Medley Relay Preview: U.S. Women In Command, Men In For Close Battle

2016 RIO OLYMPIC GAMES

Unlike the freestyle relays which were full of controversy, the selections for tonight’s medley relays are fairly obvious.

The United States will, as per usual, sub-out all four of their prelim legs to give way to the swimmer who placed higher in the individual event in Rio, which earned them that spot in the final.

On the women’s side, most of the other countries won’t make any changes, as they went essentially all-in to qualify. A few will make a move or two, particularly Australia and Canada, but no one will see the turnover that the United States will have.

Given the fact the U.S. qualified 1st by over two seconds, they should win gold if all four legs execute. That will definitely be the case, but any slip-ups and there will be a few countries right there breathing down their neck.

Five of the eight teams in the final have a backstroker who has broken 59 here in Rio, so there figures to be nothing in it after the first leg. Canada’s Kylie Masse actually leads the pack after improving her Canadian record to 58.66 leading off the prelim relay, while 100 back silver and bronze medalists Kathleen Baker (58.75) of USA and Fu Yuanhui (58.76) of China (who actually tied with Masse for bronze) will be right there. With fellow 100 back finalists Emily Seebohm of Australia and Mie Nielsen of Denmark, five teams will be right in the thick of things heading to the next leg.

Breaststroke is where the separation starts to happen for the U.S., with 100m gold medalist Lilly King the fastest anyone has been here by over half a second. She should give the Americans over a full second lead, while runner-up to King in the 100 Yuliya Efimova should bring Russia back into it the battle for silver along with Canada, China, Denmark and Australia.

In the fly Canada and China are expected to break free of the pack for second, with Penny Oleksiak (56.46) and Lu Ying (56.76) both going under 57 in the individual race. The Aussies and Danish women figure to be close after fly too, but it all comes to the free between the four teams for silver. Dana Vollmer also went sub-57 in the 100 fly and will be expected to continue to lead for the U.S. by close to two seconds.

Both Denmark and Canada have their top two 100 freestylers likely doing fly, which might just give the advantage to Australia. Whether it’s Cate Campbell or Bronte Campbell on freestyle, they have the edge over the rest of the three teams they’re battling with. They both had disappointing showings in the 100 final the other night, especially Cate, but have both proven capable to go under 52 in relays (and Cate did it here in the 4×100).

The Canadians with Chantal van Landeghem and China with Zhu Menghui will look to overcome Australia for silver, but will likely battle for bronze. Denmark could be in the fight with Pernille Blume looking great in the 50 free, but Jeanette Ottesen‘s closing speed in the 100 fly (or lack thereof) may just be what keeps them off the podium. Simone Manuel should have no problem finishing the job for the Americans.

According to the math, the U.S. win easily, with Australia back over two seconds for silver and Canada and China within a tenth for bronze. If Oleksiak can pull off something insane on fly – like go sub-56 – Canada could definitely pull off the silver medal if the Aussies slip-up. Both Seebohm and Campbell have showed vulnerability here, and Canada’s van Landeghem has proven her relay ability in the past, notably running down Natalie Coughlin for gold in the 400 free relay at last year’s Pan Am Games.

But nonetheless, the Americans could add half a second each and would still add up to be the gold medalists, so the battle looks to be for silver.

Based off of strictly flat start times done here in Rio (we haven’t used any relay splits from the free relays or medley prelims to keep everything at a level playing field), here’s a look at each team’s medley add-up with the swimmer expected to be used in the final:

USA

AUSTRALIA

CANADA

CHINA

Kathleen Baker

58.75

Emily Seebohm

58.99

Kylie Masse

58.66

Fu Yuanhui

58.76

Lilly King

1:04.93

Taylor McKeown

1:06.73

Rachel Nicol

1:06.68

Shi Jinglin

1:06.31

Dana Vollmer

56.56

Emma McKeon

56.81

Penny Oleksiak

56.46

Lu Ying

56.76

Simone Manuel

52.70

Cate Campbell

52.71

Chantal van Landeghem

53.89

Zhu Menghui

53.98

3:52.94

3:55.24

3:55.69

3:55.81

DENMARK

RUSSIA

GREAT BRITAIN

ITALY

Mie Nielsen

58.80

Anastasia Zueva

59.68

Georgia Davies

59.35

Carlotta Zofkova

1:01.42

Rikke Moller Pedersen

1:06.58

Yuliya Efimova

1:05.50

Chloe Tutton

1:06.88

Arianna Castiglioni

1:07.32

Jeanette Ottesen

57.15

Svetlana Chimrova

58.41

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor

58.01*

Ilaria Binachi

58.48

Pernille Blume

54.15

Veronika Popova

54.60

Georgia Coates

55.55*

Federica Pellegrini

54.18*

3:56.68

3:58.19

3:59.79

4:01.40

*Siobhan-Marie O’Connor didn’t swim the individual 100 fly, nor did Georgia Coates or Federica Pellegrini do the 100 free. Their times have been taken from the prelim medley relay and adjusted for a typical flat-start reaction time (0.72). Worth noting is that Great Britain could sub-in Francesca Halsall on free (though she has the 50 free final beforehand).

On the men’s side the Americans lead the pack as well, but it’s much closer than the women’s.

As with the women the Americans will switch out all four legs from prelims, while most of the other teams will make one or two changes, if any. The Russians may also change out all four legs, as their fastest individual swimmer in each 100m race did not do the prelims. They may keep 200 breast bronze medalist Anton Chupkov in the lineup over Vsevolod Zanko, but will likely switch out back, fly and free (Zanko was their top breaststroker so he remains in our projections, but if Chupkov came in his adjusted split from the prelim relay would be about six one-hundredths faster than Zanko’s best flat start time here).

Backstroke is the stroke where the U.S. has the most distinct advantage, so they’ll need to take full advantage on the opening leg.

Ryan Murphy won the 100 back by nearly half a second over Australia’s Mitch Larkin, and only the Chinese (Xu Jiayu) and the Russians (Evgeny Rylov) have someone else who was within one second of Murphy’s 51.97 here.

Great Britain will storm back in the breaststroke, with Adam Peaty coming off his devastating world record win in the 100 breast. Cody Miller of the U.S. won bronze in that race and will do the job for the Americans to keep it about even with the Brits. Australia, China and Japan will be expected to be fighting for third at that point, but at least one second behind.

Fly is the other leg the Americans lead the pack with Michael Phelps, and despite his performance last night not being as fast as he would’ve wanted (over half a second slower than last year), he is still the fastest among anyone in this field. Only China’s Li Zhuhao (51.26) has been within half a second of Phelps’ swim from last night (51.14).

With that, the Americans should be up by at least half a second on Great Britain, with China potentially moving past Australia into bronze medal territory.

Duncan Scott will go in behind Nathan Adrian on freestyle, which should be lights out for Britain’s chances at gold. Adrian was two tenths faster than Scott in the 100m final, and was another eight tenths faster than that anchoring the American 400 free relay early in the meet. Scott is young and improving rapidly, though, so he could provide some theatrics if everything comes together.

Individual gold medalist Kyle Chalmers will be expected to clinch bronze by out-splitting 2015 World Champion Ning Zetao of China. Russia and Japan look to be close for 5th.

Here’s a look at the final projections for the men’s race:

USA

GREAT BRITAIN

AUSTRALIA

CHINA

Ryan Murphy

51.97

Chris Walker-Hebborn

53.54

Mitch Larkin

52.43

Xu Jiayu

52.31

Cody Miller

58.87

Adam Peaty

57.13

Jake Packard

59.26

Li Xiang

59.55

Michael Phelps

51.14

James Guy

51.78

David Morgan

51.75

Li Zhuhao

51.26

Nathan Adrian

47.83

Duncan Scott

48.01

Kyle Chalmers

47.58

Ning Zetao

48.37

3:29.81

3:30.46

3:31.02

3:31.49

JAPAN

RUSSIA

BRAZIL

GERMANY

Ryosuke Irie

53.21

Evgeny Rylov

52.74

Guilherme Guido

53.80

Jan-Philip Glania

53.86

Yasuhiro Koseki

58.91

Vsevolod Zanko

59.91

Joao Gomes

59.31

Christian vom Lehn

1:00.13

Takuro Fujii

52.36

Alexander Sadovnikov

51.71

Henrique Martins

52.42

Steffen Deibler

52.14

Katsumi Nakamura

47.99

Vladimir Morozov

48.26

Marcelo Chierighini

48.23

Damian Wierling

48.35

3:32.47

3:32.62

3:33.76

3:34.48

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POP

If GB can go 53.1 or below in the backstroke they win

swimdoc

Until Phelps is finished with his leg.

Captain Awesome

It’d still take more than that. And we don’t have much chance of CWH doing that anyway, his form is way off this year.

Iain

On GB – Chloe Tutton swam 1:06.88 in the breaststroke heats, so quicker than 0.41

Fran Halsall is pretty much certain to be subbed in

HaggisBasher

This ‘could’ be incredibly close… But requires a slip up from one of the US lads and some improved individual to relay splits from GB!! Heart says GB, head says US!!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James is currently a university swimmer for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He is studying economics. Along with swimming, he also loves hockey. He's in his 14th season as a competitive swimmer. Best Times - SCM (LCM) 50 FR - 24.56 (25.12) 100 FR - 53.58 (56.70) 200 FR - 1:56.07 (2:04.29) 1500 …

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