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.
|10||2019 Worlds||Hong Kong|
|11||2019 Worlds||Czech Republic|
|13||Wild Card||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.
Australia has been pretty unbeatable in this event over the past decade. They won Olympic golds in 2012 and 2016, plus Worlds golds in 2015 and 2019. (The lone loss of this Olympic cycle was 2017, when the Australians were missing world record-holder Cate Campbell and lost to the U.S. by three-tenths.)
This season, Australia has the top three swimmers in the world. Their slowest leg is ranked #5 worldwide this season. Enough said.
The U.S. is expected to be without two-time defending world champ Simone Manuel, who split 51.9 on the end of this relay in 2019 but missed the U.S. team in the 100 free while dealing with Overtraining Syndrome. Manuel is on the team as a 50 freestyler, and could be called into action here if she trains well over the next few weeks.
It’s a bit surprising that the U.S. remains #2 in the world in aggregate times even without Manuel, but this field is brutally close, with five nations within a second.
This relay comes right at the beginning of the Olympics, but does overlap with heats and semifinals of the 100 fly, a key event for Zhang Yufei. Still, China has risen fast here after finishing 5th at 2019 Worlds.
The Dutch team finished second at Euros last month and were one spot out of the medals at 2019 Worlds. They’ve got two elite legs in Heemskerk and Kromowidjojo, both ranked in the top 7 in the world this season in the 100 free. The question is whether their other two legs can get under 54.
Canada took bronze at 2019 Worlds. Their best split there (a 52.1 from Taylor Ruck) didn’t finish in the top four at Canadian Trials, but could still wind up on this relay as she was pre-selected to the roster.
The Brits won Euros last month to claim a wild card Olympic berth in 3:34.17 – a full second faster than this projection. For lack of a reasonable 4th leg in world ranks, we used Wood’s relay split from Euros (plus half a second to roughly factor out a relay exchange).
France took bronze at Euros in 3:35.92. Marie Wattel is #9 in this season’s world ranks with a 53.32.
Right behind France, Denmark broke a national record in 3:36.81, with Signe Bro leading off in 53.73. If Pernille Blume can return to anywhere near her career-best 52.6, they’ve got a shot to join that medal-contending field.
Sweden‘s hopes ride on world record-holder Sarah Sjostrom and how she’s recovering from elbow surgery. The blessing in disguise to Sjostrom’s broken elbow might be that the longtime butterfly superstar can finally focus on relays instead of extending her energy across a busy fly/free individual event lineup.