Early Olympic Relay Look: Men’s 4×200 Free 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 Italy
2 2019 Worlds Russia
3 2019 Worlds USA
4 2019 Worlds Australia
5 2019 Worlds China
6 2019 Worlds Brazil
7 2019 Worlds Great Britain
8 2019 Worlds Germany
9 2019 Worlds Japan
10 2019 Worlds Israel
11 2019 Worlds Poland
12 2019 Worlds Switzerland
13 Wild Card France
14 Wild Card Hungary
15 Wild Card Korea
16 Wild Card Ireland

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

Great Britain
Swimmer Split
Duncan Scott 1:44.47
Tom Dean 1:44.58
Matt Richards 1:45.77
James Guy 1:46.04
TOTAL: 7:00.86

Great Britain didn’t even medal in this race at the 2019 World Championships – but the pure math still considers them the favorites. Why? Well, it’s because they’ve got the top two 200 freestylers in world ranks for the season in Scott and Dean, plus two more swimmers inside the top 18.

Russia
Swimmer Split
Martin Malyutin 1:44.79
Ivan Girev 1:45.49
Aleksandr Schegolev 1:45.82
Mikhail Dovgalyuk 1:46.16
TOTAL: 7:02.26

But no matter what the math says, this one isn’t as simple as it looks. Russia beat Great Britain pretty soundly in their head-to-head European Championships matchup last month. They’ve also probably got as many lineup options as any team in the world. We used their top four in world ranks in the aggregate above. But it was actually Malyutin, Schegolev, Aleksandr Krasnykh (1:46.5 split) and Mikhail Vekovishchev (1:46.4 split) who won Euros in 7:03.48. (The Brits were 7:04.61 with Dean, Richards, Guy and Scott).

Add in the possibility of using backstroker Evgeny Rylov (1:46.5 this year) and Russia could legitimately swim an almost entirely different lineup between heats and finals, resting their top swimmers and allowing several men to swim-off for the final relay spots.

Australia
Swimmer Split
Kyle Chalmers 1:45.48
Elijah Winnington 1:45.55
Alexander Graham 1:45.22
Thomas Neill 1:45.70
TOTAL: 7:01.95

The reigning world champs, Australia should be right in the mix with Russia and Great Britain. They don’t have the relay-carrying 1:44 standout like the top two yet – Chalmers is just #7 in the world this season. But Australia does have all four men between 7th and 12th, with tremendous depth.

McLoughlin is the 4th Australian in this season’s world ranks. But Australia used Clyde Lewis (1:45.5 leadoff) and Mack Horton (1:44.8 flying start) to win this relay at 2019 Worlds. Lewis is not on the Olympic roster as of now; Horton is.

The Contenders

USA
Swimmer Split
Kieran Smith 1:45.29
Townley Haas 1:45.66
Drew Kibler 1:45.92
Andrew Seliskar 1:46.34
TOTAL: 7:03.21

As good as those top three are, the U.S. barely scrapes into the contenders category here. The depth is very good, with all six selected relay swimmers sitting in the top 25 in world ranks this season. But the Americans have just two men in the top 10, and they’ll need someone to step up with a 1:43/1:44 type swim if they want to challenge the top three nations.

We’ve speculated about the potential for Team USA to use star sprinter Caeleb Dressel here, but after he went 1:46.6 at U.S. Trials, it’s hard to say if he’s a significant upgrade over any of the 1:45/1:46 types above.

The Field

Italy took fourth at 2019 Worlds, just .03 behind the U.S., with straight 1:45s. So far this year, their national leader is Stefano Ballo at 1:46.76, and they were well behind Russia and Great Britain at Euros. But there’s good depth and a high ceiling for this group.

The true mystery contender is China, which tied a national record with a 7:04.74 at 2019 Worlds – but that was with a 1:44.9 anchor from Sun Yang, who is now ineligible for the Tokyo Olympics.

France earned the top wild card spot via a fourth-place finish at Euros. They were 7:07.24, getting a 1:46.9 leadoff from Jordan Pothain.

Brazil and Germany were both in the 2019 Worlds field and went 7:07s in the final. Fernando Scheffer has been 1:46.2 for Brazil this year; Lukas Martens has been 1:46.4 for Germany.

Hungary is also intriguing, with Kristof Milak going 1:45.7 individually at Euros.

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Juggernaut
1 month ago

Thomas neill went 1:45.70 at trials and should be on that relay instead of mcloughlin so Australia’ aggregate is actually around 2 seconds quicker than what was stated

Jamie5678
Reply to  Jared Anderson
1 month ago

Graham also went 1.45.22 in the prelims at the Australian trials.

Stephen
Reply to  Jamie5678
1 month ago

Toss of a coin between GB and OZ
GB 7:01.62
OZ 7:01.80

less 1.2 for flying starts

Over or under 7:00.65

So around the 2nd fastest relay ever without the suits.

AnEn
Reply to  Stephen
1 month ago

Where did you get that time for GB from? I think in the article it says 7:00.8 …

Last edited 1 month ago by AnEn
Stephen
Reply to  AnEn
1 month ago

You trust everything you read?
We’ll see if the winning goes faster than 7:00.65

Togger
1 month ago

Gonna be a dogfight.

I’m hoping Dean and Scott can go big on the first two legs to give us clear water, but any of 3 or even 4 have realistic shots at gold.

Dee
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

I think we’ll go Dean-Guy on legs 1 & 2, with Dunks anchoring.

Jamie5678
Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

I agree with Dee – you’ve got to have Scott on anchor.

I’d be tempted to go Richards – Guy – Dean – Scott myself.

Emg1986
Reply to  Jamie5678
1 month ago

I Agree, there are going to be some fast swimmers on the opening leg and Richards likes to swim smart, let him draft off of the bolters. Guy on second as the fourth swimmer, but if he’s in 2017 form then having Dean and Scott on the last two legs could be devastating.

Dee
Reply to  Emg1986
1 month ago

Good shout on Richards – He’s a proper racer, probably would be better tp have sitting on a shoulder. So many options!

JP input is too short
Reply to  Emg1986
1 month ago

Conversely, if you give him a bit of a lead by leading off Dean, maybe he’ll be more aggressive and break out of a comfort zone tactics-wise. Risk/reward there?

Sapnu puas
Reply to  Emg1986
1 month ago

If Richards appears in the same form as trials (or faster- still only 18 wouldn’t be a surprise if he dropped more time in the summer) in the 4×100 relay and 100 free heats I say throw him on the first leg.

Richards-Dean-Guy-Scott is what I’d like i think. I don’t think Dean-in his short career- has really done his best times leading off a relay so throw him in as second. Guy isn’t going to split slower than 1.45.5 and I’d low-key back Duncan to overtake anyone if within a second or so of them!

Jamie5678
Reply to  Emg1986
1 month ago

That’s my thinking too. Richards and Guy are good enough to keep us in the race.

And I’d rather we played our best two cards no sooner than the other contenders have played their’s.

CSWIM
Reply to  Jamie5678
1 month ago

Correct choice. Have been saying it since last year (although at that point I thought it would be Jarvis leading off). If Richards is within a body length at the end of the first leg GB win.

Nick
Reply to  Jamie5678
1 month ago

I’d say Dean-Scott-Richards-Guy. They always like anchoring Guy and this way Scott still gets a flying start.

Robbos
Reply to  Nick
1 month ago

Aussies will match this with Chalmers-Graham-Winnington-Horton.

Togger
Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

My concern is it’s going to be a nervy swim for Richards and he’s a 100/200 guy, just don’t want him getting overexcited and flying out in a 49 to chase someone down then paying for it on second hundred of his leg. Psychologically better for him to be defending a lead I think. Then Guy’s always been a lock to split well on that last leg.

Relay Enthusiast
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

Guy on the last leg??? What are you smoking? Did you see what happened in 2019 worlds. He is a great swimmer but not the anchor leg guy when you see Scott and Dean going 1:44.4 and 1:44.5.

Togger
Reply to  Relay Enthusiast
1 month ago

I’m thinking the 2000 Aussies tactic, break the race open early with your fast legs then use your most experienced but slowest swimmer to bring it home nice and calm.

Robbos
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

Horton will finish for the Aussies & have the fastest leg of any country.

Dee
Reply to  Robbos
1 month ago

Think it’s very optimistic to think Horton can swim the fastest split in a field packed full of 1.44 flat start men. He’s a great relay swimmer, but he’ll need to be the best part of a second faster than he was at 2019 Worlds to be fastest split imo.

Martin McEvoy
Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

Hard agree. Horton’s a fabulous relay swimmer – but if possible Scott is an even better one, and he starts from a hugely fast base.

Last edited 1 month ago by Martin McEvoy
Robbos
Reply to  Martin McEvoy
1 month ago

Watch Horton fly, this is his only event!!!!

Stephen
Reply to  Robbos
1 month ago

The heats will tell us everything we need to know.
Mac will have to do a 1:45 or better

Troyy
Reply to  Robbos
1 month ago

That’s very unlikely.

John
Reply to  Relay Enthusiast
1 month ago

1 bad anchor split from guy which was still 1.45.5 does not out weigh his other anchors
2015 – 1.44.7
2017 – 1.43.8
2018 commies – 1.44.9

I have NO issue with James Guy going last

25Backstroke
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

I disagree, although he hasn’t been near his 2015-2017 form recently in the 200, I think that Guy should anchor. He anchored in 1:44 in Rio and Kazan, and 1:43 in Budapest. I think that if need be, he can drop a 1:44 high or 1:45 low anchor when rested in Tokyo, and has the highest potential drop from his current season best if he anchors. I think best order is Scott, Dean, Richards, Guy looking something like 1:44 mid, 1:44 high, 1:45 high, 1:44 high.

Notanyswimmer
1 month ago

I see absolutely no reason to put Dressel on the 4×200 relay. He’s at best 1:46 on a taper. Team USA already has 5 guys on the team (Smith, Haas, Seliskar, Kibler, Pieroni) who have gone 1:45.

Also, Callan finishing ahead of Pieroni in the 200 free at trials really screwed up our predicted relay orders. Had Pieroni been the one to get 6th, he would be on both the 4×200 and the 4×100 and Held would’ve also made the team.

Joe
Reply to  Notanyswimmer
1 month ago

He just went 1:46 in a prelims race

JP input is too short
Reply to  Joe
1 month ago

And clearly not as rested as has could be – dude’s expressions said he was surprised with a lot of the times he went.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Joe
1 month ago

1:46.6, and for the “he wasn’t fully tapered crowd), do you really think he’s going to do a 20.7 and a 48 high, cuz that’s the kind of drop we’d be talking to say he’s better than the 5 guys who’ve gone 1:45. And for the “prelims race” crowd, he knew he was only going to take one shot at the 200 free to try to make the relay, and that’s the stinker he put up. He’s not a 200 free guy or a 200 fly guy. If he were, he’d compete in them, and he never has when it’s counted. He’s a sprinter with good 100 range.

Jojorab
Reply to  Notanyswimmer
1 month ago

Yeah that kid really killed our chances 🤬

Jabroni Pepperoni
Reply to  Notanyswimmer
1 month ago

Fully disagree. I can totally see a 1:44 high from him if he purely focused on that event. He has the perfect combo of power and endurance (3:40 400y IM in season). He and Troy are probably the only two people in the world that know how rested he was during trials and how much more potential he may or may not have.

Notanyswimmer
Reply to  Jabroni Pepperoni
1 month ago

It’s not just his physical ability, his strategy in swimming the 200 free also seems extremely awkward. He seems to go out slightly faster in the first 50 and then attempts to come home fast on the last 50, but he falls behind on the middle 100. The pacing just doesn’t seem right and it’s probably more taxing than it ought to be. Perhaps Dressel should do the Chad Le Clos strategy of fly and die.

Sqimgod
Reply to  Notanyswimmer
1 month ago

He doesn’t go out any faster in the first 50 his start is just so good it seems that way. But yes he has always been scared of the 200 free

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
Reply to  Jabroni Pepperoni
1 month ago

Lochte went the 3:40 IM, Dressel was 3:44.

You could tell that Dressel started the taper right before Trials started, he was getting faster as the meet went on. I’m guessing he can be 1.5 seconds faster in the 200 fully rested, so close to 1:45 flat.

eagleswim
Reply to  Notanyswimmer
1 month ago

yeah he’s still the only person on the team with 1:44 potential I think, so it’s looking like if you want a good chance at a medal you have to put him on and hope he’s there. that said, I don’t think you can justify putting him on there based on trials results. he’s not like phelps in the 100 who was a known top-5 in the world type of swimmer even though he rarely swam it tapered individually

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  eagleswim
1 month ago

Yeah, and he also could “beat Peaty in the 100 breast,” “great 200 fly,” “his 200 IM will be incredible”. We’ve heard all that crap. As he himself says, you either swim and do it, or it’s stupid to conjecture. He put up a 200 free at Trials. It was 1:46.6. His best time. Period.

Eagleswim
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 month ago

For what it’s worth, I’ve never believed any of those things. I also said I don’t think you can justify putting him on the relay so maybe you could relax

Jack
Reply to  Notanyswimmer
1 month ago

I agree with the comments about him being a likely 1:44 or 1:45 with a full taper. But perhaps more importantly, we want him on the lead off leg for that start. Kieren and Townley are both about a flying start away from 1:44, and Dressel’s flat start is so good it’s worth taking him because that will leave 3 1:45’s the chance to knock a half second or more off their times. Even if Dressel is a 1:46, leading him off gives us an outside chance of seeing 3 1:44’s on the back end.

Obviously, 3 1:44’s is unlikely. But the way I see it anybody with a flat start of 1:45.anything has at least an outside shot… Read more »

M L
Reply to  Notanyswimmer
1 month ago

After that easy 1:46.6, a fully rested Dressel has got to be good for at least a 1:45.mid flat start, which, as Jack notes, may set up the other three Americans for much faster splits than they swam in Omaha. Don’t forget: in 2012, Berens and Dwyer went from 1:46.mids in Omaha to 1:45.lows in London.

tea rex
Reply to  Notanyswimmer
1 month ago

They’ll do time trials – Dressel will have a chance to prove himself.
Callan, Seliskar, and Kibler have to swim it as it’s their only event.
I wish Apple would drop it, but he probably won’t as it’s a likely medal. He’s slated to do 100 free and 4×200 in the same prelims session, then again if he makes it back in both.

Right now, it’s probably Callan, Seliskar, Kibler, Apple in prelims, with top 2 joining Haas and Smith in finals. If Dressel looks hot, it’s probably the same with top 1 joining Haas, Smith, Dressel in finals.

bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

Considering the way Dressel’s times got better as his meet progressed, I think he had way better than a 1:46.6 in him.

HJones
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

Also how surprised he looked after a lot of his races indicated that he probably wasn’t fully rested.

There's no doubt that he's tightening up
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

Maybe Dressel started his taper on day one of trials

Austinpoolboy
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

Agree he has the highest ceiling. Of any swimmer in entire field, I can see him swim opening split of 51.0 easy speed and come home in 54.0 from a flat start. Take off .5 for relay start. I would go for finals Kieren 1) Caleb 2) best prelims guy 3 and most experienced dude Townley 4. I could see a 7:01

Robbos
Reply to  Austinpoolboy
1 month ago

What about Chalmers?

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Robbos
1 month ago

What about Chalmers? He actually did a frickin 1:45. It wasn’t some SwimSwam fantasy.

Robbos
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 month ago

And Dressel went 1.46.6!!!!!

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

Then — I don’t know — maybe he should’ve swum faster. Bottom line, best time is 1:46.6 at a time when he was hitting near very best times in his other events.

John
1 month ago

Gotta be Dean, Richards, Guy, Scott.

Get Jimmy guy to throw down a nuts relay split as per, 1.43.80 like he went in 2017 and it’s there’s to loose

HJones
Reply to  John
1 month ago

If Guy is anywhere near 1:43-split form, not only is the win theirs, but also the world record would be going down.

Relay Enthusiast
Reply to  John
1 month ago

I’d go with Matt Richards on lead-off. He went 1:45.77 at trials and he’d be close with the other first legs. Dean will do better if he has someone to catch. If he dives in 0.5-1 second behind he’ll go 1:44.0.

Richards-Dean-Guy-Scott.

Can’t see Guy going 1:43.80. That split is an outlier however he went 1:45 mid splits 3 times at europeans. I can see him going 1:45.0-1:44.8 on a split.

I’d predict: 6:58.8 European Record
Richards 1:45.8
Dean 1:44.0
Guy 1:45.0
Scott 1:44.0

He’s closing a little
Reply to  Relay Enthusiast
1 month ago

I think Scott could be a 1:43 low split, I think he will be a 1:43 high in the individual assuming he wasn’t properly tapered at trials.
I definitely think GB will give the record a run for its money, my only worry is Guy, has been so inconsistent over the last few years and goes out stupidly fast.

Eric the Eel > Michael Phelps
1 month ago

Aussie aussie aussie oi oi oi

Dee
1 month ago

I’m trying not to underestimate the US here, but I’m really struggling not to see Russia/Australia/ GB as the podium placers, in any order. Famous last words, eh…

Robbos
Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

Not sure why my last post went to approval, but I see Horton v Dean going for gold in the last lap.

Dee
Reply to  Robbos
1 month ago

Don’t think Dean will be given anchor, swam lead-off on both relays at Euros, and he has the best flat start of all of them – Jimmy & Dunks much better flying.

Relay Enthusiast
Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

No he doesn’t. Scott beat him at trials and Europeans. Dean should go 2nd with Scott anchoring.

Dee
Reply to  Relay Enthusiast
1 month ago

Lol, I mean his literal start. He’s better to 15m than Scott & Guy, and swam really well on lead-off at Euros. Guy & Scott proven better swimmers with flying starts.

Jamie5678
Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

Dean was pretty poor on the lead off in the Euros – certainly in the 800 relay. He swam 1.46.5 against Malyutin’s low 1.45 and the race was pretty much over.

Dee
Reply to  Jamie5678
1 month ago

He’d done a lot of racing every session before his 4×2 lead-off, Malyutin was coming in fresh, so not sure I’d compare. 1.46mid was good under those circumstances imo.

Jamie5678
Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

I’m basically pretty confident that if Scott is on the last leg and within catching distance. If Scott doesn’t win from there then fair enough. My fear is that something similar to the Europeans will happen where they pussyfoot around a bit. I see more chance of Dean doing that if he leads off than if he swims in the middle.

But it’s all just fun speculation!

The other thing to say is that a lot depends on how they have got on in the individual 200.

Iain
Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

He went much quicker in the individual later in the week though

Relay Enthusiast
Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

Yeah ur right. But just imagine if Richards goes in first and GB are 0.5 to 1 second behind and Dean goes 2nd with people to chase down. He’ll go 1:44 flat for sure. I think you’ll get the most out of Dean if he has someone to chase. And with Richards going first in 1:45 high we’d still be very close.

Dee
Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

Yeah, I’d go with that. I can see one missing out, but also feel pretty confident one of those three will win the gold. US somewhere between silver & fourth for me.

AThomas
Reply to  Dee
1 month ago

that thing that always happens is talked about by the swimmers who make the team: the Olympics is an easier meet than Trials. Especially for your relay swimmers. One year it won’t happen, but until then I expect it to continue: the US will over perform expectations. *** (I suppose worth noting they could over perform and not win this relay, however.)

Caleb
Reply to  AThomas
1 month ago

I don’t expect the U.S. to win but I do think people are oddly understating their chances. They’re barely 2 seconds back on an 800-meter race; and this group has a good mix of proven speed and room to drop from US Trials.

Personal Best
Reply to  Caleb
1 month ago

Sure – but other teams also have younger swimmers that can drop time from their trials and proven fast times. It’s gonna be tough to call.

Khachaturian
1 month ago

World record incoming

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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