Day 5 Relay Speculation: 4th Member Up The In Air For American Women


There’s only one burning question in regards to the lineups for tonight’s women’s 800 free relay, and that is who will swim the fourth leg for the Americans? The first three swimmers are all but confirmed, and have proven themselves here in Rio.

Katie Ledecky won the 200 free last night, so she’ll swim on the finals relay. So will Leah Smith, who finished 3rd at Trials but proved herself enough in the 400 free winning bronze to bypass the heats straight to the final.

The third member will be Allison Schmitt, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, who put up a 1:55.95 lead-off this morning, easily the fastest leg on the American squad.

Now about that fourth leg. Who will get it? It could realistically be any one of three swimmers.

First, there’s Missy Franklin. It’s no secret that the 2013 world champion in this event hasn’t been on her best form the last few years, and her showing in the individual 200 free probably went worse than even her biggest skeptics could have predicted.

She did produce the fastest relay leg other than Schmitt this morning in 1:57.03, but you’d have to figure that’s probably the best she’s got after going 1:57 plus in the 200 free semis.

Then there’s Melanie Margalis, who had a terrific 200 IM last night finishing 4th and was just one one-hundredth slower than Franklin this morning in 1:57.04.

However, if reaction times are taken into account, which was definitely a factor yesterday when Ryan Lochte was selected for the men’s relay over Jack Conger despite Conger having the faster leg but Lochte having the faster leg minus the reaction, Margalis actually out-splits Franklin. Without reaction times she was 18 one-hundredths better than Franklin.

And then there’s Maya Dirado, who didn’t swim this event at the Trials as it directly interfered with her 200 IM, but certainly should be considered for the relay tonight. Not only is Dirado swimming very well here in Rio, winning silver in the 400 IM and bronze in the 200 IM, but she also produced a career best 1:57.70 at the Arena Pro Series in Santa Clara in early June. That time would have just missed qualifying for the relay in the Trials final, but granted it was done at an in-season meet it’s hard to imagine she wouldn’t have been faster in Omaha.

Just missing the relay at Trials was Simone Manuel, who finished 7th after leading early on in that race. Despite that respectable showing and the solid form she’s show thus far in Rio, she won’t swim tonight with the 100 free semis already on her schedule.

Dana Vollmer is someone who has swum on this relay in the past, but has shown no indication she’ll be part of the conversation for tonight.

So that leaves the aforementioned three. A case can be made for each of them, but, assuming the Conger/Lochte decision was based off of reaction times, it’s hard to imagine Franklin getting in over Margalis.

For now I’d say Margalis over Franklin, and if the coaches feel good about Dirado, then she’ll be in the final. It’s ultimately their decision.

At least three of the other seven finalists are expected to make at least one lineup change tonight.

The Australians will certainly sub-in 200 free bronze medalist Emma McKeon, who will likely take out distance specialist Jessica Ashwood who was their slowest leg this morning in 1:57.98.

The Canadians will bring in two-time medalist Penny Oleksiak for sure, and potentially Brittany Maclean who missed this morning due to illness. Coming out will likely be Kennedy Goss (1:59.49), and if Maclean is good to go then she’ll replace Emily Overholt (1:58.29).

The other team surely to make a change are the Chinese, with 200 free finalist Shen Duo waiting in the chambers. She’ll replace their slowest member of the morning Wang Shijia (1:58.55).

It was recently reported that Duo has scratched the 100 free semis in an effort to put her complete focus into tonight’s relay.

The Russians, Japanese, Swedes and Hungarians are all expected to stand pat with their lineups for tonight’s finals.




In This Story

Leave a Reply

25 Comment threads
78 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
51 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

I wonder if Bowman is trying to figure out a way to get Michael on this relay.


Michaela you’re up!!!


No, he’s satisfied now that he screwed Conger.


Scorned Long Horn 🙂


David Marsh is the women’s coach not Bob Bowman.


I’m aware David Marsh is the women’s coach. My comment was meant as a slight against Bowman.

I’m only clarifying because it appears this went over more than one person’s head.


U Meant Marsh probably …..


Jack Conger!


Do you see this as team USA or just how are the horns going to hook’em here?

M Duncan Scott

Oleksiak, Ruck, MacLean, Overholt


Savard, MacLean, Ruck, Oleksiak

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James formerly competed for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in February of 2018, placing 11th at the OUA Championships in the 200 IM, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics in May. He …

Read More »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!