Day 4 Relay Speculation: Lochte, Conger, Phelps…Pick Two

2016 RIO OLYMPIC GAMES

If one were to look at the results of the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 200 free, and then look at the results from this morning’s relay, the simple conclusion is that the Americans will use the top four finishers from Trials: Townley HaasConor DwyerJack Conger and Ryan Lochte in tonight’s 800 free relay final.

Haas and Dwyer finished 1-2 at the Trials (with Dwyer winning bronze and Haas taking 5th in the Olympic final last night), and Conger (1:45.73) and Lochte (1:45.80) put up respectable splits this morning that would normally definitely get them into the relay final.

However, there’s of course the Michael Phelps factor. As we know Phelps elected to sit out of the Trials in this race, and though he did the same thing in the 100 free and was put on the team in the 400 free relay final, he proved himself in that event in the relay time trial held during the American Olympic camp. He didn’t do anything like that in the 200 (to our knowledge), but his 47.12 freestyle split in the 400 free relay tells us his freestyle is in fine form.

There’s no doubt Phelps is capable of putting up a respectable leg; he split 1:46.08 at Pan Pacs in 2014 before he got serious about his comeback, and anchored for gold in 1:44.05 in London. That swim came maybe a little over an hour after he finished 2nd in the 200 fly final, which will be the main reason Phelps is left off tonight, if he is.

Now four years older than he was in London, two all-out 200m swims in the same session is a tall task. Even if they used him and he went two seconds slower than he did in London they could still conceivably win, but they could also easily win without him. With Phelps still having a lot of events on his plate after tonight (200 IM, 100 fly, medley relay), logic points to the U.S. not using him and going with the original four.

Of course, there’s the chance, that with Phelps’ longtime coach Bob Bowman at the helm, Phelps is put on the relay in an attempt to maximize his gold medal count at his final Olympics.

If Phelps were used, the coaches would have a decision on their hands with Conger and Lochte. Conger outsplit Lochte this morning by seven one-hundredths, 1:45.73 to 1:45.80, though Lochte had a very safe takeoff. Subtracting their reaction times and just looking at their “through the water” split, Lochte has the edge 1:45.31 to 1:45.45. However, we can’t discount the fact Conger has excellent relay starts which he’s perfected with the Texas Longhorns over the past few years.

Another thing to remember is that in the 400 free relay the coaches went with youth over experience, choosing Ryan Held over Anthony Ervin despite Ervin putting up a slightly faster leg in the morning. That could be a point in Conger’s favor.

Whatever decision is made, I’m sure all three men will be involved in the discussion. Right now I’d say it’d be hard to leave either Lochte or Conger off of the relay tonight, but you never know. We’ll find out the official lineup about an hour before tonight’s action gets underway.

As for the other teams heading to the final tonight some changes will be made, though none as controversial as this one.

The only team other than the Americans who made the final out of heat 1 were the Netherlands, who will no doubt exchange Ben Schwietert (1:47.92 this morning) for Sebastiaan Verschuren, the 200 freestyle European champion this past May. The Dutch men also won this relay at Europeans, so look for them to potentially be in the fight for a medal, though they will be out in lane 8.

The top seeds for tonight will be Great Britain, who will exchange in James Guy tonight for Robbie Renwick (1:48.17 this morning). Guy placed 4th in the 200 freestyle last night. They’ll be looking to upset the Americans like they did last year in Kazan, and they’ll have a shot with rising star Duncan Scott posting the fastest split this morning in 1:45.05.

Cameron Kurle, who competed in the individual 200 freestyle, won’t appear to get a shot in the relay after a disappointing 1:49.08 in the 200 free heats, finishing a distant 35th.

The Russians will move in Danila Izotov tonight, who was solid on their 400 free relay, likely in exchange for Vyacheslav Andrusenko (1:47.50 this morning).

Germany will probably keep the same team from this morning, potentially bringing in individual 200 free qualifier Christoph Fildebrandt, though his individual swim was slower (1:47.81) than any of the morning legs. If that were the case, 400 IM specialist Jacob Heidtmann would likely be the one coming out.

The Japanese men will bring back the same four tonight for sure, but the Australians will definitely make at least one change. Cameron McEvoy will join the team tonight after his 100 free semi-final, taking the place of Jacob Hansford (1:47.70). They’ll probably also move in David McKeon, who had a poor 200 free showing after making the final in the 400 free. McKeon was just 1:48.38 in the 200 free prelims, but went 1:46.61 at Australian Trials in April and proved his solid form finishing 7th in the 400 free. An addition of McKeon would move out this morning’s lead-off Daniel Smith, who was 1:47.55.

The final team, Belgium, will likely also making a change, adding Pieter Timmers to the lineup and moving out Louis Croenen (1:48.35 lead-off), who has the 200 fly final tonight. Timmers will also compete individually tonight, racing the 100 free semis. Timmers scratched the individual 200 free, but was originally entered with a time of 1:47.34.

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Kaez
5 years ago

I think Phelps should just sit out, yea he would make the relay faster but only by like .8, why not allow the younger kids a chacne to experience and Olympic final? I dont think U.S will lose to GBR and its not like Conger or Ryan is that much slower that having Phelps would make the relay great, I think Conger will for sure step up as this is his only swim at Rio, and Phelps should just focus all in on the 200 fly

Jack
Reply to  Kaez
5 years ago

If Phelps will make the relay faster, he should be in. You can’t go with what you think will beat the world, you need to go with the fastest relay you can field. Even without Phelps, we win on paper every time. But in 2000, we won the 4×100 free on paper every time as well. And in 2008, the French had us dead to rights on paper. We have got to respect the fact that Britain or Australia could go completely lights-out and be considerably faster than anyone thought.

A silver medal is great. But silver looks awfully silly around your neck when you left Michael Phelps in the stands.

SwimmerFoxJet
Reply to  Jack
5 years ago

Phelps is the most likely American swimmer to flat start break 1:45, I’m serious. He is probably thinking about the 200 fly now, then the relay after he is finished swimming.

Lennart van Haaften
Reply to  Jack
5 years ago

Yes, he went 1:44.0 four years ago when he wasn’t in his best shape, and his freestyle appears fine right now, so he’ll almost surely be faster than Lochte and/or Conger. That’s all the coaches should care about, except when Phelps prefers to be left off, i.e., when he himself thinks his 200 free is not good enough. Phelps is a proven performer on this stage, unlike Conger (who hasn’t had the change to proof himself of course).

Iain
5 years ago

Vanluchene was slower than Croenen this morning when you factor in the starts

Interesting to see if the Aussies swim McKeon. He seemed to have shaken his tourist status in the 400m, but it was back with a vengeance in the 200m.

Germany need to risk the change if they want a medal IMO

BKP
5 years ago

I think only if Lochte is willing to give Phelps his spot.
Even if Phelps split a 146 (which he will likely be faster) US should have no problem winning

Hate to see them take away this opportunity from Conger

SwimmerFoxJet
Reply to  BKP
5 years ago

Conger at least swam prelims 😛
It isn’t about winning. It’s about the fastest combination to win. Not to barely squeeze in.

BKP
Reply to  SwimmerFoxJet
5 years ago

In that case, Phelps in, Conger out. If Phelps wants to swim it anyway. Lochte shut it down at the end of the prelim…he will be 145 low or maybe even a little faster

Grand Moff Tarkin
Reply to  BKP
5 years ago

I didn’t see it, did he shut it down or did he bring his own piano?

John
5 years ago

Let NBC choose!

ole 99
Reply to  John
5 years ago

As long as whomever is selected breathes exclusively to one side, Rowdy will be happy.

Jack
Reply to  ole 99
5 years ago

Or if he promises to “tighten up.”

Tómas
Reply to  ole 99
5 years ago

LOL!!

phelps swims 200 breast rio
Reply to  ole 99
5 years ago

Can the veteran chase him down and pull off a shocker here?!

Ervin
Reply to  John
5 years ago

They would choose Phelps and Lochte in a heartbeat

Jimi
Reply to  Ervin
5 years ago

They already have

Joel Lin
5 years ago

Bowman can’t deny Conger a spot tonite. That would be all wrong.

It comes to Lochte or Phelps. US wins running away regardless.

wrudy
Reply to  Joel Lin
5 years ago

Oh, but he did deny Conger. I dont care about the splits. Total D-I-C-K move by Bowman and Phelps.

Dr.x
5 years ago

Thought being the biggest Phelps fan..
I would like MP to swim tonight in just the 200 fly..giving his 100%..I so badly want him to win this race. N end the discussion on le clos..
Lochte deserves to be on the relay..
If Ryan had not done the 400 im at trials..he could have been selected for 200 free..
I think Ryan could have medalled on the 200 free individual race after looking how slow it was.
Ryan would split a 1 45 very low..
Conger also deserves to be on that relay..
Phelps should focus on upcoming events which would be tougher as Phelps would have to recover after that 200 fly… Read more »

ole 99
Reply to  Dr.x
5 years ago

Its hard for me to think about Phelps on the relay because I can’t stop hyping up the 200 fly in my mind. I don’t think I’ve been this wired for an event in a long time, and I’m just going to be sitting on the couch. I’ve been nervous/anxious/excited for the 200 fly since the semifinal ended. These guys are going to bring it.

Taa
Reply to  Dr.x
5 years ago

I like this. Its a good team move. Ryan needs to be involved and i think its a bit selfish for Bowman to stick Phelps in there

wrudy
Reply to  Taa
5 years ago

Agree. but Bowman shows he’s a jerk. I totally thought he was classier than this

wrudy
Reply to  Taa
5 years ago

Agree. but Bowman shows he’s a jerk. I totally thought he was classier than this

SwimmerFoxJet
Reply to  Dr.x
5 years ago

1 Gold DOES make a difference. It adds to his greatness. Why win 5 when you can win 6?

MTK
Reply to  SwimmerFoxJet
5 years ago

Because every decision about Phelps’ program could affect his other races. Him swimming on the relay isn’t an isolated event – the fatigue built up will likely have some effect on his performance the rest of the week. This is more than case than ever because he is 31 now. What if he swims tonight and then ends up fatiguing in 200IM? Two 200’s in the same session is just going to compound the amount of added stress on his body.

19goldandcounting
Reply to  Dr.x
5 years ago

“One more gold doesn’t make a difference.!” okay….

ole 99
5 years ago

I’d stick with Conger and Lochte.

Swimmer24
5 years ago

Also we have to wonder about the women’s 800 free relay. With Missy off her trials time by a second do you make her swim prelims to prove herself? Do youput in Dirado who has been lights out all meet?

northernsue
Reply to  Swimmer24
5 years ago

I think you have Missy swim prelims to get her confidence back, even more than proving herself.

Ervin
Reply to  Swimmer24
5 years ago

Missy needs to swim that prelim. I dont believe there are any issues with not using all 6 200 free qualifiers as they have all already swam this meet. Throw her in

MTK
Reply to  Swimmer24
5 years ago

You absolutely can’t gift her a spot in finals based on her individual performance. If she goes 1:56.0 in prelims and earns a spot in finals then great, but 1:57.high in semis doesn’t inspire much confidence.

Taa
Reply to  Swimmer24
5 years ago

She doesnt need to swim prelims because she will just do another 1:57. I think you open it up for someone else like Dirado or Biesel or anyone else who can break 2:00 and you want them to have a medal. You can take Leah smith out of Prelim also and just move her to final. So its Smith, Ledecky, and anyone else who can break 1:57 in final

Pau Hana
Reply to  Swimmer24
5 years ago

Missy in prelims – along with Runge, Margalis, and Schmitt. Smith and Ledecky go directly to finals with the fastest two from the morning.

BaldingEagle
Reply to  Swimmer24
5 years ago

I think Sierra Runge has to swim the 4 x 200 Fr-R morning swim, since she’s on the list for Relay Only swimmer in that event. Lia Neal and Alison Schmitt are also on that list, but they’ve competed in a relay, so I think that clears them for being on the meet roster. The top 4 USA swimmers would be Schmitt, Smith, Franklin, and Ledecky. Ledecky gets the evening swim, as should Franklin, based on Trials. If there is uncertainty about Franklin, swim her in the morning along with Runge, Schmitt, and maybe Margalis (since her program is over and she placed 6th at Trials), or Beisel. Beisel is the team captain, her program is over, and the USA… Read more »

Pau Hana
Reply to  BaldingEagle
5 years ago

Lia didn’t qualify for the 4×2… Runge, Franklin, Margalis, and Schmitt were the 3-6 qualifiers, and only Runge has to swim at least once

Years of Plain Suck
Reply to  Swimmer24
5 years ago

Missy had her chance yesterday. In fact, two of them, and swam, well, not so hot.

I’d put Ledecky, Smith, and DIRADO in the final. Have the other women swim in the prelims: Smitt, Marsellis.

If you’re feeling charitable, put Franklin in the prelims so that she gets a relay gold. (That would be a positive for her corporate brand.) But putting her on the relay solely because she’s Missy — the idol of thousands of teenagers — would be terrible.

There is precedence for leaving Franklin out of it entirely. In 1996 John Piersma won the 200 free at Olympic Trials, but swam poorly at the Olympics in the individual 200 free. The coaches dropped him… Read more »

MTK
Reply to  Years of Plain Suck
5 years ago

The thing is though, even if Missy isn’t in great form, she won’t change the prelim results in any meaningful way. The US team has so much depth that even a 1:58 won’t stop them from getting one of the 4 middle lanes in the final.

Pau Hana
Reply to  Years of Plain Suck
5 years ago

Do we know that Maya can go faster than 1:57?

Years of Plain Suck
Reply to  Pau Hana
5 years ago

Maya was swimming low 1:57 this spring at the same time she was 2:10.8 in the 200IM. She went 2:08+ in the 200IM semis last night. She’s ready and steely. She didn’t swim the 200 free at Trials cuz of 200 IM schedule conflict.

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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