Halfway through our relay breakdown, next up us the women’s 800 free relay.
Looking back on what we’ve done so far:
This Americans were the top team in 2010 in this race, though the Australians admittedly didn’t look too sharp in their relays last year. The Aussies have bounced back in a big way in 2011, and certainly look menacing. Other big contenders in this relay appear to be the young upstart Chinese as well as the wiley veterans from France. This race appears to have a very narrow field of competitors: the gap between #5 ranked France and #6 ranked Canada was almost a second-and-a-half in 2010, and it was another second until you hit the next squad: Great Britain. It’s going to take a lot better than a 7:51 to medal this year, and there are only a small handful of squads capable of those numbers.
Australia – Cumulative: 7:46.03 – 21
Kylie Palmer (1:55.73) – 21
Bronte Barratt (1:55.74) – 22
Jade Neilsen (1:57.20) – 20
Angie Bainbridge (1:57.36) – 21
Blair Evans (1:57.59) – 20
Alicia Coutts (1:57.72) – 23
Merindah Dingjan (1:58.15) – 20
Notes: Australia’s cumulative time from 2011 already blows away their actual 2010 relay time by 5 seconds. The danger here is that last year, many of Australia’s top 200 freestylers swam their best times at Nationals in March. It’s not clear what changed at Nationals this year (Barratt, for example, was almost two seconds faster), but somebody lit a fire under these swimmers butts in a very postive way. Palmer’s return to full strength in this race is going to help a whole lot. Coutts was 5th-best, but I doubt she’ll waste the energy for a prelims swim in a relay. Depending on how her meet is going, Evans could get a bump into the finals relay.
USA – Cumulative: 7:47.20 – 22
Allison Schmitt (1:56.10) – 21
Dana Vollmer (1:56.47) – 23
Morgan Scroggy (1:57.13) – 22
Katie Hoff (1:57.50) – 22
Dagny Knutson (1:57.83) – 19
Notes: This relay has the same start and finishing legs (Vollmer and Schmitt) that it had in 2009, only now both swimmers are much closer to their primes.
China – Cumulative: 7:49.56 – 18.5
Qianwei Zhu (1:56.55) – 20
Yi Tang (1:57.08) – 18
Jing Liu (1:57.95) – 21
Shija Wang (1:57.98) – 15
Qian Chen (1:58.24) – 18
Wenyan Song (1:58.47) – 19
Notes: Another young chinese relay, though not quite as young as their 400 free relay. Yi Tang isn’t the youngest swimmer on the relay or the fastest so far, but she’s the one I’m looking at to break off that all-star split
Hungary – Cumulative: 7:51.80 – 22.25
Evelyn Verraszto (1:57.90) – 22
Agnes Mutina (1:57.12) – 23
Zsuzanna Jakabos (1:57.68) – 22
Katinka Hosszu (1:59.10) – 22
Notes: Though most of the power in this race lies outside of Europe, the Hungarians were the European Champions in 2010. Zsu Jakabos’ emergence this year should be huge for this squad. There’s some real comraderie here as these four swimmers have risen through the Hungarian ranks as a group. In 2004, this exact foursome took gold at the European Junior Championships in this relay, and in 2005 took silver (minus Mutina). Not a whole lot of flash in this relay, but if Hosszu steps her game up, then maybe they can recapture that junior magic.
France – Cumulative: 7:52.21 – 20.25
Camille Muffat (1:55.95) – 21
Coralie Balmy (1:58.22) – 24
Charlotte Bonnet (1:59.10) – 16
Ophelie-Cyrielle Etienne (1:58.94) – 20
Notes: This is another young, exciting relay whose chances were buoyed when Camille Muffat confirmed that she would be swimming the race. Charlotte Bonnet was one of the stars of European Juniors, but it will be interesting to see how much she has left in her taper-tank.
Great Britain – Cumulative: 7:52.78
Rebecca Adlington (1:57.87) – 22
Jazz Carlin (1:58.29) – 20
Jo Jackson (1:58.06) – 24
Caitlin McClatchey (1:58.56) – 15
Rebecca Turner (1:58.66) – 19
Hannah Miley (1:59.34) – 20
Keri-Anne Payne (1:59.24) – 23
Notes: By popular demand, I’ve added specs on the Brits. Miley could certainly earn a finals spot, as she split a 1:58.9 on a relay at Euros last year. For what it’s worth, they’d have a killer 4×400 free relay.
It only took a 7:51 by the Americans to lead the world in 2010 in this race. I have a lurking feeling that the 2011 World Championship times are going to blow that out of the water. Now, it’s looking like it’s going to take at least a 7:45-low to win gold.
In the matchup of the bookends, I’d expect both the Palmer-Barratt and Schmitt-Vollmer combinations to each combine for around a 3:51. The middle two legs are where the difference is going to come in this race. Hoff and Scroggy as a pair probably have a bit more name recognition, though Bainbridge has an Olympic gold medal to her name from a Beijing prelims swim in this race. Neilsen was part of Australia’s 2010 relay that took silver in Dubai at the short course World Championships. So both sides have some good experience.
Australia certainly has a lot more options to go with. Unless the Americans have a surprise in store, it looks like Knutson is their only alternate in this relay.
This one’s a bit hard to wrap my head around. Based on the best-times listed above, one has to believe that the Americans have more drop in them than do the Aussies, but is it enough? Hoff has been swimming pretty well recently, and this meet will reveal what she can do when she’s able to really focus in her training (she only has to swim this relay and the 400 at this meet).
But can the Chinese get in on the fun? They seem to not be quite as developed yet in this 800 as they are in the 400 at their young age. However they are the short course World Champions and last year set a World Record. The caveat of that race was that the Australians limped into that meet on their 3rd taper in 5 months, though Palmer looked phenomenal, and the American relay was off as well.
Though it’s always popular to pick the Chinese to come from out of nowhere, especially at home, I haven’t seen them do enough in long course to compete with the Americans or Australians. But even as I say that, I know that it will probably happen anyways. I love the chemistry of the Hungarian foursome, but don’t see the Chinese sliding out of the medals.
5. Great Britain