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.
|9||2019 Worlds||New Zealand|
|10||2019 Worlds||Hong Kong|
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 snapped a seven-year run for the U.S. in this event at 2019 Worlds – and the Aussies look to be the favorites again, with two legs currently faster than the fastest U.S. leg in season-bests:
This is the odd relay in which aggregate times are often faster than actual times. That’s because relay starts factor in less, and the taxing nature of the race makes it unlikely a team will have all four legs swimming their absolute best in the final. (The relay comes right in the middle of the Olympic lineup, too).
Australia set the world record to 7:41.50 in 2019. So even if this aggregate time is a little optimistic, there’s still a great chance that Australia can lower its own world record. They currently have 4 of the top 7 200 freestylers in the world for this season, including world leader Titmus.
China isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples aggregate – there’s no great fourth option in world ranks, so we pulled Wang’s split from the 2019 World Championships and added 0.5 seconds to try to factor out a relay exchange.
Most would expect Ledecky to be a bit faster than this with a full rest. But she’ll have to be to keep the U.S. ahead of China, much less to put them anywhere near Australia. Schmitt is a vet, but Madden and McLaughlin are both first-time Olympians.
Zhang Yufei is probably another good option. She’s a great 100 free (53.5) and 200 fly (2:05.7) talent who should be faster than her career-best 1:57.5 in the 200 free. But she also has the 200 fly final on the same night as this relay – that’s a doable double for a tough swimmer like Zhang, but also a brutal enough combo to not be an automatic option.
Canada won bronze over China in 2019. The 14-year-old McIntosh has been a standout of Canadian Trials so far.
Germany was also in the 2019 Worlds final (7:54.30 in the heats) and has Isabel Gose already going 1:56.9 this year. Their aggregate time is in the 7:50s and could set them up to challenge Canada.
Great Britain was the top wild card selection, but they bowed out of this realy, leaving Italy as the top qualifier (7:56.72) beyond last year’s Worlds top 12. They should have world record-holder Federica Pellegrini in the mix.
Russia could have some intriguing upside, with all four projected legs between 1:57.5 and 1:57.9 so far this year. Anna Egorova has been the fastest this season, and the aggregate time would be in the 7:51s.
Hungary took silver (7:56.26) ahead of Italy at Euros this spring, but would need big drops to earn an Olympic medal. They did have Boglarka Kapas anchor in 1:57.5.