Rio 2016 Olympic Previews: Opposites Collide In Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay

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
Lilly King (100 breast, 200 breast)

Lilly King (Photo: Tim Binning)

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.

Cate and Bronte Campbell - courtesy of Swimming Australia

Cate Campbell (Photo: Swimming Australia)

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.

Sarah-Sjostrom - European Championships 2016, photo by Peter Sukenik /

Sarah-Sjostrom (Photo: Peter Sukenik)

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.

Penny Oleksiak 2016 Swimming Canada Olympic Trials.

Penny Oleksiak (Photo: Chris Tanouye)

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:

Place Team Predicted Time
1 AUS 3:53.0
2 USA 3:53.2
3 CHN 3:54.6
4 SWE 3:54.9
5 CAN 3:55.0
6 DEN 3:57.4
7 ITA 3:58.0
8 GBR 3:58.2


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5 years ago

Best 2016 times:

Women 4x100m Medley
AUS – E. Seebohm, G. Bohl, E. McKeon, C. Campbell
58.73, 1:06.12, 56.89, 52.06 – 3:53.80
USA – O. Smoliga, L. King, K. Worrell, A. Weitzeil
59.02, 1:05.20, 56.48, 53.28 – 3:53.98
CAN – K. Masse, R. Nicol, N. Thomas, P. Oleksiak
59.06, 1:06.88, 57.02, 53.31 – 3:56.27
DEN – M. Nielsen, R. Pedersen, J. Ottesen, P. Blume
58.73, 1:07.23, 56.83, 54.26 – 3:57.05
CHN – X. Wang, J. Shi, X. Chen, M. Zhu
59.82, 1:06.29, 56.82, 54.19 – 3:57.12
SWE – I. Lindborg, J. Johansson, S. Sjostrom, M. Coleman
1:01.41, 1:06.63, 55.68, 53.54 – 3:57.26
ITA – C. Zofkova, M.… Read more »

Reply to  Iain
5 years ago

Based on this, and knowing how fast Seebohm and Campbell will actually go the 3:53 flat for Australia is a understatement.. Seebohm will probably open around a 58 flat low.. C1 will swim a 51 low-mid.. even if their mid legs “at best” match their individual time.. Australia will swim a 3:52.. But I would not be surprised if they break the current WR..

Seebohm: 58,2
Bohl: 1:05:70
Mckeon: 56,0
Campbell: 51,3
Time: 3:51:20

Reply to  Rafael
5 years ago

It’s that darn free leg. It’s hard to believe that Australia has such an advantage in that freestyle leg. Between Kate Cambell in Free, and Sarah Sjostrom in fly, they are far and away better than anyone else it’s ridiculous. Other thing that’s hard to believe is how far away we are in free. I’m happy for Abby Weitzel and Simone Manuel, but man, they’re not even within a second of this girl. It’s amazing how the men dominate the medley pretty much with solid domination in the back, fly and free across years, if not, decades, with breast being solid. But our women medley can’t seem to top the world even though we’re right around the fastest

Reply to  jim
5 years ago

Don’t be gready!

Reply to  Rafael
5 years ago

I like it!
But for some weird reason I can’t “thumbs “up or down anything on this site.

Reply to  Daza
5 years ago

same. even when i hover over the thumbs up, the page jumps back to the top.

Reply to  Daza
5 years ago

I’d give you a thumbs up but I can’t. ;-o

Reply to  Iain
5 years ago

Good point on the Brits. I think they shot themselves in the foot by not bringing another flyer as SOC is clearly better off on the breaststroke. Even so, if they get it together, I think a 59.6; 1:06.5; 56.8; 52.9 is possible for a 3:55.8 which would put them right in the mixer.

Reply to  Stirlo
5 years ago

i don’t really think we have another flyer who could be in a similar shape of SMOC to cover for that. Tutton will be a 1.06 though

5 years ago

It’s a battle in 2!!!!!!!

King in da norf
5 years ago

Aussie Sheilas
American Girls

Reply to  King in da norf
5 years ago

Loving your predictions,

5 years ago

Hope the Aussie girls can put together a monster swim, especially C1 and get the WR!
Then I’d like to see

Reply to  Daza
5 years ago

Excited to see what time can Cate post while chasing an opponent. Her monster 51.5 at commonwealth games was partly due to the presence of Halsall just next to her, she was not a 52.low swimmer in 2014. So 51.1 to 51.3 seem possible to me, if she’s not too tired (in muscles and head) at the end of the meet.

Nevertheless, Weitzeil could in my opinion be faster than expected, and lose only 1 second, no more. The key of this relay would be Seebohm’s ability to put Smoliga more than 5 tenth behind her.

Of course, if Bohl or McKeon are too far from their best times, there’s no race and Australia will only battle for silver with… Read more »

5 years ago

Times will be faster, The Aussies add up to 3:53.80 just from this year, subtract 1.8 for three relay starts and you get 3:52.0, US in the same situation. The World record is tough, and probably won’t fall, but the times will be faster that 3:53.

Also don’t underestimate the power of Sweden to come back on butterfly when the U.S chokes and steal a medal 🙂

That’s a joke guys, don’t kill me

Mr. Soze
Reply to  Track
5 years ago

The 3 flying starts are worth .73 each. this person says what a great split Weitzel had but it is very close to predicted.

Reply to  Mr. Soze
5 years ago

Relay starts can take off a range of time, but .73 seconds per start would be way on the optimistic side – with most flat-start reactions times falling in the .7 range, taking off that much would assume 3 near-perfect relay exchanges. Realistically, we’re probably better off subtracting something like half a second per start

5 years ago

In all honesty, this relay is likely to go with the prevailing momentum of the meet; namely whichever team has had the better meet (on the women’s side).

USA’s potential gamechanger is King. If she is in advance of her Trials form then the US advantage on that leg can blow out significantly over a second over AUS unless Bohl has also made significant advances from Trials. IF Bohl is “off” & splitting 1.06high then its probably all over despite any heroics from McKeon & C1.

AUS does have the benefit of two gamechangers. If Seebohm IS in PB form and puts an advantage of over 0.5sec/even 0.7sec into the US backstroker then this is likely to eat sufficiently into… Read more »

Reply to  commonwombat
5 years ago

I think you have this spot on CW. It will be a great race!!! It’s going to be who has the prevailing momentum.
It’s a bit King V Cate Campbell!!!!
I think Bohl will hold her own, it’s just King has the potential to really go Boom!!!!

M Palota
5 years ago

It’s hard to imagine anyone holding off Cate Campbell. If anybody wants to beat the Ozzies, they’ll have to be at least 1.5 seconds ahead at the end of the butterfly.

The Yanks for silver and then – hoping against hope – the Canadians for bronze.

They – the Canadians – have a outstanding backstroker (Maybe 58-high?) and solid breaststroke leg. The key, I think, will be the back-end and how well Chantal, Noemi and Penny swim in their individual events. If Noemi can get under 57 and Penny can get to 53-flat (Or better.), I think they’ve got a shot!

Reply to  M Palota
5 years ago

Canada may have a chance.. China Canada and Sweden.. but if Sjostrom puts a 54 split (Not impossible) Sweden will take it..

bobo gigi
5 years ago

If the US backstroker was Missy version 2012 then I would pick USA.
But it’s not the case so I pick Australia with its monster freestyle leg.

Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

I have a feeling smoliga is gonna put together a 58.4 backstroke leg

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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