19TH ASIAN GAMES
- Sunday, September 24th – Friday, September 29th (swimming)
- Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Aquatic Sports Arena, Hangzhou, China
- LCM (50m)
- Meet Central
China’s winning 400 medley relay from the 2023 Asian Games this week was a wake-up call for the Americans, who are the defending world and Olympic Champions.
China won the event in a time of 3:27.01, producing the second-fastest time in history behind only the U.S. world record of 3:26.78 set at the Tokyo Olympics. At the 2023 World Championships, the Americans won in 3:27.20, with China a distant runner-up in 3:29.00.
If Caeleb Dressel comes back in anything near his 2021 form (his 49.0 butterfly leg clearly stands out in the visual below), Team USA returns to their favorite status. If he doesn’t, it comes down to whether or not China can perform as well halfway around the world as they can at home. After Qin Haiyang‘s World Championship outburst, it seems clear that they can.
|USA 2021 (WR)||China 2023||USA 2023|
|Back||Ryan Murphy – 52.31||Xu Jiayu – 52.05|
|Breast||Michael Andrew -58.49||Qin Haiyang – 57.63||Nic Fink – 58.02|
|Fly||Caeleb Dressel – 49.03||Wang Changhao – 50.68|
|Free||Zach Apple – 46.95||Pan Zhanle – 46.65|
The U.S. has gone undefeated in the men’s medley relay at the Olympics, winning in every single edition dating back to the event’s debut in 1960, save the boycotted 1980 Games. The story hasn’t been the same at the World Championships, where the U.S. has only won three of the past six titles, with France (2013), Great Britain (2019) and Italy (2022) also grabbing glory—though the Americans were disqualified in 2013 and initially touched 1st by a wide margin.
The Italians will surely factor in Paris as well, having clocked a European Record of 3:27.51 en route to the 2022 title in Budapest.
They’ve got 100 back world record holder Thomas Ceccon, 2022 100 breast world champion (and 2023 runner-up) Nicolo Martinenghi and freestyle ace Alessandro Miressi. Butterfly is a little bit more of a question mark—part of the reason why they missed the 2023 World Championships final—but they’ll be in the hunt.
China has long had the pieces to be competitive, but for the first time, it seems as though they’ve now got all four strokes covered and are firing on all cylinders. Can the Americans answer the bell in Paris? Only time will tell.