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.

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Sapnu puas
1 month ago

Delicious content this

Splash
1 month ago

Oleksiak swam the 200 FR at trials, it was Ruck who didn’t

ALEXANDER POP-OFF
Reply to  Splash
1 month ago

They both swam it. Ruck didn’t qualify for the finals.

Bill G
Reply to  Splash
1 month ago

Ruck swam the prelims and didn’t make finals at the Cdn Trials.

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  Splash
1 month ago

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

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

Eddie
1 month ago

McLaughlin has split 1:55 twice and Madden seems to be pretty reliable so far, I’d be more worried about Schmitt showing up. She often goes 1:58 when it comes to relay time, at least in the last four years…

wow
Reply to  Eddie
1 month ago

Smoliga is a viable option. Her back half in all her events has been awesome this year. And she went 1:57.0 this season already, and is a good relay swimmer. Her 100/200 free is rapidly improving. I’d say McLaughlin and Ledecky straight into finals, prelims would be Forde, Sims, Madden, and either Schmitt or Smoliga depending how Schmitt is looking. Smoliga could be a “last ditch” effort for finals.

Last edited 1 month ago by wow
RUN-DMC
Reply to  wow
1 month ago

Huske is also an option.

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  RUN-DMC
1 month ago

Seriously?

2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials
Women’s 200 meter freestyle
Torri Huske
Preliminaries – 1:59.48
Semifinals – 1:59.27

swammer2009
Reply to  wow
1 month ago

I bet Alex Walsh could throw down a solid 200 free if she’s ‘on’ that week, too. There’s so many options here!

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  wow
1 month ago

Women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay

Heats
Schmitt
Madden/Smoliga
Sims
Forde

Final
Schmitt/Smoliga
Madden
McLaughlin
Ledecky

I seriously doubt that Simone Manuel will be in any condition to swim a women’s 200 meter freestyle.

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  Eddie
1 month ago

What transpired two years ago has become irrelevant in a post coronavirus lockdown era.

He said what?
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
1 month ago

Agree completely.

HOYA13
Reply to  Eddie
1 month ago

McLaughlin has always been a rockstar on relays ever since they gave her a shot on the 4×200 at 2015 Worlds. She and Madden are both battle-tested on relays from their NCAA careers and will definitely show up.

Agree with the concern about Schmitt. She’s been very hit or miss on relays over the past few years. The 200 free individual comes before this relay in the schedule though, so the coaches should be able to gauge how she’s performing before making the final call.

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  HOYA13
1 month ago

Allison Schmitt can always swim the heats of the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay as a precaution as was the case at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships.

Jonathankkh
Reply to  Eddie
1 month ago

Totally agree on Schmitt being very inconsistent. She can swim a decent individual race or even put up a nice split in relay prelims and then drop a 1:58 in the final like what has happened the last few years.

AnEn
1 month ago

Germany is in 5th place based on individual times, they are closer to Canada than Canada is to China in 3rd. Russia is in 6th place, almost 4 seconds behind Germany. 7th and 8th places belong to Japan and Hungary. Interestingly the gap between Australia in first and the US in second is as big as the gap between the US in second and Germany in 5th (The US is as close to Australia as Germany is to the US, based on individual times this year). Thanks to the absence of multiple nations that could have made the final (GB, Netherlands, Sweden), it probably won’t take a super fast time to final, 7:52 (average of 1:58) should definitely be enough… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by AnEn
AnEn
1 month ago

Why didn’t you use the best times this year for all athletes? I think Ledecky went 1:54.40 this year already.
Also: Not sure why you would a 2019 split for China but not for the other nations. I think you should use the 4th fastest flat start time this year for China instead (1:57.83).

Last edited 1 month ago by AnEn
Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  AnEn
1 month ago

Best times is not an apples to apples comparison.

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
1 month ago

Women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay

AUS (2021 Hancock Prospecting Australian Swimming Trials)
Titmus, Ariarne – 1:53.09
McKeon, Emma – 1:54.74
Wilson, Madison – 1:55.68
Neale, Leah – 1:56.08
Total – 7:39.59

USA (2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials)
Ledecky, Katie – 1:55.11
Schmitt, Allison – 1:56.79
Madden, Paige – 1:56.80
McLaughlin. Katie – 1:57.16
Total – 7:45.86

CHN (2021 Chinese National Championships)
Yang, Junxuan – 1:54.57
Li, Bingjie – 1:56.64
Zhang, Yufei – 1:57.22
Tang, Muhan – 1:57.83
Total – 7:46.26

CAN (2021 Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials)
McIntosh, Summer – 1:56.19
Oleksiak, Penelope – 1:57.24
Smith, Rebecca – 1:57.76
Savard,… Read more »

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

Madden, McLaughlin, Ledecky will be faster and add in (Smoliga or Sims for final 1:56+) Paige, McLaughlin will most likely be 1:55 in finals relay.

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

With Taylor Ruck toast for CAN, the battle for the silver medal will most likely be USA vs CHN. Greg Meehan better not screw up the relays for Team USA.

Coach
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
1 month ago

I read that Ruck was sick right now (at Trials), so it’s hard to predict with her. She was so solid coming out of high school.

Afrikanman
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
1 month ago

USA has become too consumed with equity and social reform to swim this really like REAL WOMEN!

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

7:41.5 WR
You’d expect Australia to slice 2 secs at less off that mark.

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

The Canadians are definitely much more interesting than their aggregate time suggests.

Oleksiak is a relay monster. McIntosh is just 14, so a big drop wouldn’t be too surprising for her.

Can see no way past the Aussies of course. They have the star swimmer in Titmus and the insane depth, all four of their swimmers are faster than every non-Ledecky American (or every non-Yang Chinese). The Aussies can be off their game, and still win this relay comfortably.

Canuswim

Oleksiak spilt 1:54 on relay 2019 world. Even if Ruck gets back down to 1:55/6 flying start could be very interesting for silver.

oxyswim
Reply to  Canuswim
1 month ago

What evidence do we have recently that Ruck can get down to that level again? I’d be thrilled if she did, but the times this year haven’t shown that as a possibility.

Khachaturian
1 month ago

and so the speculation, the so called hype phase has begun for the olympics

ooo
Reply to  Khachaturian
1 month ago

Honestly this is way more interesting than the Olympics proper

Torchbearer
Reply to  Khachaturian
1 month ago

That started the day after the Rio swimming finished!

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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