Early Olympic Relay Look: Women’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 Australia
2 2019 Worlds USA
3 2019 Worlds Russia
4 2019 Worlds China
5 2019 Worlds Germany
6 2019 Worlds Canada
7 2019 Worlds Hungary
8 2019 Worlds Japan
9 2019 Worlds New Zealand
10 2019 Worlds Hong Kong
11 2019 Worlds Korea
12 2019 Worlds Italy
13 Wild Card France
14 Wild Card Israel
15 Wild Card Brazil
16 Wild Card Denmark

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

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:

Australia
Swimmer Split
Ariarne Titmus 1:53.09
Emma McKeon 1:54.74
Madison Wilson 1:55.68
Leah Neale 1:56.08
TOTAL: 7:39.59

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.

The Contenders

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.

USA
Swimmer Split
Katie Ledecky 1:54.40
Allison Schmitt 1:56.79
Paige Madden 1:56.44
Katie McLaughlin 1:57.16
TOTAL: 7:44.79

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.

China
Swimmer Split
Yang Junxuan 1:54.57
Li Bingjie 1:56.64
Tang Muhan 1:57.83
Wang Jianjiahe 1:57.02
TOTAL: 7:46.62

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
Swimmer Split
Summer McIntosh 1:56.19
Penny Oleksiak 1:57.07
Rebecca Smith 1:57.43
Katerine Savard 1:57.79
TOTAL: 7:48.48

Canada won bronze over China in 2019. The 14-year-old McIntosh has been a standout of Canadian Trials so far.

The Field

Germany
Swimmer Split
Isabel Gose 1:56.93
Annika Bruhn 1:57.17
Leonie Kullmann 1:57.64
Marie Pietruschka 1:58.46
TOTAL: 7:50.20

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.

In This Story

74
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of

74 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Drama King
1 year ago

Gold – Australia
Silver – Canada
Bronze – USA
D.H. – China

AnEn
1 year ago

If we add up the times of the 5th to 8th best australian women this year, then we get a time that is 1 second faster than the canadian time and less than a second behind the chinese time. The second australian team would be ahead of the first canadian team and less than a second behind the first chinese team.

STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
1 year ago

I really can’t see Australia being beaten. The USA has scope for improvement but even then Australia would have to massively underperform. Titmus and McKeon will be rested for the final. It’s likely McKeon will withdraw from the individual 200 with Wilson taking her place. If she swims to expectations she will also be rested. The heats team could then be Neale, O’Callaghan, Harris, Throssell. If none of them shine Cook could be brought in for the final. The 400FS is a good proxy for the 200FS. If she swims well in the 400 it would indicate she’s in good enough form to improve on the 1.56.95 she swam in the B final at trials.

Troyy
Reply to  STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
1 year ago

I’m not sure what the deadline is but McKeon would have to withdraw in advanace because Wilson can’t replace her if she withdraws at the games. I also think it’s a good idea she not swim the individual 200 and should go all in on 100 free gold later in the meet.

Verram
Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

We don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes already.. they’re all in Townsville now I think plotting their Olympic attack

MissM
Reply to  STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
1 year ago

I think McKeon likes her chances of a medal in this event. I can’t see her giving it away.

Troyy
Reply to  MissM
1 year ago

I don’t think anyone is discounting her chances for a medal in the 200.

Green & Gold guy
Reply to  MissM
1 year ago

Agree. Can’t see Em giving up the 200m FS, this is her original pet event (eg. Comm games 14 and Olympic bronze 16). She is tough and a proven racer. Big chance for Aussie 1-2 is Tokyo!

commonwombat
Reply to  STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
1 year ago

Granted McKeon has a loaded schedule ahead of her but I cannot realistically see her dropping the 200FR or any other individual swim. It goes without saying that they will look to avoid her swimming relay heats which should not really be an issue with the potential exception of W4XMED which will hinge on the performance of the 2nd string 100flyer. If there is a race “to go” from her schedule, its potentially the MMR which is a weaker medal chance that the 3 women’s relays.

As for the AUS W4X200; I’d say that 3 of the finals line-up look locked in with Titmus, McKeon & Wilson who are all experienced with intl relay “runs on the board”. Neale’s performance… Read more »

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  commonwombat
1 year ago

I think throssell will be fine. she barely missed a very tough qt, which isn’t far off her pb which got her into the 2019 final, and she had good performances all round at those worlds. seebohm has been a mainstay on this relay for over a decade (minus 2019) and is still in 58 form, hansen was good in 2018 and solid in 2019 (got them through the heats just fine in 2019 too) and wilson has been very consistent this year, so i don’t think throssell will sink the relay even if she drops a bomb

agreed on neale. she’ll do enough to ensure australia gets a good lane in the final, but I trust Harris & O’Callaghan… Read more »

commonwombat
Reply to  Old Man Chalmers
1 year ago

If Throssell swims to around her Trials time in the individual 100fly then I would agree they can trust her with 4XMED heats.

As regards other legs, Seebohm is actually pretty erratic in this relay but they certainly do have some credible alternatives in O’Callaghan (sub59 at Trials) & even Wilson (59.0 at Trials) for that leg.

Hansen does have a decent CV for this relay (split a 55mid at PP). Whether they go with her for both swims may depend on whether Hodges fires in the 100BRS or a crash n burn.

Agree they have a number of options for the free leg that many countries would love as 1st pick; namely Wilson, C2 or maybe one out of… Read more »

Stephen
1 year ago

Do the women’s Medley relay
That’s where it gets really interesting.

AnEn
Reply to  Stephen
1 year ago

Australia and USA roughly at 3:51.8
Canada roughly at 3:53.5
China at 3:54 high
GB and Sweden (if we assume 53.0 for Sjöstrom) roughly at 3:55.4
Italy and Russia roughly at 3:56.6

Joel
Reply to  Jared Anderson
1 year ago

Thanks for all your work. Great analysis as always.

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  Stephen
1 year ago

Here is a tease:

Women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay

AUS (2021 Hancock Prospecting Australian Swimming Trials)
McKeon, Emma – 52.35
Campbell, Cate – 52.59
Wilson, Madison – 52.76
Harris, Meg – 52.92
Total – 3:30.62

CHN (2021 Chinese National Championships)
Zhang, Yufei – 52.90
Yang, Junxuan – 53.21
Cheng, Yujie – 53.76
Wu, Quinfeng/Zhu, Menghui – 53.84
Total – 3:33.71

USA (2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials)
Weitzeil, Abbey – 53.53
Brown, Erika – 53.59
Smoliga, Olivia – 53.63
Hinds, Natalie – 53.84
Total – 3:34.59

CAN (2021 Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials)
Oleksiak, Penny – 52.89
Sanchez, Kayla – 53.77
MacNeil, Margaret – 54.02
Savard, Katerine – 54.51
Total – 3:35.19

Help us, Obi-Wan Ledecky! You’re our only hope!

Texas Tap Water
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
1 year ago

Emma McKeon swam 52.19 in the prelims

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  Texas Tap Water
1 year ago

The IOC does not dole out medals for performances in the heats and/or semifinals.

Swimfan
1 year ago

To me ledecky Madden and McLaughlin are the obvious choice for the final, I’d Schmitt is on form a drops a mid 1:55 in the individual (an makes the final) then you can put her on the relay,

otherwise coaches can put huske is she on form ( huske swam a 1:58.09 in April and she swam a 2:10 in the IM at trials),

The coaches can use Erika brown (she went 1:57.4 in 2019) bella sims (a 16 yr old who went out with ledecky at the 100 and held on for 1:57 at trials she constantly improving)

Smoligia can put up a solid 200 free is she swims well In the 4×100 free I can see… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Swimfan
Hswimmer
Reply to  Swimfan
1 year ago

Walsh was very good at ncaas in 200 free, but I see them using either Sims or Schmitt as the last spot depending on their form Schmitt in individual and sims in prelims relay.

Hswimmer
Reply to  Swimfan
1 year ago

Manuel could also be used 😬 if she has enough endurance by then

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  Hswimmer
1 year ago

That’s a big if.

#OTS

Breezeway
Reply to  Hswimmer
1 year ago

It’s funny that Manuel gets mentioned and it’s immediate downvotes, but all I see from the suggested swimmers is 157s thru 159s. 😂

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  Breezeway
1 year ago

Simone Manuel may not be in any condition to swim the women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay.

#OTS

Breezeway
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
1 year ago

51high/52flat condition, maybe/maybe not. But 52high/53low, I’ll take it. Secure a medal!

Taa
Reply to  Breezeway
1 year ago

There isnt enough time to significantly change her conditioning between now and Tokyo. I don’t know that she would be useful in the 100

Eric the eel > Phelps
1 year ago

Australia > All

Relay Enthusiast
Reply to  Eric the eel > Phelps
1 year ago

Could a 4 from every other country even beat Australia. Katie Ledecky, Yang Junxuan, Summer McIntosh, and someone else. Idk, would they. Probably not.

boknows34
Reply to  Relay Enthusiast
1 year ago

Haughey, Ledecky and Yang are all 1.54 this season. And McIntosh has that potential.

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  boknows34
1 year ago

Does Federica Pellegrini have one last great swim left in her?

Federica Pellegrini seems to save her best performance of the year for the final of the women’s 200 meter freestyle as was the case at the 2017 FINA World Aquatics Championships and the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships.

Stephen
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
1 year ago

FP best time without 2 super suits on is 1:54.2 almost 2 years ago
If she break 1:54.5 I’d be shocked.

Robbos
Reply to  Stephen
1 year ago

1.54.2 2 years ago beats all but 1 swimmer.

Jamie5678
1 year ago

Surely China’s 4th option will be Zhang Yufei. Yes, she’s ‘only’ gone 1.57.22 this year but that’s probably more indicative than a split from 2019.

She’s the fastest 200 fly in the world this year and top 5 in freestyle so I’d expect she’s well capable of sub 1.57.

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  Jamie5678
1 year ago

The Chinese worry me more so than the Canadians.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Jamie5678
1 year ago

I think the Chinese women will exceed expectation this year. Everyone is mostly ignoring them after subpar 2016. Likewise Canada was being understated until this week

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
1 year ago

Seriously?

2021 Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials
Women’s 200 meter freestyle
Preliminaries
Ruck, Taylor – 2:01.06

https://results.swimming.ca/2020_Olympic_Swimming_Trials/

Yozhik
Reply to  Jared Anderson
1 year ago

That is how we got known about McLaughlin first time: perfectly executed 4×200 after 200BU

Texas Tap Water
Reply to  Yozhik
1 year ago

Hi YOZHIK!

glad to have you back and safe!

Was wondering where you were during Aussie and US trials

Jamie5678
Reply to  Jared Anderson
1 year ago

Didn’t know that Jared. Thank you. That does make a difference then. I still think I’d chuck her in.

Aquajosh
1 year ago

Yufei is playing possum with that 1:57. Anyone who can go 55/2:05 fly and 52 free should be able to go 1:54, especially from a rolling start. China has the most time to drop in this relay.

Virtus
Reply to  Aquajosh
1 year ago

Definitely agree, 154 low is definitely there

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 …

Read More »