4×100 Free Relay, London Olympic Preview

  83 Gold Medal Mel Stewart | May 01st, 2012 | Featured, Gold Medal Minute, London 2012 Olympics, News | Sponsored by: SwimOutlet.com

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83 Comments on "4×100 Free Relay, London Olympic Preview"

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4 years 5 months ago

Great discussion. I’ll go Aussies, USA, and Russia. South Africa, France, Brazil, Italy all in the mix for Bronze.

4 years 5 months ago

This video totally pumped me up. Let’s get to London already!!

4 years 5 months ago

I think the Aussies will have it…even if Phelps can flat-start a 47.4, that doesn’t give the Americans a boost anymore because we’ve already seen James Roberts flat-start 47.6.

Russia is in interesting pick for bronze…they’ve been this team with all of these young swimmers waiting to explode for SO long, but then they just collapsed last year. I think France beats South Africa on depth – Agnel is focusing 100/200 now.

4 years 5 months ago

I agree, and I think it’s more accurate (right now) to portray the US as fighting for silver, not gold. Unless the Aussies completely collapse, they’ve got around 1.5 seconds on everyone else, and that’s assuming that they don’t improve more (unlikely given their age).

South Africa is a little lacking on depth to be more than a spoiler for bronze, and Russia lacks the killer legs (Magnussen/Phelps/Adrian/Roberts) although they have the depth. France has a good pair with Gilot and Agnel, but I wouldn’t count on big meet performance from Leveaux or Bernard, who’ll both need to be stellar to keep France in the running.

For the US, as others have said, Phelps and Adrian are solid bets with 3 and 4 unclear. However, I think people are way too optimistic with respect to their times. Considering Adrian/Phelps’ best times and in season times, I think a 47.8+/- .1 is reasonable. Maybe one gets 47.5/6, but I highly doubt 47.4/5. For the last 2 spots, I think GWG is far ahead enough of the rest to be a good lock. If Berens or Walters can’t get past 48 mid, then the coaches will probably look at Lochte. However, Lochte’s best relay start is 47.98 and considering the wide range of events he has, I think a 47 flat won’t happen. My prediction is Phelps/Adrian 47.7’s, GWG 48.2, and Berens 48.4/5.

4 years 5 months ago

France looked like they were going to be the main challenge to the Aussies, but then Meynard and Stravius flopped at their trials. However, they do have all the guys on the roster, and if they get back to where they should have been, with Agnel on the team, they can contend. They just need to not have Bernard swim.

RSA is the same way; they were one leg away from being with the US last year without Schoeman. However, they were unimpressive at their trials.

My prediction right now is 1. AUS 2. USA 3. FRA 4. RUS 5. RSA 6. GER 7. ITA 8. BRA

4 years 5 months ago

Kirt – great call on Italy. Another young team with a lot of potential.

I actually think Brazil can finish much higher than 8th, if they make it through prelims. Afterall, they were 9th in prelims with a 50.32 instead of Cesar Cielo, who could have been 47-mid. Make that change, plus Chierighini’s improvements (rolling start 48.7 last year, flat start 48.7 this year), Bruno Fratus (49.0 flat-start last year), and adding in Cielo…that 3:16 becomes a 3:13 in a hurry…if they make it through prelims.

4 years 5 months ago

In reply to Braden-Italy is an oddly non-descript relay. I don’t trust Magnini to have another great swim, but Dotto, Orsi, and Santucci are quiet up-and-comers. Germany is another interesting one. Di Carli should be worth a 47-mid split, Biedermann’s been 47.5, and Markus Deibler has split 48.0. Between Fildebrandt, Steffen Deibler, Starke, and Dimitri Colupaev they can get under 3:12.

4 years 5 months ago


Actually Cielo already went 47 flat on relay.. (if he is not the opening leg). The other 3 guys went 48.7 already flat start. Brazil will have another “trial” to see who will be on the relay on a week.

Probably all three legs could go as low as 48 flat (not lower I Think) and Cielo can open with a 47 mid-high.

Potentially we have 5 teams that can go sub 3:12, USA, France, Brazil, Russia, and Australia that can go even sub 3:10. Maybe Italy but unlikelly. The thing is that this race will be HUGE (4×100 medley also will be amazing)

4 years 5 months ago

This relay is tough to call I agree that Phelps will lead off with Adrian closing

the second and third spots are up for grabs.. I do agree that Lochte should have a spot, he is great in pressure situations. It would be intersting to see what other races he has that day.

I think that final spot is a toss up between: Grevers, GWG, Lezak, Berens, Walters..

4 years 5 months ago

Troy is the Olympic coach…so if Lochte swims or doesn’t (and I think he should), we’ll know it’s a decision made based on spending a whole lot of time with him on a pool deck.

4 years 5 months ago

Braden…when we know the last man on Team USA, I think the chances will be more of a toss up.

4 years 5 months ago

Awesome video. This is the GMM I missed….goofy and kick-ass.

I think Phelps will be right around where he was in Beijing(47.5ish), and Adrian will be quick as well. Lochte will undoubtedly be on the relay, as he should have been last year. Looking at his 200 and 100 times from 2010 (1:45.3, 47.9r) and then at Shanghai (1:44.4, ???) theres no question he could have had an incredible split. While he did split a little slower in the heats, we all know Lochte is a clutch performer and he probably could have gone faster in finals swim. Also, people forget that GWG flat start 48.1 in a time trial at Shanghai. That’s just a tenth off Adrian’s time. Those are gonna be the big 4, and they can do it.

4 years 5 months ago

thx, saltycrackaz….

4 years 5 months ago

As far as gold, silver and bronze.. I just watched the Beijing race on Comcast and I remember Rowdy saying that every way he crunched the numbers that USA was going to lose to the French. Granted that race will go down as the best ever but I truly believe you can’t count any team out. After the bronze at worlds, I was definitely nervous but I don’t think they all swam their best and I also don’t think the best relay team was on deck. I think Lochte, Grevers and even GWG can bring more to the table.. Right now its so hard to put number together because we haven’t seen them swim fast since worlds last summer. Everyone is doing such heavy training.. Its going to be one of many epic battles and I can not wait

4 years 5 months ago

Rowdy was wrong. Rowdy has always been sensationalist and Rowdy made that comment for TV audience, for non-swimming enthusiasts to generate interests and drama.

As I have shown in a comment in a swiminfo article last month or two months ago, the combined flat start best times from 4 fastest US sprinters were ACTUALLY, FACTUALLY FASTER than the combined flat start best times from 4 fastest French sprinters.

Hence, to say that the US was the underdogs and the French was heavy favorite in Beijing is a complete MYTH.

4 years 5 months ago

I wouldn’t say it was a complete myth. The flat start times of the French prior to the Olympics were almost meaningless because Bousquet’s best time at that point was 48.52, but he split a 46.6 in prelims (and finals), Leveaux flat started 47.76 in prelims, and Gilot was a second faster than his already fast flatstart of 48.02. They’d also come close to breaking the WR at previous events that year and all had consistently been putting up great times in season.

4 years 5 months ago

I think we have to recognize that when crunching the numbers before Beijing, we had no idea the effect that the LZR’s would have on times…I bet that nobody had pegged either team going 3:08’s like they did. This year’s relays should be a little bit less wild than that, as the suits are more of a known quantity.

4 years 5 months ago

These are the fastest americans at the start of 2008 Olympics:
Lezak (47.58), Weber-Gale (47.78), Phelps (47.92), Brunelli (48.29)

And these are the fastest French coming into Beijing:
Bernard (47.50), Gilot (48.02), Leveaux (48.38), Bousquet (48.52).

Unbiased prediction would have the Americans as slight favorites in the men 4×100 free, however, there were plenty of trash talks by the media (which I think is good for the sport because they give exposures, but unbiased experts should not have bought into it) and people’s memory of the event were obscured by those media instead of cold hard facts.

For example: people are still thinking Bernard swam badly in that relay final, but the truth is that he swam really excellent, he swam 46.73.
It was just that lezak’s swim was so amazing and riding on Bernard’s wave (imo, similar to what Roberts did at the aussie trials) that almost every other facts became skewed.

How the race unfold was extraordinary, but the end result was in line with the initial forms.

And the bookies got it right, they put their money on the americans because they read the cold hard stats instead of buying into the trash talks.

4 years 5 months ago

Got a link to that? Times would work, too.

I just remember thinking the US had no answer for how fast Fred Bousquet was swimming in that relay. Had Lezak not gone absolutely insane, they really didn’t.

4 years 5 months ago

These are the fastest americans at the start of 2008 Olympics:
Lezak (47.58), Weber-Gale (47.78), Phelps (47.92), Brunelli (48.29)

And these are the fastest French coming into Beijing:
Bernard (47.50), Gilot (48.02), Leveaux (48.38), Bousquet (48.52).

scubastan also wrote:
I know that USA loves the underdog role, but I’m going to dispell to common myths. 1. France was favourite going into Beijing. Not true. The bookies had it line-ball, amd USA prevailed. 2. Australia was favourite for the 4×200 going into Athens. Again, not according to those that lay bets at the time. They were 2 very good wins and fantastic races, but underdogs? no. Lezak’s anchor is the stuff of legends, but it was needed because Fred B swam above expectations and the rest of the sqauds were on form.

4 years 5 months ago

Not sure if the men 4×100 free will be the most competitive race in London (on top of my head, I can think other races which will be more competitive: women 200 free, women 100 back), but men 4×100 is without a doubt the most exciting. The most exciting race in Sydney 2000 was men 4×100 free, and the most exciting race in Beijing 2008 was also the men 4×100 free.

In Sydney 2000, it was the underdogs who smashed the guitars, and in Beijing 2008 although the winners confirmed the initial form, how the race unfolded was breathtakingly dramatic, with the eventual winners coming from behind against the previous WR holder. In both races, TWO WRs were broken: 100 free and the 400 FRR.

London is already promising similar outcomes: 100 free WR, 400 FRR textile WR and plenty of drama.

The USA can still win this race, and that’s what makes this race so exciting.

4 years 5 months ago

Mel Stewart,
I cant help but think that the splits that you proposed are outrageously fast. Let’s say we remove Magnussen and Roberts from the equation, and suppose they never existed. 47.84 would be the jointly held textile best. Proposing that Nathan Adrian could be 47.4 to 47.4 is EXTREMELY fast. It would break the textile record by as much as Magnussen did last summer, which, if we all recall was regarded as an absolutely extraordinary swim.

I think the fact that Magnussen has swum so fast skews the fact that 47.8 is still an extraordinary achievement and only a handful has been under 48 in a textile suit.

Even after Magnussen made passage under the textile suit, followed by Roberts. Many posters across forums had the sentiment “the secret is out, we’re going to see a lot more people under 48”. This sentiment is supported by the fact that SO many swimmers were knocking on the door of 48.00 in Shanghai last summer.

Yet what have seen is that swimmers have changed tactics to try to split the race evenly, yet the fact of the matter is that 48.00 is STILL a hard barrier to break. We’ve seen all the French, Russians and Brazillian attempt, but failed to reach the mark. Granted, I’m not saying that we won’t see 47mids from any other swimmers, nor am I saying we won’t see a handful of sub48 (I think we could see as many as 8 different swimmers), but I think it is important to temper expectations.

I think it is more accurate to predict using last year’s results instead of “possible” times and splits based on the suit era (46.2 split for Adrian, really?) and what has shown as been possible by other swimmers. I think that 47.7 and 47.8 are good projections for Phelps and Adrian.


FACT: Australia’s aggregate flat starts from Aussie Trials was 3:11.5, with “regular starts”, they puts them around 3:10.0, a full second faster than they were last year excluding the improvements in the upcoming months, as well as the infamous “relay spirit monster splits”.

A failing point for the Australians could be that their trials are so competitive that swimmers may burn out and not be able to duplicate the swims in 4 months. The counter argument is that they have 6 swimmers under 48.6. Last years places 2-4 swam these times and were all able to split 47s. Another valid argument is that Magnussen had obvious areas of improvement in front of him, Roberts has exactly followed in the Missle’s improvement trajectory with Magnussen having shown Roberts where the next step in improvement could come from (front end), and that the next 2 swimmers are Matt Targett and Eamon Sullivan, who both have the experience of Olympic Finals. If you are worried about burnout, the 2 individuals I’m most worried about are magnussen (illness) and Roberts (inexperience). It’s not so bad with the question marks are on the 2 fastest textile sprinters of all time.

Ofcourse, you can argue “when you’re in an Olympic final, anything can happen”, but as it stands, Australia is positioned to be within a second of the WR, and currently already has an aggregate relay time that is faster than the actual American relay last summer! With that, barring disaster and miracle, in my opinion, the Australian men are HEAVY favorites going in.

4 years 5 months ago

I would say that Ricky Berens is the one who could give the US a big boost in that key leg. He has experience in relays and has be coming on lately. The 100 is a little short for him, but I still think he is swimming with more momentum than Grevers, GWG, Lezak, Walters and Jones.

Andy Dixon
4 years 5 months ago

LOL man I’d love to see Phelps come out of retirement and swim a 46 high in 2016. And I can’t believe you were criticized for thinking Phelps would win 8 in Beijing. He’s the Steve Prefontaine of swimming, he just doesn’t lose. (Well at Hayward Field, at least. Pre did lose in Munich but that’s for another time).

The difference between the great swimmers and the champions is simply mental. A champion finds a way to win, no matter what. Phelps getting his fingernail on the wall before Cavic was determination, period. It infuriates me when people take that case or Lezak’s brilliant anchor leg and associate it with luck.

It’s this reason that we can go ahead and predict Phelps will swim a 47 low leadoff leg in the relay, because we KNOW he will perform when needed. And that’s also why I think Phelps will win 7 golds this summer. If he wins 6 it will be due to a silver or bronze in the 400 free relay. 1:42 low in the 200 free beating Lochte and Agnel, 1:53 low winning the 200 IM, then the 100/200 fly, 800 relay and 400 medley relay should be givens. If the 400 free relay can find a way to perform, Phelps will be perfect this summer.

4 years 5 months ago

If Adrian does a 46.2 split then he will win the 100M freestyle (not going to happen!). Folks I think we are getting carried away with all these 47 lows being thrown around in this discussion. If Roberts duplicates his trials performance this race will not be competitive at all for gold. Magnussen is in a league of his own, there is no question about it. The competition will be for silver and bronze. Lets be a bit realistic here.

4 years 5 months ago

Keith G…. that’s insightful, re: “two of the best 200m swimmers we have seen didn’t come back faster than -24.7 in the 100.” You’re planting seeds of doubt in my head. I’m sure I’ll get a sobering dose from Braden & Garrett on this topic that’ll erode my confidence even more. For now…wait and see…

1. USA (wins as a new star emerges, a 4th sprint man from The States)
2. AUS

4 years 5 months ago

Mel, i am with you about improving in swimming(and some taboos being broken, like 47 barrier in 100 free).Just seeing past competitions we know Olympic year is amazing.The guys will put out the best in their minds and bodies and do what are called impossible in the past years.

4 years 5 months ago

like others, I am baffled by what you would consider as a “wow” swim, if not a 47.10. In my opinion, that time is approximately as strong as Thorpe’s 400m free and Lochte’s 200IM and probably among top 3 textile records that currently stands. What time would Magnussen have to pop to “wow” you in London?

In response to this statement:
“100 free, in my opinion, hasn’t been a spectacular event for men. Based on Biondi, Popov & Hoogie’s times in the 80s and 90s, the 100 free (textile) should be faster. When Maggie dips under 47 (which he should), he won’t be wowing us, he’ll be bringing the historic progression back to where it needs to be…”

I had some time between classes today and decided to play with excel a little.


All information was gathered from swimnews.com top 25 performers lists. The record only goes back to 1990, so I omitted Biondi’s best swims and simply concentrated on comparing Magnussen’s times (green) to Popov-hoogeband (red) in their peak. I think it is rather obvious that Magnussen’s time isn’t simply “bringing historic progress back to where it should be”.

*******2008/2009 were omitted for obvious reasons.

The regression line was exponential (it appears linear). I do not use the line as evidence that Magnussen’s times are superior, but simply as a simple tracker of the general standard set by the dominant sprinter of his era. It is clear that Magnussen busts the regression line, but it may be due to his meteoric rise. A few years down the line we could definitely use this technique to compare the careers of Magnussen with his predecessors.

Anyways, the graph I believe disproves that Magnussen, by going sub46 is going to restore the progression of the 100m WR is this one:


This graph only has 5 points: 1994, popov 48.21. 2000 Hoogy 47.84. 2002 Hoogy 47.86. And Magnussen’s 2 best swims. These were chosen for obvious reasons: comparing the absolute best performances of the individuals (and therefore textile bests).
You can see the polynomial regression is convex indicating that Magnussen’s 47.10 is a relatively faster time than any of Popov or Hoogenband’s swims. Any improvement upon the time this year would be nothing short of otherworldly and in my opinion, incontrovertibly better performances than Popov or Hoogenband’s WRs.

Its important to note I’m not saying Magnussen is a greater champion, we will know if that is the case in a few years, but for now, the performances by the Missile have wowed his predecessors, and statistically, they are justified in their thinking.

I continued this just for fun and came up with this graph
There’s 3 notable additions here:

1) I compared the performances of popov (green) and Hoogenband (red) in their prime. These two are often regarded as two of the greatest sprinters in history. I plotted their performances each year while at their peak that made the top 25 performances of the year. It’s clear that Popov dominated in terms of longevity and had generally improving times throughout his career. Hoogenband was largely dominant for a 5 year period where they improved, peaked, and then faded.

2) I added 2008 and 2009 in just for comparison. As expected, the curve got shifted significantly when the poly suits were active. From the looks of it, the suits helped by just over 0.5 in ’08 (perhaps even less since it was an Olympic year) while in 09, the suits helped by approximately a second!

I feel this sort of analysis avoids the typical accusation of “the suit helped him x amount” because here the analysis is on the entire field and neglects, for the large part the affect on individual swimmers. It is also apparent throughout history that the year after Olympics features similar times to the year 2 years after the Olympics, while the 3rd year speeds up before climaxing at the next Olympic year. These are the assumptions I made in deducing that the lzr suits helped by approximately 0.5 seconds, while the full poly suits aided on average by almost a second.

3) in 2012, we’re not even done with Olympic Trial season, and the season is already shaping up to be about as strong as 2010 (the entire year). In 2011, it took until June 2 for the top 25 swimmers to go under 49. This year, it happened on april 21. Currently this year, we are sitting approximately where the event was in mid June.

Once we see the top 25 compress a little with much faster times come in at the US trials and the Olympics, I would not be surprised to see this year only SLIGHTLY slower than 2008. If you treat to look at the plots as a stock chart, 2008 seems like a natural progression for 2012.

That said, I predict that the overall pace of the 2012 Olympic final will be similar in overall pace, albeit slightly slower than the 2008 final (6 men under 48). Which is probably what many of us “forumers” are expecting per se. To me, it looks like when “natural progression” catches up to the 2009 field will be sometime around 2016. Therefore, I don’t think we’ll see your “47.2 to make finals”, but we could be having an entire field something like 47.8 or faster.

For 2012, this implies that the minor medals will probably be won in 47mid, with places 4 thru 6 spread evenly between 47.7 and 47.9. Just a prediction, but one I feel quite confident of. This was my gut feeling even before the analysis, so “natural progression” most likely puts Adrian and Phelps in this range. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him 47.mid but it should not be an expectation. To put it simply I would be more surprised to see them in 47mid than seeing Magnussen break the WR.

4) Addressing the point about the event being underswum in recent years. From the graph, it doesn’t seem especially true. It looks more like the period from 1998 to 2002 was especially fast. It was when both Popov and Hoogenband were are their relative best (even though popov was techinically more dominant earlier in his career, the fact that he was actually swimming his best is clouded by the fact that Hoogenband swam better, yet sustained it for a shorter time.

That said the Sydney games were actually faster than the Athens games and this why you probably felt that the swimmers have been underswimming in recent years.

According to (1) Magnussen’s times are truly faster than the general trend set by the previous champion’s careers, although it is too soon to say whether it is because his career has been so short so far.

According to (2) Magnussen’s best times are not “returning progression back to what they should be” but instead reaching out from “natural progression” to beyond even the times set at the helm was a 5 year period of blissfully fast sprinting between 1998 and 2002. Magnussen’s times seem to be even faster proportional to his competitor than even Popov and Hoogenband. Magnussen’s times are “better”, and we could see an even faster one in London.

Anyways, sorry for the long post, but I hope it illustrated my point somewhat adequately.

4 years 5 months ago

Nice data john26, you brought me memories of POPOV dominant times.
I always question myself HOW GOOD Popov could have been if he wasnt stabbed in his abdomen in 1996 after Olympics?The knife grazed one of his kidneys,sliced one artery and damaged his pleura(what made him lose a bit of his lung capacity).I always remember of some stories from the past about Popov doing 47.50 in training.Sadly, we will never know the truth.

4 years 5 months ago

Solid stuff, John. Reminds me of our general trend and predictions analysis in 2008: http://bit.ly/IpGpOk (2012 predictions to be published later this year).

4 years 5 months ago

Awesome analysis John26 :). I see you left Cielo out of the Popov-Hoogie-Missile equation, I assume for poly-urethane involved reasons.
Where do you think he will be this summer though? Personally, I wasn’t impressed by his 48.4 at the Maria Lenkh and I belief he will be no match for the Missile in London.
Still he is the world record holder and went 47.84 at Pan-Ams. So he shouldn’t be ignored like that :). In my eyes he’s still a favourite for the 2012 100m freestyle podium.

4 years 5 months ago

You are all overlooking one important fact.True Racers can pull out miracles when they are in race mode.It doesn’t matter what they did the last time they were in the pool as that was the last race.For someone who cannot stand the thought of losing, they have an inate ability to dig deep inside themselves and perform under extreme pressure and do whatever it takes to get their hand on the wall ahead of the competition.How do you measure that talent…sure they all have it, but who has the most of it?How does it influence this race?So often I think that because swimming is a numbers game, people rely on numbers, forgetting that one of the reasons some swimmers are so successful is that they cannot stand to lose.They may not have had to push themselves as much at the last meet because they did what they needed to beat that competition.At the Olympics you have the best of the racers and this is the opportunity to see who is the hungriest and who really is the most gifted RACER.
Some of that is not taught, it is inate.So how can you measure it?What are the psychologicaal traits of a true racer?


About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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