2022 Short Course World Champs Picks and Previews: Men’s Freestyle Relays


Not unlike the medleys, the Italians are bringing a lot of firepower to the table in the men’s sprint freestyle relays in Melbourne, putting them in a great position to take advantage of an American team that lacks depth compared to what we usually see.

The U.S. will be tough to beat in the 4×200 free, however, while the Australians will be aiming to bring the home crowd to its feat with a solid cast that should contend for medals in all three events.


Last year we saw a wild four-team battle in the 200 free relay, with Italy overcoming Russia, the Netherlands and the U.S., in a race where the top four finishers finished within two-tenths of one another.

This year, Russia’s out and the Americans are missing some key pieces, putting Italy in the driver’s seat for a successful title defense.

Italy is missing their fastest split from last year in Lorenzo Zazzeri, but do bring back Leonardo DeplanoManuel Frigo and Alessandro Miressi. The fourth member will likely be Thomas Ceccon, who split 20.82 last year at the European SC Championships.

Swimmer Flat Start Best Time Fastest Relay Split
Leonardo Deplano 21.27 20.92
Manuel Frigo 21.85 21.21
Alessandro Miressi 21.18 20.61
Thomas Ceccon 21.42 20.82
Add-Up 1:25.72

Italy may not have any swimmers who will contend for the individual world title in the 50 free, but they’ve got three men who have split sub-21 and will be hard for anyone to beat.

The U.S. team is led by Michael Andrew, who has historically found more success in the long course version of this event but has cracked the 21-second barrier from a flat start, though it came back in 2018.

Shaine Casas split 20.73 on this relay last year, so he’s a reliable option, and then NC State sophomore David Curtiss will be leaned on to be 21-flat or better. Curtiss swam 18.95 in the yards pool at the Wolfpack Invite last month, but similar to Andrew, has probably been stronger in the LCM pool.

After those three, the U.S. will turn to either youngster Quintin McCarty, who owns a PB of 21.68, or Kieran Smith or Drew Kibler, who are more geared towards the 200 than the 50. Smith notably split 21.30 last year.

If we use Andrew’s 20.94 flat start best time, plus Casas and Smith’s splits from last year, Curtiss would need to be 21-flat to get the U.S. under 1:24, so it’s conceivable they’ll challenge the Italians, who won the 2021 title in 1:23.61.

The Dutch team brings back three of their four members from last year’s bronze medal: Thom de BoerKenzo Simons and Stan Pijnenburg. Pijnenburg split 20.9 and de Boer anchored in 20.4 last year, while Simons split 21.1. Without Jesse Puts, they’ll get a strong replacement in Nyls Korstanje, who has split as fast as 20.74.

The squad looming here who wasn’t in action in Abu Dhabi is the Australians, who will be racing on home soil and are expected to be firing on all cylinders.

Kyle Chalmers has consistently been 20-point flat start, and then Grayson BellMatt Temple and Flynn Southam should all be in the 21-low range with a flying start to keep them in the hunt.

SwimSwam’s Top 5 Picks:

Rank Nation 2021 Finish
1 Italy Gold
2 Netherlands Bronze
3 United States Fourth
4 Australia
5 Brazil


Italy and the U.S. are probably both stronger in the 4×100 free than they are in the 4×50, though once again it’s hard to bet against the Italians.

After finishing a close second to the Russians in Abu Dhabi, Italy heads into Melbourne flying high, having had four men go 46.77 or faster this season.

Ceccon (46.15), Miressi (46.41), Paolo Conte Bonin (46.46) and Deplano (46.77) provide them with a rock-solid quartet, especially considering Miressi was nearly a second faster (45.57) en route to winning the individual world title last year.

For Australia, Chalmers, Southam and Temple provide them with three very strong legs, and they’ll need someone such as Bell, Clyde Lewis or Thomas Neill to step in on the fourth leg. As the world record holder, Chalmers gives the Aussies a leg up in any close battle, particularly if he ends up swimming the anchor leg where he has a penchant to elevate his performance.

The Americans are missing their top names and will have to battle for every inch in this race. Casas, Smith, Hunter Armstrong and Drew Kibler is the most likely quartet, and while it seems possible they’ll all be sub-47, it’s fair to say the 100 free isn’t the best event for any of them.

The Dutch have three swimmers who have been in the 46s from a flat start during their career in de Boer, Pijnenburg and Korstanje, and Simons has done so from a relay takeover. They’ll be solid here, but with three of their four members being more suited to the 50, the U.S. team will probably be a bit more reliable in terms of not fading down the stretch on each individual leg.

Pedro SpajariBreno Correia and Gabriel Santos lead a solid Brazilian squad, and Canada’s also got some strong sprinters such as Yuri KisilRuslan Gaziev and Javier Acevedo to put them in the battle for a spot in the top five.

SwimSwam’s Top 5 Picks:

Rank Nation 2021 Finish
1 Italy Silver
2 Australia
3 USA Bronze
4 Netherlands Fourth
5 Brazil DSQ (in final)


The Americans should roll to a repeat victory in the men’s 4×200 free relay, with three-quarters of last year’s team returning in Kieran SmithCarson Foster and Trenton Julian—all of whom split 1:41 in the 2021 final.

The fourth member of that lineup will be Drew Kibler, who clocked a best of 1:41.93 in the 200 free at the Indianapolis stop of the FINA World Cup circuit in early November.

With that quartet, the U.S. will field the same team they did at the LC World Championships this past summer, where they rolled to a dominant gold medal victory by more than three seconds. A similar result should be in the offing here.

Brazil placed third behind the U.S. and Russia last year, but are missing three of their four members from that team and don’t appear to have the guns to contend for a medal.

Australia will likely be the biggest challenger to the Americans, with Chalmers leading the way as someone who has been 1:40 from a flat start. They’ve also got rising stars Southam and Neill, plus veteran Mack Horton, who has been clutch in relay spots in the past.

Neill went 1:42.5 in August, and Southam should be capable of something in the 1:43 range with a long course best of 1:46.8.

The Italians are missing some of their top 200 freestylers but still have three members from last year’s squad that finished fourth, with Matteo CiampiThomas Ceccon and Alberto RazzettiPaolo Conte Bonin, who went 1:45.2 last month, will step in on the fourth leg, so they should still be a factor despite being somewhat shorthanded.

Ceccon rarely races anything over 100 meters, so Italy’s success here might be dependent on if he’s willing to dig deep and swim a pair of 200 frees here — he split 1:44.2 last year.

Japan certainly has enough names on its roster to field a solid team, led by Katsuhiro Matsumoto and Hidenari Mano.

China and Canada will need to mix and match their swimmers in order to field competitive lineups—China has Pan Zhanle leading the way, and despite only having six men on its roster, Canada could field a decent team with Ruslan GazievJavier AcevedoYuri Kisil and Finlay Knox. With Kisil drifting away from the 200 in recent years, we could also see Ilya Kharun on the Canadian team in this race.

SwimSwam’s Top 5 Picks:

Rank Nation 2021 Finish
1 USA Gold
2 Australia
3 Italy Fourth
4 Japan
5 Canada

See all of our medal predictions at the SwimSwam Preview Index here.

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1 year ago

I think the US men will surprise you in the 4 x 100.

Reply to  swimfan
1 year ago

I believe you.

Reply to  swimfan
1 year ago

In a good way or a bad way?

1 year ago

Sunwoo Hwang interviewed that Korea focused on practicing the 4×200 aiming for the podium. He specifically said the 3rd place. How likely?

1 year ago

Pretty expected predictions except for picking Australia above USA in the 100. Chalmers is great but he can’t make up for a lack of fourth leg.

1 year ago

Italy will post new world record in 4×100 freestyle men. Remember this comment when it will happen tomorrow

Reply to  Mcitaly
1 year ago

If you’re right we might see back to back relay world records on day one.

1 year ago

Only team they could’ve challenged the Americans in the 4×200 are the Brits and they haven’t bothered to turn up.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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