2023 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
- July 23 – 30, 2023 (pool swimming)
- Fukuoka, Japan
- Marine Messe Fukuoka
- LCM (50m)
- Meet Central
- SwimSwam Preview Index
- Entry Book
BY THE NUMBERS — WOMEN’S 4×200 FREE RELAY
- 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 VS AUSTRALIA
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.
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).
|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|
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.
|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|
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 OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS
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).
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.
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 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 Wood, Freya Colbert, Lucy Hope and Medi Harris give them several options as well.
|Place||Nation||Entry Time||2022 Worlds Finish|
|6||Great Britain||7:54.73||8 (prelims, WD final)|