Kira Toussaint (25.60), Kim Busch (30.10), and Maaike de Waard (24.94). Valerie van Roon (23.94) is the likely candidate to replace Ranomi Kromowidjojo on the freestyle anchor, giving the Netherlands a personal-best total of 1:44.58. However, Busch’s lifetime best from 2018 might be an unrealistic benchmark as she posted a swinging split of 30.59 during last year’s race. 

Canada also returns three swimmers from last year’s fourth-place team. Freestyle specialist Taylor Ruck (24.08) is a prime candidate to replace anchor Kayla Sanchez and join Kylie Masse (25.62), Sydney Pickrem (30.67), and Maggie MacNeil (24.75) on the Canadian quartet. Their overall time of 1:45.12 ranks fifth, but they’re slotted into our fourth-place prediction instead of the Netherlands because of their youth and potential room for improvement.  

Australia’s theoretical team of Kaylee McKeown (26.00), Jenna Strauch (30.19), Alexandria Perkins (25.52), and Emma McKeon (23.50) have a cumulative total of 1:45.21, which ranks just a few tenths of a second outside the top five. They’ll need a big drop somewhere along the way to contend for a medal, but it’s well within reach amongst this tight field.

SwimSwam’s Top 5 Picks:

Rank Nation Lifetime Best Add-Up 2021 Finish
1 United States 1:44.07 Silver
2 China 1:44.12 5th
3 Sweden 1:44.33 Gold
4 Canada 1:45.12 4th
5 Netherlands 1:44.58 Bronze

Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay – Sunday

The versatility of Curzan and Huske offers the U.S. plenty of options for their 4×100 medley relay order, but the question is whether any will be quick enough to top the podium.

The Americans missed a medal by just a couple tenths of a second in this event last year, and their hunt for hardware doesn’t get any easier this year. The defending champ Swedes return every swimmer except for Sjostrom, who could be replaced by either Junevik (56.84) or Louise Hansson (55.02). If Louise Hansson slides over to the butterfly slot, then Hanna Rosvall would likely fill in for the opening backstroke leg (57.39). 

Based on cumulative lifetime bests, Canada appears to be the favorite this year, if only by a blink. Sydney Pickrem’s breaststroke leg will be crucial, but count on Masse, MacNeil, and newcomer Taylor Ruck to all drop time from last year’s quartet. It could be a back-and-forth showdown as Sophie Hansson and Sweden appear to have the edge on the second breaststroke leg while MacNeil and Canada should surge back on the third butterfly leg. 

Sweden’s Projected Lineup Lifetime Best

(Flat Start)

Canada’s Projected Lineup Lifetime Best

(Flat Start)

100 Back Louise Hansson 55.20 Kylie Masse 55.22
100 Breast Sophie Hansson 1:03.50 Sydney Pickrem 1:04.83
100 Fly Sara Junevik 56.84 Maggie MacNeil 54.78
100 Free Michelle Coleman 51.47 Taylor Ruck 52.09
Total 3:47.01 3:46.92

If the U.S. opts for the lineup of Curzan, King, Huske, and Kate Douglass, the cumulative total of their lifetime bests would rank third in this race (3:47.82), just a few tenths ahead of China (3:48.19). The U.S. could also move Curzan to either the fly or the free along with Huske and have Isabelle Stadden take over duties on the opening backstroke leg. Or instead of Douglass on the freestyle anchor, they could tab 18-year-old Texas commit Erin Gemmell (52.97, top time nationally this season) or Virginia teammate Alex Walsh (54.40 from 2017).

Australia’s quartet of Kaylee McKeown (55.68), Jenna Strauch (1:05.02), Emma McKeon (55.39), and Mollie O’Callaghan might just have enough firepower to keep the U.S. off the podium if they all race this relay.

U.S.’s Projected Lineup Lifetime Best

(Flat Start)

Australia’s Projected Lineup Lifetime Best

(Flat Start)

100 Back Claire Curzan 57.18* Kaylee McKeown 55.68
100 Breast Lilly King 1:02.50 Jenna Strauch 1:05.02
100 Fly Torri Huske 55.75 Emma McKeon 55.39
100 Free Kate Douglass 52.39 Mollie O’Callaghan 51.50
Total 3:47.82 3:47.59

*converted from personal-best LCM time of 58.39 using SwimSwam’s Classic Converter tool. Curzan has no SCM backstroke races on the books yet. 

China returns all four swimmers from last year’s third-place squad. China could stick with the same team or replace Xuwei Peng with Letian Wan, who finished just .04 seconds behind Peng at Chinese Nationals in October. Either way, the Chinese could also be in position to contend for a medal here. 

SwimSwam’s Top 5 Picks:

Rank Nation Lifetime Best Add-Up 2021 Finish
1 Canada 3:46.92 Silver
2 Sweden 3:47.01 Gold
3 Australia 3:47.59
4 United States 3:47.82 4th
5 China 3:48.19 Bronze


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About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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