James Guy’s Fly Improvements Could Be Trouble For U.S. Medley Relay

As we’ve already covered, Great Britain’s James Guy has been on point the last three days at the Japan Open in Tokyo. In particular his butterfly, which has seen some big drops this season. On day 1, he equalled his 200m best time in 1:55.91. Then, after an impressive 3:46.6 400 free on day 2, he threw down a PB of 51.50 in the 100 fly on the 3rd and final day.

With the British team competing in Tokyo coming off a training camp, the strong swims came as a bit of a surprise to Guy.

Though it’s hard to imagine fly ever being anything more than a secondary stroke for Guy, especially considering he’s the reigning 200 free world champ, his vast improvements this year are a great sign for Great Britain’s medley relay.

The Brits have a very sizeable advantage over the rest of the world on the breaststroke leg with generational talent Adam Peaty, so if the other three legs can see some slight improvements from last summer they could dethrone the almighty Americans.

The Americans have never lost the medley relay in Olympic competition, but Great Britain gave them a good run last year. They led at the halfway mark after a devastating 56.59 split from Peaty, and were within four tenths of the U.S. going into the final leg, but ultimately finished 1.3 behind them after a classic anchor leg from American veteran Nathan Adrian.

Last year at the British Championships Guy went 52.15 in the 100 fly, and then got down to 51.78 at the Olympics. At the British Championships this year he went 51.52, and just bettered that coming off training camp, so it’s fair to assume he’ll be his best yet in Budapest. Of course this is far from a certainty, but it does beg the question, what will the impact be in the men’s medley relay?

Guy’s improvement isn’t the only change from last year on the fly leg either, as America’s go-to guy on the third leg Michael Phelps is now retired. There are a few candidates to take over for Phelps on the US team, but the most likely is Tom Shields, who was on the relay in 2015 when Phelps was suspended and actually beat Phelps at the 2014 US Nationals.

To try and keep things as cut and dry as possible, we’ll analyze the two teams using their best flat-start swim from either 2016 or 2017 (strictly 2017 wouldn’t be fair as the U.S. have yet to have their Trials).


Great Britain
Ryan Murphy (51.85) Chris Walker-Hebborn (53.54)
Cody Miller (58.87) Adam Peaty (57.13)
Tom Shields (51.20) James Guy (51.50)
Nathan Adrian (47.72) Duncan Scott (47.90)
3:29.64 3:30.07

Of course, there are plenty of variables that we can’t accurately take into account. It’s not uncommon for Adrian to drop a sub-47 relay anchor. It’s impossible to say if and how much Guy and Duncan Scott will improve come Worlds. Will Chris Walker-Hebborn be within two seconds of Ryan Murphy? He was only 54.24 at British Trials.

And of course, U.S. Trials haven’t even happened so we’ll have a better idea of where the swimmers are this year (and who will be swimming, Cody Miller and Shields aren’t sure things).

With so many different possibilities in this race were not even gonna approach the subject of predictions, at least until we see what happens in Indianapolis, but it’s safe to say the race will be fun and probably closer than it was in Rio.



In This Story

Leave a Reply

18 Comment threads
29 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
35 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

If they had a backstroker who could break 54


Elaborating on that how is it that Britain has a 47 100freestyler a 57.1 100 breaststroke a 51 mid flyer and the best they can scrounge up is a 54.24 100 backstroker the US had 4 people sub 53 at trials and plenty more under 54 Michael Taylor was 53.77. Do they just not have any coaches who know how to develop backstrokers because even for a country 1/5 the size of the US this seems bad


Barring the anomaly of the USA, who has the requisite depth of high quality swimmers at any given time to be able to cover off most strokes/distances, a country’s relative strength in a particular stroke/disciple tends to go in cycles. You may have a period of time where there may be a dominant figure/pairing or even a grouping of intl class performers in a particular stroke/discipline. The flipside to this usually is that this has the negative effect of “scaring off the competition” domestically for the next generation to come through, sometimes even longer if these figures remain on the scene for more than 2 Olympic cycles


With respect, he can break 54. He can break 53. The question is, will he, not can he. I suspect the answer is not a chance.

ct swim fan

Putting Cody Miller anywhere near that Medley Relay is a mistake unless multiple people using underwater video can confirm that he is legal when swimming in the trials.

Distance Swimmer

Give it a rest dude, you comment this on everything Miller is mentioned in…get a life.

IMs for days

His stroke just isn’t breast though, his fert comeout of the water, and he dolphin kicks every stroke. It doesn’t matter anyway vecause peaty will probably outsplit the U.S breastroke by at least 2 seconds regardless of who swims


Bringing your legs back up to the surface isn’t classified as a dolphin kick and according to FINA, your feet are permitted to come out of the water. Coming third at the Olympics must mean that he’s Breaststroke is efficient and legal enough.


We reeeeeally need a breaststroker who can split a 58 low. That way Murphy’s lead over CWH won’t be entirely vaporized. Cordes has done it before. Maybe Licon has a chance, he’s done 49.7 split in yards. Possibly Andrew if he’s progressed enough…Miller is way too much of a risk. Plus he split 59.0 after going 58.7 individually.

Fly is the wild card. Guy is probably good for 51.00 split or slightly faster. We really need somebody to exceed expectations in the 100 fly. Conger is probably the best bet. Shields has probably maxed out at this point at 50 mid. Maybe dressel if he tries fly….


Kordes can do it, I believe in him


Good komment.

Swim Chick

Could Dressel possibly fill in on fly? I’m not sure where he’s at in LCM, but if maybe he could progress on his SCY 100 fly..


I wouldn’t want this unless Dressel was significantly faster than Shields individually. Shields shows up for relays, Dressel’s splits are often underwhelming (or actually slower) compared to his individual times.


While I know this won’t help us this summer, I honestly would love to see Lochte focus on the 100 fly. He’s been a 51.4 in the past and I feel like if he really focused on that and cut out the 400 IM, 200 Back, 200 Free (except a relay) he could have a shot in 2020.


Lochte is done

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

Read More »