2023 World Championships: Night 4 Relay Analysis


By the Numbers – Mixed 4×100 Medley Relay

  • World Record: Kathleen Dawson, Adam Peaty, James Guy, Anna Hopkin – Great Britain – 3:37.58 (2021)
  • World Junior Record: William Grant, Josh Matheny, Torri Huske, Gretchen Walsh – USA – 3:44.84 (2019)
  • Championship Record: Matt Grevers, Lilly King, Caeleb Dressel, Simone Manuel – USA – 3:38.56 (2017)
  • 2022 World Champion: Hunter Armstong, Nic Fink, Torri Huske, Claire Curzan – USA – 3:38.79

Top 8 Finishers:

  1. China (Xu, Qin, Zhang, Cheng) — 3:38.57
  2. Australia (McKeown, Stubblety-Cook, Temple, Jack) — 3:39.03
  3. United States (Murphy, Fink, Huske, Douglass) — 3:40.19
  4. Netherlands (de Waard, Kamminga, Korstanje, Steenbergen) — 3:41.81
  5. Great Britain (Harris, Wilby, Peters, Hopkin) — 3:43.20
  6. Canada (Masse, Dergousoff, MacNeil, Gaziev) — 3:43.72
  7. Japan (Irie, Watanabe, Soma, Ikee) — 3:45.33
  8. Germany (Braunschweig, Matzerath, Kohler, Schulze) — 3:45.62

All the hype and build-up certainly did not disappoint in the finals of the mixed medley relay.

The Chinese team of Xu Jiayu, Qin Haiyang, Zhang Yufei, and Cheng Yujie took over the lead in the breaststroke and never looked back. Their time of 3:38.57 was just .01 off of the Championship Record set by the Americans in 2017. China’s win makes them the 4th team to top the podium in this event in the five World Championships in which it has been contested.

The difference between China and the rest of the field was the two new swimmers they brought into the finals, Qin and Zhang. Both are the respective gold medal winners in their 100 events, and both managed to swim splits faster than their individual wins. As you can see in the split breakdown below, their times just dominated their respective competitions.

Backstrokes Splits

  1. Ryan Murphy (USA) – 52.02 (1)
  2. Xu Jiayu (CHN) – 52.42 (2)
  3. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) – 53.42 (3)
  4. Ole Braunschweig (GER) – 54.00 (4)
  5. Kaylee McKeown (AUS) – 58.03 (5)
  6. Kylie Masse (CAN) – 59.19 (6)
  7. Medi Harris (GBR) – 59.76 (7)
  8. Maaike de Waard (NED) – 1:00.05 (8)

Leading off, Ryan Murphy was two-tenths faster than the gold medal-winning time of 52.22, but Xu was actually .22 faster than his 4th-place finish, so Xu actually gained some ground on Murphy when comparing the predicted times.

Kaylee McKeown was off the 57.47 she swam to win gold in the women’s 100 back, but this can possibly be explained by having to swim against the chop and wakes made by the male swimmers ahead of her.

Breaststroke Splits

  1. Qin Haiyang (CHN) – 57.31 (1)
  2. Nic Fink (USA) – 58.19 (2)
  3. Zac Stubblety-Cook (AUS) – 58.84 (5)
  4. Arno Kamminga (NED) – 59.00 (6)
  5. James Wilby (GBR) – 59.47 (7)
  6. Ippei Watanabe (JPN) – 59.90 (3)
  7. Lucas Matzerath (GER) – 59.97 (4)
  8. James Dergousoff (CAN) – 1:00.69 (8)

All eight teams opted to use a male breaststroker, which is not surprising. While Qin’s 57.31 was the fastest in the field, and the fastest in history by a swimmer not named Adam Peaty, Nic Fink’s split was faster relative to his individual time. Qin dropped .38 while Fink dropped .53. The only other two breaststrokers in this field that made the final in the individual 100 were Arno Kamminga and Lucas Matzerath, who both added time.

The big question mark for the Australians was the breaststroke leg, and Zac Stubblety-Cook stepped up. His 58.84 was much faster than the 59.69 he swam in the individual event, and he was .04 faster than Sam Williamson’s split from the prelims.

Butterfly Splits

  1. Matthew Temple (AUS) – 50.63 (2)
  2. Nyle Korstanje (NED) – 50.67 (4)
  3. Jacob Peters (GBR) – 51.11 (5)
  4. Zhang Yufei (CHN) – 55.69 (1)
  5. Maggie MacNeil (CAN) – 56.30 (8)
  6. Angelina Kohler (GER) – 56.74 (6)
  7. Torri Huske (USA) – 58.19 (3)
  8. Ai Soma (JPN) – 58.40 (7)

Despite putting themselves behind the pack by using a female backstroker, having a male butterflier can prove to be a great asset for Australia. Behind Matthew Temple’s 50.63, the Aussies moved from 5th place to 2nd. The Dutch and Brits did the same, each moving up two places due to their male butterfliers passing both the Japanese and German teams who swam female butterfliers.

Amongst the female butterfliers, Zhang Yufei dominated. Her time of 55.69 was .43 faster than her individual swim, while her nearest competitors, Maggie MacNeil, and Torri Huske, were only .15 quicker and, in the case of Huske, over a second slower.

Freestyle Splits

  1. Ruslan Gaziev (CAN) – 47.54 (6)
  2. Shayna Jack (AUS) – 51.53 (2)
  3. Kate Douglass (USA) – 51.79 (3)
  4. Marrit Steenbergen (NED) – 52.09 (4)
  5. Anna Hopkin (GBR) – 52.86 (5)
  6. Cheng Yujie (CHN) – 53.15 (1)
  7. Rikako Ikee (JPN) – 53.91 (7)
  8. Nele Schulze (GER) – 54.91 (8)

Despite throwing down another massive split, Shayna Jack’s 51.53 was not fast enough to catch the Chinese anchor Cheng Yujie, who swam 53.15 but had such a cushion from the previous legs that Jack would have needed to drop a 51.0 to catch them.

For her part, Kate Douglass kept things close with the Australians by also splitting sub-52—her 51.79 passes Simone Manuel’s 51.86 as the fastest split by an American woman.

As a team, the Chinese (or Australians or Americans) have some work to do to equal or surpass Great Britain’s World Record from the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Stroke China at 2023 Worlds World Record
BK Xu – 52.42 Dawson – 58.80
BR Qin – 57.31 Peaty – 56.76
FLY Zhang – 55.69 Guy – 50.00
FR Cheng – 53.15 Hopkin – 52.00
Time 3:38.57 3:37.58

If China finds a consistent 52 low anchor and if Zhang or Xu get closer to their personal bests, then this record could fall in Paris.

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7 months ago

Australia once again punched-up over what most were predicting pre-meet.

Swim Alchemist
7 months ago

Murphy and Douglass were fantastic. Fink also very good.

China was good on all legs except freestyle. Hindsight 20/20, but they should have went with Wu Qingfeng, who split 52.64 with a r=.38 on opening night. (She wasn’t drafting, either.)

Tracy Kosinski
7 months ago

Congrats to China – the biggest winners at Worlds thus far!!!!

Reply to  Tracy Kosinski
7 months ago

They are cheating somehow I just have to figure out what they are doing

Pacific Whirl
Reply to  Taa
7 months ago

Do you have any proof of any misconduct during this meet?

Reply to  Taa
7 months ago

They get the best swimmers at penalty age 6 or 7 and that’s all they do… once the machines are ready to win they unleash them on the world.

I would not be surprised if they have a crew of swimmers that in this type of setting final and maybe podium but keep them home unless it’s a highly probable win. They probably don’t even have them race in publicly disclosed meets.

Reply to  Tracy Kosinski
7 months ago

Australia has more golds, more medals and more world records…

Not saying that’s going to continue but this is an odd statement