Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay
- 2012 Olympic Champion: USA (Franklin, Soni, Vollmer, Schmitt), 3:52.05
- 2015 World Champion: China (Yuanhui, Jinglin, Ying, Duo), 3:54.41
- World Record (2012): USA (Franklin, Soni, Vollmer, Schmitt), 3:52.05
After missing the podium in this race at the 2015 FINA World Championships, the defending Olympic champions from Team USA will be pushed hard in their attempt at 400 medley relay redemption in Rio. The U.S. will send out a group of fresh faces this time around, with the possible exception of Dana Vollmer, who is the defending Olympic champ in the 100 fly. Vollmer has been sub-57 this season, but finished 2nd at trials to newcomer Kelsi Worrell, who will likely swim in finals of the relay unless Vollmer is faster in the 100 fly event. The rest of the relay will likely include Olivia Smoliga, Lilly King, and Abbey Weitzeil, after each won their respective events at trials.
King is the fastest 100 breaststroker in the world this season after clocking a 1:05.20 to win the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, and Worrell’s 56.48 in the 100 fly at Trials makes her 2nd in the World. With those two in the middle, the 2nd and 3rd legs are arguably Team USA’s strongest weapons as they look to defend Team USA’s Olympic title, but the Americans are far from weak at the bookends as well. At Trials, Smoliga swam a personal best 59.02 in the 100 back for 4th in the world this year, and Weitzeil also clocked a new best time with her 53.28 in the 100 free.
One of the biggest threats for gold in this race is the Australian team, which is almost the inverse of the American team in terms of strengths. The big advantages for the Australians will come on the opening and closing legs. In backstroke, they have the fastest woman in the world this year in Emily Seebohm, who posted a 58.73 at the 2016 Australian Championships. They also have the fastest 100 freestyler ever with Cate Campbell, who set a new World Record with a 52.06 at the Australian Grand Prix just last month.
Though Campbell could conceivably run down anyone at the end of this race, the Aussies will need to put together a strong middle portion. Taking over that part of the relay will be breaststroker Georgia Bohl and butterflier Emma McKeon, who each sit 5th in the world in their respective stroke 100s this year. Their biggest challenge will likely be holding off King on the breast leg, where she’s been about a second faster than Bohl so far. On the fly leg, Worrell also has a slight edge over McKeon at the moment, swimming about a half a second faster than the Aussie this season. But if those two can hold their own, Australia is likely golden, as Campbell could realistically be a second or more faster than any potential American anchor.
The defending World Champions from China will look to return to the top of the podium this summer, but will not bring their fastest 100 freestyler of the year, Qiu Yiuhan. They still have a strong relay anchor in Shen Duo, who helped them to gold at 2015 Worlds. Joining her for the relay will be Fu Yuanhui, Shi Jinglin, and Chen Xinyi, giving them almost the same lineup as last summer, with the exception of the fly leg, which Xinyi appears set to swim instead of Lu Ying.
Sweden and Denmark are top 5 threats in this race after placing 2nd and 5th, respectively, in the 2015 World Championship final. Sarah Sjostrom is a big asset for the Swedes – she’s far and away the best flyer in the field and outpaces the rest of the fly legs by a wider margin than the best swimmers in any other stroke. Sjostrom is the World Record holder in the 100 fly, and the fastest woman of 2016. On top of a stellar fly leg, they’ve also got a great sprint breaststroker, Jennie Johansson, who split a 1:05 on their relay last season, and anchor Louise Hansson, who split 53-mid to help them to silver. With a possible tight race for the podium spots coming up, Hansson will probably need to show some improvement on the free leg. To win, they’d need to have someone swim under a minute on the backstroke leg, but Sjostrom has also been their fastest backstroker this year with a 1:00.49. Michelle Coleman will likely take over on back, as her season best 1:01.18 is their 2nd fastest.
The Danish squad also has a top swimmer in the world this season in Mie Nielsen, who swam a 58.73 at the 2016 European Championships to tie with Emily Seebohm at #1 in the world. Another top 5 swimmer, Jeanette Ottesen, will be joining her as the relay’s butterflier. Ottesen currently sits at #4 with her 56.83 from Europeans. The biggest challenge for Denmark will come on the breast and free legs, where they’ll send out Rikke Pedersen and Pernille Blume. They’ll need to improve from their 2016 bests to get to the podium, as Pedersen’s 100 breast has been 1:07-low this season, and Blume has been 54-low in the 100 free.
Canada, the 6th place team at 2015 Worlds, put together a team this season that should challenge for a medal. Up and comer Penny Oleksiak swam sub-57 in the 100 fly at Canadian Olympic Trials, which gave her SwimSwam’s swim of the meet recognition after Trials. She’ll join freestyler Chantal Van Landeghem, backstroker Kylie Masse, and either Kierra Smith or Rachel Nicol on the breaststroke leg, all of whom sit inside the top 20 of 2016 for their respective strokes.
The relay squads from Great Britain and Japan will push for a finals spot in Rio after both were disqualified in the final at last summer’s World Championships. Both teams will need to improve on their freestyle leg to stay competitive with the top teams. The fastest Japanese freestyler is Rikako Ikee at 53.99, but Ikee might be swimming the fly leg as she’s their fastest butterflier as well. Great Britain has a similar situation, as Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, their fastest breaststroker, is also their fastest freestyler with a 54.18 this year. Taking the free leg for their team will likely be Fran Halsall, who has a season best of 54.22.
After just missing the final in this relay at 2015 Worlds, the Italians will look for a top 8 finish in Rio. The weakest link for the Italians this year has been backstroke, where their fastest swimmer, Carlotta Zofkova, sits 61st in the world with a 1:00.70. To be competitive with the top teams, the Italians will need her to get closer to breaking the 1:00 barrier. Joining her will be Martina Carraro, Ilaria Bianchi, and Federica Pellegrini, who are all in the top 15 of their respective stroke 100s.
Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay Top 8 Predictions: