Did the American Women Cede a Medley Medal With Day 8 Scratch?


Team USA opted not to swim a women’s 400 medley relay on the final day of the 2024 World Championships, ceding a shot at a 5th consecutive title in the event (they’ve won 4 straight and 6 out of 7).

At these strangest of World Championships, Team USA didn’t have their “A” relay, though short of the breaststroke leg they did have some good legs. So the question is – did Team USA cede a medal by not swimming the 400 medley relay?

While missing a lot of stars, the Americans did at least have two 0f the better swimmers in this meet: Claire Curzan, who swept the backstroke events and also took silver in the 100 fly and is a very good freestyler, and Kate Douglass, who can do a little bit of everything. Those are two valuable pivot points to operate around.

The women’s team doesn’t have the size or depth of the men’s team, but starting with those two is a pretty good place to start – in this meet.

Who else do they have that could have been an asset on this relay?

  • Backstroke possibilities: Lilla Bognar, who has been 1:01.20 in the 100 back, Claire Curzan, who was 58.29 earlier
  • Breaststroke possibilities: Piper Enge, who was 1:08.14 in the individual 100 breast; Kate Douglass, who has been 1:06.67 (but can probably be faster).
  • Butterfly possibilities: Claire Curzan, who was 56.54 in the individual; Kate Douglass, who has been multiple best times this week and has a best of 56.43, and Rachel Klinker, who has been 58.39 (let’s pretend like she didn’t have to go home early to swim Cal’s dual meet against Stanford)
  • Freestyle possibilities: Kate Douglass, who has been 52.57; Claire Curzan, who has been 53.55; Addison Sauickie, who is here as a 200/400 freestyler but who was a 55.39 in December at the US Open and who split 54.83 on a relay earlier in the meet.

Using the SwimSwam Medley Relay Calculator, there were really 3 serious options for this lineup:

Curzan Enge Klinker Douglass 03:57.39
Curzan Enge Douglass Sauickie 03:58.25
Curzan Douglass Klinker Sauickie 03:58.37

All three of those times would have made the Americans the top seed out of prelims, including the one without Klinker (who as we now know, has returned stateside). While there’s no guarantees that any of them would have swum bests, the addups above include Enge’s actual time from this meet (about 9-tenths slower than her flat-start best) and don’t include an allowance for relay starts being faster than flat starts.

So the Americans rightly could have been claimed as favorites in this race, even without their best lineup. That could have meant a World Championship gold medal for a group of swimmers who may not ever win one otherwise; a $20,000 cash prize; a streak continued; and a statement heading into the Olympic Games.

The only event conflicts on Sunday evening of the group above would have been Douglass in the 50 free final (she’s not shied away from doubles) and Piper Enge in the 50 breast final.

The American women also didn’t race the 400 free relay earlier in the meet and missed the final in the 800 free relay. There’s no guarantees in swimming, but on paper, it sure does look like Team USA may have given up a medal – if not a gold – in this 400 medley relay.

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Canada – 3:58.63
  2. Sweden – 3:59.35
  3. Australia – 4:00.o9
  4. Netherlands – 4:02.09
  5. China – 4:02.22
  6. Hong Kong – 4:02.34
  7. Italy – 4:02.62
  8. Poland – 4:02.63

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3 months ago

The only lineup still possible would have been the middle one and its two and a half seconds off the winning time

3 months ago

Why was Klinker allowed to leave? That’s not the way Team USA used to work. Clearly not a ‘Team’.

3 months ago

As someone who recently did a long haul flight, I feel for Rachel Klinker flying back and immediately having to race. That jet lag has got to be rough!

Emma Eckean
3 months ago

Maybe there’s an injury we don’t know about

Gen D
3 months ago

Finals lineups: whoever said Hansson-Hansson-Sjostrom-Coleman for Sweden was on the dot! And also surprising that Steenbergen is not on the dutch relay

Reply to  Gen D
3 months ago

So happy they listened !!!

McIntosh McKeown McKeon McEvoy
Reply to  Splash
3 months ago

They still lost to Australia

Reply to  McIntosh McKeown McKeon McEvoy
3 months ago

It was the right choice but needed Coleman in better form.

3 months ago

It’s disappointing that we won’t get to see them race, but there were no options for the morning except to go full strength, right? Unfair to ask Douglass & Enge to do that, imo.

3 months ago

Curzan, Douglas, Curzan, Douglas would have won the gold..hah ha

Pau Hanna
Reply to  Swimz
3 months ago

How about Curzan – Douglas – Douglas – Curzan?

Yannick Angel Martino Moravcova
3 months ago

The real wrinkle was Enge qualifying for the 50BR final, and not just “sneaking in” at 8th; she’s in 4th and is potentially one step away from the individual medal podium if a favorite has a bad race, start, etc. She was the real linchpin for at least a prelims relay to rest Douglass, along with Curzan who was technically flexible all day to swim both prelims/finals. Factor that in with Bognar/Han having loaded backhalf schedules including an individual 400 IM this morning, and Klinker clearly already being home. Options are thin now. Once I considered the logic here, I was more forgiving of USA’s decision to sit this out.

Reply to  Yannick Angel Martino Moravcova
3 months ago

Yeah, I’d like to know if there were even any options for morning subs. I don’t think there were. If that was the case, I’d rather that Douglass & Enge get the same rest as their competitors. I think a lot of people think you can just pop a fast 50 any time, but not a top 3 50 against specialists that you give an advantage to.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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