Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.
I woke up this morning with the men’s 400 free relay from the night before still spinning around in my head.
There’d been a lot of build-up and hype revolving around this event in recent months, with the Russians putting in some scary swims at the World University Games, James Magnussen and the Aussies looking to avenge a fourth place finish in London, the French with an Agnel who may or may not be in peak condition, and the Americans packing serious heat in the form of defending Olympic champ in the individual event, Nathan Adrian.
Ultimately, we would see a repeat of London in several respects; the Americans fading into second place after holding the lead for much of the race, the French coming back to win on the anchor leg, and the Australians being shut out of the medals.
Here is how the race broke down for the top-4:
The Russians had been making some serious noise in this event in recent weeks, with their crushing win in the event at the recent World University Games in Kazan, Russia, as well as placing numerous swimmers in the top 8 in the world for the 100m freestyle.
At WUG all four swimmers had gotten under 48 seconds, including lead off leg Andrey Grechin, who posted the third fastest time of the year with a 47.98. Leading into Barcelona the Russian storm looked about to come crashing down on the French, Americans and Australians.
In the final Grechin swam the lead-off leg, just like he did at WUG, and touched in third behind Adrian and Magnussen. They would pull into second on the strength of Morozov’s strong third leg, but that would be as close as they would get, eventually placing third in a time of 3:11.44. With the exception of Lobintsev, each leg was slower in Barcelona.
Here is what the Russians did at WUG (in a time which would have won at Worlds), compared to what they did in Barcelona:
Andrey Grechin 47.98 48.09
Nikita Lobintsev 47.92 47.91
Vladimir Morozov 47.14 47.40
Danila Izotov 47.84 48.04
The French repeated the performance from London last year, again coming back on the final leg to out-touch the Americans. They were seemingly out of the race for the better part of three legs of the race, until Jeremy Stravius came back on the field with a 47.59.
Agnel led off with an underwhelming 48.76, while the second French swimmer, Florent Manaudou – who is better known for his 50 – split a 47.93. At midway the French were nearly a body length behind the Australians, Americans, and Russians.
A massive second half would change all of that.
Fabien Gilot, swimming third, had what turned out to be easily the quickest split of the race with a smoke-show 46.90 that got the French within striking distance. A marvelous take-over and break-out by anchor Jeremy Stravius suddenly had the French right in the thick of things, with all four teams in a line.
Another solid break-out at the 50 gave France the lead for the first time in the race, which they wouldn’t relinquish it. Stravius’ split was half a second faster than the anchors for the other three teams.
Here is how the French split the race:
Yannick Agnel 23.16 48.76
Florent Manaudou 22.91 47.93
Fabien Gilot 21.99 46.90
Jeremy Stravius 22.66 47.59
London was not a great meet for the Australian men, with their 4×100 squad favorites to win gold, they placed outside of the medals. James Magnussen would later place second in the 100m free behind Nathan Adrian, an event in which Magnussen had been the heavy favorite to win.
With a disappointing London finish, and a myriad of out-of-the-pool drama for the Aussies since then, the 4 x 100 freestyle relay provided a wonderful opportunity for their mens freestyle program to get back on track.
Magnussen’s opening leg was relatively so-so, given how fast he has been swimming the individual event this year. He split a 48-flat, which is well off the 47.5 he swam at Australian Trials.
Cameron McEvoy had a blistering second leg of 47.44 (4th fastest split of all swimmers) with an impressive 24.84 on the second half of this leg, to put the Australians into first place.
They would fall back with each subsquent swimmer, however, with Tommaso D’Orsogna and James Roberts both swimming 48.0’s to have them touch in 4th place, and just out of the medals again.
Here is how the Australians split the race:
Magnussen 22.78 48.00
McEvoy 22.60 47.44
Tommaso D’Orsogna 22.85 48.05
James Roberts 23.08 48.09
In an interview at Trials, Jimmy Feigen called it – all four Americans would have to be under 47.7 to win gold. (The French averaged 47.79.) The Americans were on the ball in the prelims, with Anthony Ervin crushing a 47.3 to secure himself a spot in the final, and giving them the fastest qualifying time to put them in lane 4 later in the evening.
Nathan Adrian started things off for the Americans in the final, paired off against James Magnussen. Adrian was out like a shot, taking a healf body length lead into the 50. He tightened up in the last 15m or so, with Magnussen and Grechin coming back on him. Similar to London, Adrian got the best of the Aussie, touching first in 47.95 to Magnussen’s 48.00.
Lochte would swim a solid 47.80 to keep the US in the gold medal hunt on the second leg, handing it over to Ervin who would again post the fastest American split in the final, swimming just a shade slower than his morning swim with a 47.44 to get the Americans back into first place.
The third leg had most of the speed in the race, with Gilot’s 46.9, Italy’s Marco Orsi’s 47.25, Ervin’s 47.44, and Morozov’s 47.40 the four fastest splits of the final. Both Ervin and Gilot were out in under 22 seconds, with Gilot turning at a 21.99, and Ervin splitting a ridiculous 21.76.
Here is how the Americans split the race:
Nathan Adrian 22.31 47.95
Ryan Lochte 22.47 47.80
Anthony Ervin 21.76 47.44
Jimmy Feigen 22.73 48.23