The Ongoing American Dynasty of the Women’s 800 Freestyle Relay


The women from the United States extended their reign in the 4 x 200 freestyle tonight with the all-star line up of Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith, Maya DiRado, and Katie Ledecky taking the gold medal in a time of 7:43.03. The silver medal went to the team from Australia while the bronze went to Canada, thanks to an amazing anchor leg from Penny Oleksiak (1:54.94).

The first time this relay was contested for women in the Olympics was in 1996 in Atlanta, and since then Team USA has won all but once, with their singular bronze medal coming in Beijing in 2008 where Australia took the gold and China took the silver.  Tonight’s line up from the United States featured a group of women that, individually, have collected quite an impressive amount of hardware in these Rio Games, with a total of 5 medals (2 from Ledecky, 2 from DiRado, and 1 from Smith).  Allison Schmitt, though not competing individually in Rio, was the 2012 London Olympics gold medalist in the 200 freestyle, and silver medalist in the 400 freestyle.  Schmitt earned her spot on the relay with an impressive 1:55.95 lead-off leg in the prelims this morning.

Maya DiRado was added to the relay due to her impressive record in these Rio Olympics, after taking a silver in the 400 IM and a bronze in the 200 IM.  Even though DiRado did not qualify for the relay by way of a top-6 finish at US Olympic Trials in the 200 free (she didn’t even swim it at US Trials), DiRado has been on a roll, and the coaches decided to put their faith in her to help the US get a gold in the relay.

Allison Schmitt was the only U.S. swimmer on this relay from 2012 to also swim the relay in Rio, and she led it off.  Smith went second and DiRado third, and by the time Ledecky entered the pool she was trailing Australia by a full second; however, by the time Ledecky and Australia’s anchor Tamsin Cook flipped at the 150 meter mark Ledecky was ahead by nearly a full second.

Now, of the six times that the 800 freestyle relay has been contested in the Olympics for women’s swimming, the United States has won the gold five times, or 83% of the time.

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This cover photo of Ledecky is becoming a classic.


Katie Hoff had the misfortune of being the US star in the 200 free in the one Olympics in which we didn’t win the 800 free relay. I was hoping she could comeback to at least get an alternate position in Rio and get the gold medal she deserved. Oh well, I wish her luck in her post- swimming life!

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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