As the dust settles on U.S., Australian, Canadian, and French Olympic Trials, we’re taking a bird’s-eye view of how the relay battles are shaping up.
The top 12 relays at 2019 World Championships earned Olympic berths for their nations. Four more nations earned berths by putting up the fastest times among unqualified nations over a 15-month period leading up to the Olympics.
|2||2019 Worlds||Great Britain|
Aggregate times below are based on season-bests from September 2020 through June 2021. Lifetime-bests or time drops can obviously change the picture significantly. We’ll do a more in-depth preview of each relay event in the coming weeks, but this first-look projection is aimed at specifically seeing the impacts of recent Olympic Trials meets on the Olympic relay picture.
The 2021 European Champs have the current world leader (Kolesnikov) and four of the top 11 swimmers in the world this season in the 100 free. That actually doesn’t even include Aleksandr Schegolev, who split 47.6 on that Euro-winning relay. Russia went 3:10.41 there, setting a meet record.
Between Schegolev, Evgeny Rylov and Ivan Girev, the Russian delegation (not technically representing Russia due to the nation’s doping sanctions) has the depth to rest anyone they need to through heats. At Euros, they swam 8 different swimmers between prelims and finals.
Kolesnikov will have a conflict between this event and 100 back heats and semifinals, but should be able to handle the double.
You could probably argue for the U.S. to join Russia above in the favorites category. The U.S. beat Russia by nine-tenths of a second at 2019 Worlds. They also have room to drop, with reigning world champ Caeleb Dressel threatening to break 47 seconds individually this summer.
Reliable depth might be more of an issue for Team USA than expected. Longtime 100 free mainstay Nathan Adrian did not make the Olympic team. Neither did 2019 breakout swimmer Ryan Held. Team USA has just five swimmers selected in this event, so they might need to get creative if they want to rest any of their top names through heats.
Australia took bronze at 2019 Worlds. While the U.S. will almost-certainly lead off with Dressel, Australia likes to use Kyle Chalmers on their anchor leg. That’s a scary thought for any other anchors in the field, with Chalmers being one of the fastest in history, the reigning Olympic champ, and the owner of perhaps the scariest second-50 of any 100 freestyler in the world.
Great Britain has their own star in Duncan Scott, a top-tier leadoff or anchor leg. They went 3:11.5 while taking silver behind Russia at Euros last month and Scott anchored in a blazing 47.1. James Guy split 47.9 on that relay and is a good option here too.
Scott and Dean will probably have to balance this relay with heats and semifinals of the 200 free on the same day.
It wasn’t that long ago that Hungary were the exciting up-and-comers in this event. They’ve got a good core of sprinters, and took fourth at Euros. There’s not a great flat-start time this year for Bohus, so we used his Euros split plus half a second (to factor out the relay exchange) above.
Italy beat Hungary for bronze at Euros. The Italians were also fourth at 2019 Worlds. Ceccon and Frigo both split 47-highs at Euros, so the aggregate time probably doesn’t reflect Italy’s overall speed very well.
Brazil might have been a contender, with a 3:13 aggregate time from their top four swimmers. But the top Brazilian this year, 48.1 Andre Souza, was disqualified via a failed doping test. The new Brazil foursome still add up into the 3:14s and could still make some medal waves:
Host nation Japan has had three men in the 48s this year with decent depth.
France could also make a run, pairing 47.9 Maxime Grousset with Mehdy Metella, who split 47.8 back in 2019.
Canada had Joshua Liendo go 48.1 at their Trials meet. They could be a factor if Yuri Kisil is in the mix – he went 48.4 in heats at Canadian Trials, but withdrew from the final with an arm injury.