Men’s 400 Free Relay: US Has an Easy Choice, What’s Russia to Do?


The British men missed out on the final of the men’s 400 free relay on Day 2 of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Oympics. While this was the weakest of the three men’s free relays, they certainly had a chance at a medal – enough so that they held Joe Litchfield out of the 100 backstroke to focus on this race.

That ultimately proved to be the wrong decision, but had they used, say, Duncan Scott in that slot, we’d still have seen a significant miss: the team that was just .03 ahead of Great Britain, in 8th, are heavy gold medal contenders Russia.

It was the Italians who stole the show in the morning for the top seed, while the Americans took care of business and have left their coaches with a much easier decision than the women did earlier in the meet.


Italy Prelims
Substitutions (flat start best)
Alessandro Miressi – 47.46
Thomas Ceccon – 48.14
Santo Condorelli – 47.90
Lorenzo Zazzeri – 47.29
Manuel Frigo – 47.64
Time – 3:10.29

There is a lot for the Italians to be excited about here, especially the 47.29 leading split from Lorenzo Zazzeri, who grew famous during the pandemic for his art as much as his swimming.

The team has one swap to make, bringing in Thomas Ceccon after the 100 back prelims, but with Santo Condorelli swimming well – it’s not totally clear cut as it might have seemed on paper. I still suspect that move will happen, but it’s at least a gamble.

Miressi is locked in, missing the Italian Record by just .01 on the leadoff leg.

United States:

USA Prelims Substitutions
Brooks Curry – 48.84
Caeleb Dressel – 47.39
Blake Pieroni – 47.71
Bowen Becker – 47.59
Zach Apple – 47.19
Time – 3:11.33

The Americans have left coaches with a rather easy to decision to make for finals. With no “non 100 freestylers” really in serious consideration here, and the 6th-place finisher from Trials Ryan Held being left home because of roster limit rules, this is a straight-forward swap: Caeleb Dressel jumps in for Brooks Curry on the leadoff leg and uses his electric start to get the Americans off to an early lead.

It feels, based on this order, that the US coaches knew this was coming, and got their order prepped for where they wanted it. This continues the improbable run of Bowen Becker to a likely Olympic podium. He was retired and bussing tables in a restaurant earlier this year, and is now going to be swimming for Olympic gold.


Australia Prelims Substitutions
Cam McEvoy – 49.18
Matthew Temple – 48.32
Zac Incerti – 47.54
Alexander Graham – 48.44
Kyle Chalmers – 46.63
Time – 3:11.89

Cam McEvoy continues to struggle to follow-up on his 47.04, but he did enough to get the team to finals. This is not a great men’s relay field, luckily for the Australians, and with the Brits out and Russia struggling, they might be able to absorb that Alexander Graham 48.44 if repeated in finals.

They’ve got one swap to make, Matthew Temple, which probably holds them in a strong medal position, but it will be down to Graham to find another few tenths if they want to do better than that. It’s worth acknowledging that his flat-start best is 48.65, done at Trials earlier this year, so that isn’t a direct criticism of him – he had a good swim by his own standard – but it looks like maybe the Australians are a leg short of contending for gold – even with that huge anchor leg for Chalmers.


France Prelims Substitutions
Clement Mignon – 48.58
Maxime Grousset – 47.41
Charles Rihoux – 48.27
Mehdy Metella – 48.09
Time – 3:12.35

The French relay did well, and avoided the disappointment that their women had to not final on the first chunk of the meet.

Rihoux’s split was big – .54 seconds faster than his best flat-start time from June – and Grousset’s was too – .48 better than his best flat-start time from June.

Mignon was flat, though, and Metella is still not back to where he was pre shoulder injury.

There’s one gamble available for the French: using their 50 freestyle ace Florent Manaudou in finals. He has been 47.9, but 48.58 from June’s Trials is his best in the last 5 years. On the one hand, it’s their best chance at a medal, on the other hand, they may not risk Manaudou’s individual 50 free chances without a surer path to medal.


Brazil Prelims Substitutions
Breno Correia – 48.67 N/A
Pedro Spajari – 48.15
Gabriel Santos – 48.43
Marcelo Chierighini – 47.43
Time – 3:12.59

Not much do be done here for Brazil. Breno Correia dropped the 200 free to focus on this race, but this is pretty much the team they’ll take into finals and about what we’ll expect based on recent results.


Hungary Prelims Substitutions
Kristof Milak – 48.56
Szebasztian Szabo – 48.44
Richard Bohus – 48.27
Nandor Nemeth – 47.46
Time – 3:12.73

Milak has been 48.00, Szabo has been 48.45 on a flat-start and 47.8 on a split, Bohus has been 47.2 on a split, and Nemeth has been 47.1 on a split. That adds up to about 2.4 seconds that they could find here, which could put them into medal contention if they chase it down. A better evening swim will also be crucial for them to build momentum for the rest of the meet.


Canada Prelims Substitutions
Brent Hayden – 48.51
Markus Thormeyer -48.71 (2019)
Josh Liendo – 47.67
Ruslan Gaziev – 49.04
Yuri Kisil – 47.78
Time – 3:13.00

Markus Thormeyer missing the semifinals of the 100 back takes the decision-making out of this for Canada – he’s now an obvious swap onto this relay for Ruslan Gaziev, who was the slow leg in prelims.

Thormeyer’s presence, depending on how he’s performing, could get the Canadians half-a-second or more. A medal is a stretch at this point, but this will be crucial to build momentum with hopes of a similar Canadian rise over the next quad to what the women saw before Rio.


Russia Prelims Substitutions
Vladislav Grinev – 48.39
Andrei Minakov – 47.48
Evgeny Rylov – 48.24
Vlad Morozov – 48.13
Ivan Girev – 48.34
Aleksandr Shchegolev – 49.13
Andrey Zhilkin 48.40
Time – 3:13.00

The team that had to be the favorite entering the meet snuck in by the skin of their teeth to the final.

Now the Russian coaches have choices. Kolsenikov comes on for Shchegolev for sure, even though Kolsenikov has a double on the 100 back semifinal (and we saw him struggle with doubles at the European Championships).

It’s a challenge for Russia, because their other ‘next choice’ is also a backstroker – there aren’t a ton of backstrokers on men’s 400 free relays globally.

So do they swap in Rylov for Grinev? And do they swap in Girev for Morozov the veteran who has split a 46.6? If the Russians don’t find some fire for the final, it might be moot anyway.

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1 month ago

Italy was impressive. US-Italy-Australia

Reply to  mara
1 month ago

I don’t know….1 change for russia and they are suddenly 2 seconds faster at 3:11.0. I see Morozov dropping a half second too to bring them down to 3:10.5. 3:09 will likely win it, so if russia is within 1.5 seconds, i imagine they get on the podium somehow…USA has the biggest advantage with an almost 2 second drop adding Dressel to the relay, putting them in the 3:09, and Italy doesnt have much they can improve, and if McEvoy can’t find improvement for the aussies, they might be out also…that would be more than enough for Russia to slip in and medal.

Reply to  jim
1 month ago

Italy has Ceccon

Reply to  jim
1 month ago

Morozov had a piano on his back the last 15m, if he swims the final the Russians have given up.

Drama King
Reply to  jim
1 month ago

What are you talking about ? Australia will definitely replace Cam with Temple.

Last edited 1 month ago by Drama King
1 month ago

I’m thinking the Aussies would swim in order Temple, Incerti, Graham then Chalmers.. McEvoy sadly out

1 month ago

I didn’t know danas rapsys was competing for Hungary as well! That must be an error right there.

Michael Andrew Wilson
1 month ago

There are 3 men’s free relays? 😳😃

1 month ago

KK going for it in the 100 back heats must mean he will just do what is necessary to get into the final. If KK and Rylov are at 47.3 and 47.0 flying start level and Grinev was maybe not going all out Russia might have a chance at fighting for the win.

What I can see is Russia out of the podium for the 4×2. Shchegolev went 49 in the relay and Girev went 1.47.1 in the 200free heats, add this to a Malyutin that seems to be off his 1.44.7 shape from Euros and you have a team that, in my opinion, will no longer fight for gold.

Relay Enthusiast
Reply to  Lopez
1 month ago

US now have a good shot at the podium in 4×2. Smith and Haas are swimming around their best times. Add in Kibler and Seliskar. Russia are way off.

I think Great Britain wins and Australia and US are in a scrap for minor medals. Russia always put up great domestic times but never win any of these relays. Even GB have won 3 men’s relays at last 3 worlds.

Casas 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Reply to  Relay Enthusiast
1 month ago

Russia actually won two 4×200 silvers in the previous two World Championships.

Drama King
Reply to  Relay Enthusiast
1 month ago

I have some good feelings about Kibler.
Those Texas swimmers are doing well at home. So , Kibler might be in his sweet spot as well.

1 month ago

Dressel improves Curry’s time by roughly 2 seconds if he’s on. Then let’s say Pieroni and Zapple can find a bit more to drop their splits down. Wouldn’t that bring us close to the WR? I think it’s 3:08.5. I know .8 between Pieroni and Zapple would be tough but the two of them should have some more to give I’m assuming.

Last edited 1 month ago by bobthebuilderrocks
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

It’s a really tough WR. Apple, Pieroni, and Becker would have to average 47.1 in addition to Dressel matching his PB (46.96) just to tie the record.

Shane Potsdam
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

So glad we won’t have to see Curry swim again. That was beyond awful.

Reply to  Shane Potsdam
1 month ago

Glad you won’t post again.

Shane Potsdam
Reply to  612
1 month ago

I won’t?

Ole 99
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

I’d love to see a sub 47 by CD, but I’m expecting 47.2. Pieroni will benefit from not being buried so far back on the start. Don’t think you can expect more from Becker/Apple.

Reply to  Ole 99
1 month ago

I gotta think Zapple’s got a 46 high in him somewhere.

Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

47.1/47.7/47.5/46.8 for USA seems quite possible

I will be beyond thrilled if CD breaks the record but his record says he won’t be quite 100% in his first swim

1 month ago

Surely you’ve got to put Ceccon in, 48.1 flat start and just smashed his backstroke PB by half a second.

1 month ago

So is dressel 46.x or more like 47.4?

His first swim isn’t always his best

Reply to  Charge
1 month ago

I think he’ll be around 47.2 and get faster from there as the meet goes on

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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