Early Olympic Relay Look: Men’s 4×100 Medley Relay

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.

Olympic-Qualified Relays

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.

Nation
1 2019 Worlds Russia
2 2019 Worlds USA
3 2019 Worlds Japan
4 2019 Worlds Great Britain
5 2019 Worlds Australia
6 2019 Worlds Brazil
7 2019 Worlds China
8 2019 Worlds Germany
9 2019 Worlds Belarus
10 2019 Worlds Canada
11 2019 Worlds Lithuania
12 2019 Worlds Hungary
13 Wild Card Italy
14 Wild Card France
15 Wild Card Poland
16 Wild Card Greece

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 Favorites

USA
Swimmer Split
Ryan Murphy 52.22
Michael Andrew 58.14
Caeleb Dressel 49.76
Zach Apple 47.72
TOTAL: 3:27.84

Breaststroke has long been the weak point for the American men. But Michael Andrew‘s explosive Trials meet could realistically give the U.S. the second-best breaststroker of all the major contenders. Sandwiched between the world record-holders in back (Ryan Murphy) and fly (Caeleb Dressel), Andrew should be set up with clean water and a lead over the unstoppable Brit we’ll get to further down.

Dressel is the top U.S. man in fly and free. We published a much longer examination of the top U.S. relay options, but this foursome seems like the most logical choice for Team USA. If you want to really dive into the weeds, follow that link for all of the major lineup options.

The U.S. has never lost this race at the Olympics – that includes 9 straight Olympic golds stretching back to the boycotted 1980 Olympics, with five consecutive golds prior to that.

The Contenders

Great Britain
Swimmer Split
Luke Greenbank 53.34
Adam Peaty 57.39
James Guy 50.96
Duncan Scott 47.87
TOTAL: 3:29.56

Great Britain looked like the best candidates to end that U.S. streak, knocking off the U.S. for World Champs gold in 2019. Adam Peaty is likely to outsplit all other breaststrokers in the field by one to two full seconds. But even with that huge deficit, it took an absurd 46.1 anchor split from Scott to run down the U.S. in 2019. That’s because the U.S. breaststroke woes have often been matched by the British backstroke woes.

Still, the Brits are loaded at the other three legs, and Greenbank is a rising swimmer with upside.

Russia
Swimmer Split
Kliment Kolesnikov 52.09
Anton Chupkov 58.83
Andrei Minakov 51.17
Vladislav Grinev 47.85
TOTAL: 3:29.94

Russia got bit by the Peaty deficit at Euros, leading by 1.5 seconds after backstroke and somehow trailing by two-tenths after breaststroke. They’ve got lots of lineup options, including using Evgeny Rylov on back and Kolesnikov on free, or swapping out Chupkov for the sprintier Kirill Prigoda on breaststroke.

Russia should also swap in Minakov on fly after using Mikhail Vekovishchev there at Euros, and that might be enough to narrow the one-second gap between them and Great Britain at Euros.

Italy
Swimmer Split
Thomas Ceccon 52.84
Nicolo Martingenghi 58.37
Federico Burdisso 51.39
Alessandro Miressi 47.45
TOTAL: 3:30.05

Italy was only four-tenths behind Russia at Euros. They’ve got one of the field’s best breaststrokers (Martinenghi was just a half-second slower than Peaty at Euros), and Miressi is an impact anchor. The young Ceccon might be able to carry this team into contention if he can stick with the Murphys and Kolesnikovs of the world on the opening leg.

Australia
Swimmer Split
Mitch Larkin 52.75
Zac Stubblety-Cook 59.69
Matthew Temple 50.45
Kyle Chalmers 47.59
TOTAL: 3:30.48

One more team to note. Australia appears to have a substantial breaststroke hole that might sink the whole ship. But if they can close that margin a little, they’ve got two really big-time legs on the end, including Chalmers, who split 46.6 anchoring this relay at 2019 Worlds.

The Field

Host nation Japan should be faster than this aggregate time on breaststroke, a traditional strength. (Yasuhiro Koseki split 58.1 back in 2019).

Japan
Swimmer Split
Ryosuke Irie 53.00
Shoma Sato 59.18
Takeshi Kawamoto 51.00
Katsumi Nakamura 48.23
TOTAL: 3:31.41

China has the makings of a dominant front half. Xu Jiayu is as good as any backstroker in the field, and we’ve seen Yan Zibei split 58-low before. It really comes down to the back half.

China
Swimmer Split
Xu Jiayu 52.37
Yan Zibei 58.73
Sun Jiajun 51.97
Yu Hexin 48.44
TOTAL: 3:31.51

 

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Mark
1 year ago

Team GB will win this to become both the Olympic and World Champions. The USAs Olympic Streak comes to an end very very soon at the hands and feet of the unstoppable Brits!! Hell Yeah!!! Let’s Get It On!!!

commonwombat
1 year ago

Usually a “lock” for the US but, whilst still likely favourites, perhaps a less secure bet than normal.

Barring acts of self destruction, the make-up of the podium (USA, GBR, RUS) looks fairly clear cut. AUS front half (weak breaststroke and inconsistency of Larkin) sinks them by half distance whereas CHN back half looks problematic and JAP lacks “weapons” on any stroke that can make major impacts. If any one is to gatecrash the podium, it may be ITA but that that may be contingent on misfires by one of the 3 favourites.

Drama King
1 year ago

Gold – USA
Silver – GB
Bronze – Russia
D.H. – Italy

Robbos
1 year ago

It’s all about Peaty v Andrews for Gold here. If Andrews can minimise the difference, US gets gold, if Peaty goes off, then GB gets Gold.

Laurence
1 year ago

trust this: everyone does great in the relays, every1 PBs. Thats how Murphy broke the WR — the atomosohere for relay hits different

Khachaturian
1 year ago

World Record incoming. Not a single doubt in my mind.

Khachaturian
1 year ago

I am so hyped for this race. This is gonna be epic, so many teams will be close on those last 50 meters.

W_P_1
1 year ago

Wow a team (USA) with two current world record holders in the events they will be swimming in the relay, is not the clear cut favorite! What a time to be alive! That being said… USA for gold

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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