Relay Roundup: Women’s 4×200 Freestyle Relay Split Breakdown

The U.S. women struck gold in the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay last night, behind a steady trio of 1:56’s followed by a blistering anchor leg from Katie Ledecky.  Here’s a breakdown of how it happened:

GOLD: United States – 7:43.03

Allison Schmitt – 1:56.21
Leah Smith – 1:56.69
Madeline Dirado – 1:56.39
Katie Ledecky – 1:53.74

For the third time this week, the U.S. coaching staff went off the board and used a reserve/non-Trials swimmer in a relay final, and for the third time, it paid off. Maya Dirado earned her first gold medal tonight (giving her one of each color for the week) with a critical 1:56.39 third leg to hang close enough with Australia for Katie Ledecky to do her thing. Ledecky didn’t have an otherworldly anchor leg (by her standards, anyway; her 1:53.74 essentially matches her best flat start time), but considering she was safely in front just past the 100 mark, it was more than enough.

The opening half of the American relay tonight was a bit slower than expected, but Allison Schmitt and Leah Smith did their jobs.  Schmitt had a semi-breakthrough yesterday morning with a 1:55.95 prelims leadoff, and while she didn’t quite match it, she swam a smart race, and didn’t let the rabbits in the heat distract her.

SILVER: Australia – 7:44.87

Leah Neale – 1:57.95
Emma McKeon – 1:54.64
Bronte Barratt – 1:55.81
Tamsin Cook – 1:56.47

Last night was a brilliant turnaround last night for Australia, with the women’s relay serving as the icing on the cake.  Leah Neale didn’t have the best leadoff, swimming nearly a second slower than she was earlier in the week, but the final three legs were what the Aussies needed.  Emma McKeon brought the quartet to the front at the halfway mark, and Bronte Barratt extended her lead over Maya Dirado for the U.S.

The hero, though, was Tamsin Cook, a 17-year-old first-time Olympian who held off fellow teenager Penny Oleksiak for the silver medal.  Cook is no stranger to international competition (she’s the Junior Worlds champion in the 400 freestyle), but this was her first big-time Olympic swim, and she split a full 1.5 seconds under her best flat-start

BRONZE: Canada – 7:45.39

Katherine Savard – 1:57.91
Taylor Ruck – 1:56.18
Brittany Maclean – 1:56.36
Penny Oleksiak – 1:54.94

The Canadians are continuing to pour it on, with their youngsters leading the way.  Taylor Ruck put together a great second leg (her best flat start is 1:57.87) to push Canada from sixth up to third, and Penny Oleksiak swam the fourth-fastest split in the entire field to pull away from China.  Brittany MacLean also deserves a shoutout for coming back off a reported illness to split over a half-second under her lifetime best time.

 4TH: China – 7:47.96

Duo Shen – 1:56.30
Yanhan Ai – 1:57.79
Jie Dong – 1:57.15
Yuhan Zhang – 1:56.72

On paper, the Chinese really should have competed for the silver medal.  Duo Shen (personal best of 1:55.25 from earlier this week) and Yanhan Ai (best of 1:56.46) were well off expectations.  Yuhan Zhang beat her best time on the anchor leg, but couldn’t hang with Penny Oleksiak to stay in medal contention.

5TH: Sweden – 7:50.26

Michelle Coleman – 1:56.20
Ida Marko-Varga – 1:59.46
Sarah Sjostrom – 1:54.88
Louise Hansson – 1:59.72

Michelle Coleman had a gutsy leadoff leg, and Sarah Sjostrom gave it her all (even with her crazy event schedule), but the Swedes just didn’t have the depth to win a medal.  Ida Marko-Varga had a solid swim relative to her capabilities, but it’s tough to contend with a 1:59.5 on your relay.  Louise Hansson was quite a bit slower than her best, but was in no [wo]man’s land over her final 100.

6TH: Hungary – 7:51.03

Zsuzsanna Jakabos – 1:58.90
Ajna Kesely – 1:58.74
Boglarka Kapas – 1:57.65
Katinka Hosszu – 1:55.74

Much like Sweden, the Hungarians don’t have great third or fourth options, so they’re spotting other teams multiple seconds over those two legs.  Interestingly, the Hungarian coaching staff elected to put their two slowest legs up front, effectively taking themselves out of the race before anybody even hit the pool.  It also doesn’t help that Zsuzsanna Jakabos (best of 1:58.11) and Ajna Kesely (best of 1:57.96) were slower than expected.

7TH: Russia – 7:53.26

Veronika Popova – 1:57.52
Viktoriia Andreeva – 1:58.10
Daria Ustinova – 1:59.54
Arina Openysheva – 1:58.10

Missed opportunity for the Russians.  All four legs were pretty weak, relative to their respective best times.  Veronika Popova was a 1:55.93 at Russian Nationals (though she was slower in the individual 200 this week), Viktoriia Andreeva has been 1:57.35, and Daria Ustinova has been 1:58.31.

8TH: Japan – 7:56.76

Chihiro Igarashi – 1:57.85
Sachi Mochida – 2:02.00
Tomomi Aoki – 1:58.66
Rikako Ikee – 1:58.25

Matching their 8th place finish in the women’s 400 freestyle relay, the Japanese suffered last night from a combination of lack of firepower and sub-par swims.  Sachi Mochida was puzzlingly bad; if you factor in a relay start, she was around 4.5 seconds off her time from Japanese Nationals in April.

Top 10 splits:

  1. 1:53.74 – Katie Ledecky – USA
  2. 1:54.64 – Emma McKeon – Australia
  3. 1:54.88 – Sarah Sjostrom – Sweden
  4. 1:54.94 – Penny Oleksiak – Canada
  5. 1:55.74 – Katinka Hosszu – Hungary
  6. 1:55.81 – Bronte Barratt – Australia
  7. 1:56.18 – Taylor Ruck – Canada
  8. 1:56.20 – Michelle Coleman – Sweden
  9. 1:56.21 – Allison Schmitt – USA
  10. 1:56.30 – Duo Shen – China

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Swimmer girls

“Top 10 splits”– but you are equating lead off flat starts and relay starts. Allison Schmitt was 2nd by just .01. Actually, you’re title should read “ALLISON SCHMITT” leads US Women to relay win”


Schmitt had a strong swim, but it was slower than the morning and Katie Ledecky won that relay for the U.S. She had the fastest split in the race and had she duplicated Schmitt’s time (even with a relay start) the U.S. would not have won.

samuel huntington

what? Ledeckcy was over 2 seconds faster than Schmitt, she led US to victory


Thanks for recognizing anothe good decision by US coaches by putting Dorado on the relay. Not only do they deliver gold medals but they make the comments section on this site quite lively.

Still Shaking Our Heads

Big difference between the men’s and women’s relay. We purposely left off a relay only legitimate qualifier with a history of come through performances in addition to being faster in the morning. Lots of well deserved gold for many people, but a USOC (undeniable snubbing of Conger) moment that will continue to haunt coaches and swimmers everywhere.


Article about Amanda Weir being replaced by Vollmer:


This is sad. I read in some place Dana admitted butterfly race is more important to her, so I thought they will put her at the prelims. The coaches are doing so much wrong at the relays line up! I don’t know about others, to me GOLD is not EVERYTHING. FAIR, PARTICIPATE, RESPECT are! Men’s 4×200 makes me extremely sad, look how four of them biting that gold medal. Phelps was extremely happy, think about how Conger will feels about it. Bowman said after Phelps 200 fly semi was faster than London, they knew he could handle the double. So the day before the relay, the final spots was already decided open for just 1 swimmer. Did four of the… Read more »

Zika Ziki

Bobo says gold medal is everything, and the coaches job is to deliver gold medals.



NC Swim Fan

This is not summer league. They do not hand out participation ribbons. They hand out medals. And for American relays, if you’re not first, you’re last. Feelings be damned. True that nobody remembers you if you were only a prelims swimmer. But if you’re off the podium, you’re remembered for all the wrong reasons.


The only problem with your argument is that Wier swam faster than Vollmer

NC Swim Fan

I was not really even discussing that exact situation. I was responding to DINO’s argument that relays should be about something other than Gold medals. That statement could not be less accurate for Americans. He said “The coaches are doing so much wrong with the relays.” That’s just not true. Vollmer might have been about .10 slower than Weir, but obviously the decision was made before the swim, so it’s not like they said, “welp, Dana is swimming a little bit slower, let’s throw her in there anyways because we feel like it.” No, they thought Dana was going to outperform, so that was their decision. And who knows, maybe Weir would have underperformed at night after a morning swim.… Read more »


In counterpoint:

Conger went faster than Lochte.
Ervin went faster than Held.
Weir went faster than Volmer.

So, their track record is basically 50-50. Given that NONE of these choices seems to have affected the outcome, maybe they should have just gone by the numbers to have the process be fair.

I say this as a fan of Held, who I was happy to see on the finals 4×100 relay.

Eddie Rowe

The coaching staff has a prime directive: win Gold. Prelim swimmers got their shot in prelims, and they get their medal from finals. Swimming in finals is fun, of course, but team-before-self should mean the swimmers themselves should also gracefully accept the coaches’ decision on relay lineups.


A decision that those coaches don’t even bother to explain to the swimmer.
I get it, Olympics is a mess, everyone is busy doing their stuff.
But they got 8 coaches(plus a team director 🙂 ), send one of them to talk to Amanda isn’t that hard.

Eddie Rowe

Oh Absolutely, someone should have talked to Amanda. And the director shouldn’t be part of it because of the appearance of political impropriety.


First of all Ledecky didn’t swim the prelims…..please gets your fact straight. Where is the double standard?!?! Second, have you ever coach swimming or have been involved in the sport when making relay decisions? I hate when non-coaches have no idea about the decision process. Third, Jack Conger got a gold medal same as Phelps. You are making SPECULATION that Conger feels unhappy. You have no idea if he gave up his spot for Lochte or Phelps or better yet the coaches made a decision to put Lochte and Phelps on that relay because they both have a PROVEN TRACK RECORD of World Championship and Olympic Championship in the 200 free. So please stop saying Conger feels unhappy! Fourth, Where… Read more »


Sorry for the waiting, I was tried to find the article, they are so hard to find.

It came, according to Marsh, when Dana Vollmer, the sixth finisher in the 100 at trials, told the U.S. coaches a week ago she preferred to concentrate Saturday on the 100 butterfly, in which Vollmer is reigning Olympic champion.

FYI, the double standard I said was Ledecky swam prelims and final for 4×100 free, DiRado went directly to the final of 4×200 free.


I appreciate your sympathy and empathy. But, personally, if I’m on a team, I want the team to be as successful as possible. Even if that means the pain of being left off a relay. I would imagine that our national team swimmers feel the same way. This isn’t really about who stands on the podium and gets that individual glory. It’s about putting together a team to represent our country. As I see it, the coaches have made some hard decisions. But those decisions have resulted in success for the team.


That was a really good article. SwimSwam should think about purchasing the rights to it as they have done with so many other articles recently and post it on here. The decision is much like the one they made for Phelps over Conger. My thoughts are that maybe NBC had some say in this decision.


Just like NBC made sure superstar Missy Franklin swam the 800 FR final . . . oh wait.


Who else was in that relay? A former Olympic gold medalist in this event with an amazing backstory of overcoming adversity, the bronze medalist from the 400 free, the 200 IM bronze and 400 IM silver medalist and KL… There was some pretty good story lines for NBC without Franklin, who was “under-performing” to their standards by not making the finals in her individual event.

Attila the Hunt

Wow. I feel sorry for Amanda.
No podium for her.
Meanwhile, Volmer has had twice podium visit, and will be on 4×100 medley podium again.

This is all poor judgement by the coaches.

I think this is insightful:
“After Australia’s swim, maybe they got that taste of gold. If we have the swims of our life, maybe it can happen. I worry that the taste for gold clouded the decisions of the people in charge at the expense of the integrity of our Olympic Trials and why our sport is fair.”


Actually, If the decision was made because the coaching staff was “chasing gold” then it means they made the decision for the right reason: To put the fastest relay on the blocks. That’s their job. Are you saying they should have chased silver so that nobody had their feelings hurt? I will agree it was a difficult and controversial decision — but nowhere in that article does it discuss Vollmer’s in-season 53.5 flat start. That was obviously a relevant factor in the decision.


The way I read it was that once they saw that Australia swam slowly in the prelim, they suddenly thought they had a chance at gold that had not been there before. And, this resulted in them making an emotional decision that wasn’t very objective.

About Morgan Priestley

Morgan Priestley

A Stanford University and Birmingham, Michigan native, Morgan Priestley started writing for SwimSwam in February 2013 on a whim, and is loving that his tendency to follow and over-analyze swim results can finally be put to good use. Morgan swam competitively for 15+ years, primarily excelling in the mid-distance freestyles. While …

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