2023 World Champs Previews: Titmus Puts Aussies In The Driver Seat In Women’s 4×200 FR



  • World Record: Australia — 7:39.29 (2022)
  • Championship Record: United States — 7:41.45 (2022)
  • 2022 World Champion: United States — 7:41.45

The women’s 800 free relay was an extension of the missed clash we had last year between Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus. The two swimmers didn’t race head-to-head at the World Championships, and due to Titmus’ absence in Budapest, we also didn’t get to witness the best Australian team take on the best U.S. team in the women’s 800 free relay. But that will change this year.


USA - United States of America WEINSTEIN Claire 0.76 SMITH Leah 0.26 LEDECKY Katie 0.24 SIMS Bella

U.S. 800 free relay, 2022 Worlds. Photo: Fabio Cetti.

The American women stormed to victory at the 2022 World Championships in a time of 7:41.45, as Ledecky threw down a blistering 1:53.67 split while youngsters Claire Weinstein and Bella Sims stepped up and veteran Leah Smith contributed a solid leg.

The Aussies just didn’t have the firepower in Budapest, as Madison WilsonLeah NealeKiah Melverton and Mollie O’Callaghan were well over two seconds back in 7:43.86.

However, one month later, with Titmus in the mix, it was a different story.

At the Commonwealth Games, Wilson (1:56.27), Melverton (1:55.40), O’Callaghan (1:54.80) and Titmus (1:52.82) combined for a time of 7:39.29 to shatter the world record set by China in 2021 (7:40.33).

Split Comparison

USA, 2022 World Championships AUS, 2022 Commonwealth Games
Claire Weinstein – 1:56.71 Madison Wilson – 1:56.27
Leah Smith – 1:56.47 Kiah Melverton – 1:55.40
Katie Ledecky – 1:53.67 Mollie O’Callaghan – 1:54.80
Bella Sims – 1:54.60 Ariarne Titmus – 1:52.82
7:41.45 7:39.29

Australia having two of the fastest 200 freestylers in history gives them the edge over the Americans, and based on the results of their respective national championship meets in June, that checks out.

Split Comparison

2023 U.S. Nationals, Top 4 2023 AUS Trials, Top 4
Claire Weinstein – 1:55.26 Mollie O’Callaghan – 1:53.83
Katie Ledecky – 1:55.28 Ariarne Titmus – 1:54.14
Bella Sims – 1:56.08 Lani Pallister – 1:56.03
Erin Gemmell – 1:56.23 Madison Wilson – 1:56.68
7:42.85 7:40.68

However, while Australia has always had a glut of swimmers in the 1:56 range able to step in and contribute a sound leg on this relay, the U.S. has some burgeoning talent that makes an Aussie victory far from a sure thing.

If we use Weinstein’s new PB from Nationals, Ledecky and Sims’ splits from last year’s relay, and throw in Erin Gemmell‘s 1:54.86 leg from the 2022 Junior Pan Pacs, the Americans have an add-up of 7:38.39. While that’s best case scenario, and Australia could field a hypothetical lineup with a quicker time (O’Callaghan, Titmus, Melverton, Jack), it certainly tells us the U.S. has a chance.


The highly-anticipated showdown between the U.S. and Australia at the Tokyo Olympics was spoiled when China stunned the favorites and snared gold in world record fashion (7:40.33).

Yang Junxuan. Photo: Fabio Cetti

Last year, despite Yang Junxuan and Tang Muhan going 1-3 in the individual 200 free, China failed to reach the podium at the World Championships, placing fourth in 7:45.72.

This year, China’s prospects look even worse, as Tang wasn’t named to the World Championship team and Yang’s form is somewhat in question after she opted not to enter the 200 free individually in Fukuoka.

The other two members of last year’s World Championship relay, Li Bingjie and Ai Yanhan, will be in attendance next week, and China has two other swimmers slated to race the individual event in Liu Yaxin and Li Jiaping.

None of them are game-breakers, but all four have been 1:56 (on a relay or individually), and assuming Yang is able to muster something in the 1:54-high/1:55-low range, the Chinese team should be able to get back on the podium in third.


The Canadian team has finished on the third step of the podium in each of the last two World Championships, but even with a weakened China squad, they’ll be hard-pressed to win a medal this time.

Summer McIntosh. Photo: Chris Pose

Of the four members of Canada’s bronze medal squad from last summer, Summer McIntosh is the only swimmer headed to Fukuoka who we know will be on good form. Taylor Ruck is entered as a relay-only swimmer at the competition, but hasn’t had an official race in long course meters since the 2022 Worlds, having broken her hand earlier this year.

With that being said, the Canadians do have Mary-Sophie Harvey and Ella Jansen to help fill in the gaps left by Penny Oleksiak (injured) and Kayla Sanchez (now representing the Philippines), with both swimmers having reset their 200 free personal best times on the Mare Nostrum Tour in May. Harvey went 1:57.75, and Jansen was 1:58.09. Katerine Savard also split 1:58.4 last year.

If Ruck manages a 1:56 split, like she did last year, Canada could end up in the hunt for bronze with China, but it’s still a long shot.

However, if Yang isn’t on form for China, and McIntosh leads off in 1:53, it could be enough for the Canadians to reach a third straight podium.


No relay has had a greater disparity in recent years between the top four teams and everyone else. China was fourth last year in 7:45.72, and fifth-place Hungary touched more than 12 seconds later (7:57.90).

The Hungarians do have the up-and-coming Nikoletta Padar to lead their squad, with Ajna KeselyLilla Abraham and Dora Molnar to help round out the quartet.

The Netherlands might be the top candidate to snag fifth place, having won the European title last year in 7:54.07, with Marrit Steenbergen leading the way.

Also making the 2022 final was Brazil, who only half of their roster returning, and Japan, who had one sub-1:58 split in the prelims (Miyu Namba) but couldn’t break eight minutes in the final.

New Zealand was the beneficiary of Great Britain’s scratch in Budapest, bumping them into the final, and they do have a strong 1-2 punch in Erika Fairweather and Eve Thomas, but their back half swimmers were both over 2:00.

The Brits could certainly make some noise. They were second to the Dutch at Euros in 7:54.73, and Freya Anderson is coming off of setting a lifetime best in the individual event earlier this year (1:55.89). Abbie WoodFreya ColbertLucy Hope and Medi Harris give them several options as well.


Place Nation Entry Time 2022 Worlds Finish
1 Australia 7:39.29 2
2 USA 7:41.45 1
3 China 7:45.72 4
4 Canada 7:44.76 3
5 Netherlands 7:54.07
6 Great Britain 7:54.73 8 (prelims, WD final)
7 Hungary 7:55.73 5
8 Japan 7:58.67 7

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4 months ago

I have a feeling that Australia is gonna replace Wilson with McKeon (who didn’t swim this race at the Aus trials, but will likely have a faster split) in the 800 relay final.

Reply to  Chris
4 months ago

McKeon hasn’t swum a 200 since Tokyo so I doubt they’ll use her. It’ll be a choice between Wilson and Jack.

Reply to  Troyy
4 months ago

Wilson has constantly proven her worth in the 200 free.

4 months ago

Israel team can make the final and has better combined time than Japan.
Golovaty & Gorbenko 1:58’ spitz. 1:59 Polonsky 2:00.

4 months ago

🥇MOC 1:54.4 (+0.6 pb)
Pallister 1:55.7
Wilson 1:55.6
Titmus 1:53.1

🥈Weinstein 1:55.8 (+0.6 pb)
Gemmel 1:55.5
Ledecky 1:53.5
Sims 1:54.5

Gemmel did 1:54.8 in pan pacs, she could do less here but I’m going to leave her 1:55.5 because it’s her first world championship and she didn’t do pb this year either, Sims could do more than she did in Budapest, which was already very little, although she did pb this year, I think she’ll be between 1:54.4-1:55.2, but with Titmus following her, I don’t know how she’ll react this year.

As for Australia, it seems to me that Titmus also did 1:52 but I also added to 1:53, I… Read more »

4 months ago

This is definitely Australia’s gold to lose. With Arnie saying she is in good form, they could probably win even if MOC is a little below her best. Hoping for a good contest still.

4 months ago

Ooof this is the relay names guy’s title event so he’s even more insufferable and awful than ever (I actually didn’t think it was possible).

On paper Australia are the clear runaway favourites, but we’ve seen how that turned out before. I’m still picking Australia to win but won’t believe it til it happens.

4 months ago

I could see very similares times in usa and Australia, but i pick Australia for win.

MOC 1:54.4
Pallister 1:55.7
Wilson 1:55.6
Titmus 1:53.1

Weinstein 1:55.8
Gemmel 1:55.5
Ledecky 1:53.5
Sims 1:54.5

Reply to  gitech
4 months ago

🥉 GB they are very enfocated in this, i pick them, china and Canada very close.
Colbert 1:56.5
Wood 1.56.1
Hope 1:56.9
Anderson 1:54.9

Last edited 4 months ago by gitech
Reply to  gitech
4 months ago

um Why you have weinstien at 1:55.8 she was over a half second faster at trials. Weinstein gonna go 1:54.8 or better by my prediction

Reply to  Swimfan
4 months ago

MOLLIE pb 1:53.8+0.6= 1:54.4
CLAIRE pb 1:55.2+0.6= 1:55.8

4 months ago

Not going to happen.

Applying back of the envelope calculations for the W 4 x 200 FR-R. If Claire Weinsten can drop 0.14 + 0.09 = 0.23 seconds from the time posted in the final of the W 200 FR at the 2023 Phillips National Championships, that should account for any shortfall in relay splits from Erin Gemmell (1:54.86) and Katie Ledecky (1:53.67). Since Bella Sims has been on a roll posting personal best times in the 50 FR, 100 FR, 200 FR, 400 FR at the 2023 Phillips 66 National Championships, the relay split from the final of the W 4 x 200 FR-R at the 2022 World Aquatics Championships should hold up.

Weinstein – 1:55.26 – 0.23 =… Read more »

4 months ago

If Titmus and O’Callaghan swim to expectations and if the other two selected put in fairly respectable splits, it’s hard to see Australia being beaten. Ledecky would have to perform heroics yet again with another 1.53 mid/low split and there would need to be at least another crazy split like the one Sims pulled off at the last Championships. It could happen but the base case scenario has to be that Australia wins this.

4 months ago

Check out who posted the third fastest relay split in the final of the W 4 x 200 FR-R at the 2022 Short Course World Championships held in Melbourne, Australia.

4 months ago

It’s a three swim session for Mollie albeit one of those is only a 50 so I hope she can still bring her best in the relay (I actually hope she’ll just drop the 50 back).

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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