Rio 2016 Olympic Previews: Australia Chasing WR in Women’s 400 Free Relay

Women’s 4×100 Free Relay

  • 2012 Olympic Champion: Australia (Coutts, Campbell, Elmslie, Schlanger), 3:33.15
  • 2015 World Champion: Australia (Seebohm, McKeon, B. Campbell, C. Campbell), 3:31.48
  • World Record (2014): Australia (B. Campbell, Schlanger, McKeon, C. Campbell), 3:30.98
Australia's Cate and Bronte Campbell cruise into the women's 100m freestyle semi's on day 5, (courtesy of Tim Binning,

Cate and Bronte Campbell (Photo: Tim Binning)

At the last Olympics in 2012, a heated battle between Australia and the Netherlands in the women’s 4×100 free relay saw the Aussies come out on top, setting a new Olympic Record to win the race by tenths. As we head into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Australia looks dangerous to repeat and we could see a World Record go down.The Aussies dominated this race at last summer’s World Championships, coming within half a second of the World Record with their 3:31.48.

On that relay, sisters Bronte Campbell and Cate Campbell ran away with the back half, rolling to 51.77 and 52.22 splits respectively. The duo will team up again in Rio, and they’ve been looking even better this year. Just a month ahead of Rio, Cate Campbell broke the World Record in the 100 free, posting a 52.06 to clip the old record by a hundredth. As they go after the Olympic gold, we could see both sister split sub-52 to help the Aussies get to the wall first.

This year, Australia has 3 women under 53 seconds, with Cate Campbell, Bronte Campbell (52.58), and Emma McKeon (52.80) sitting 1st, 2nd, and 4th in the World Rankings. Their next fastest is Brittany Elmslie, who is currently tied at 10th in the World Rankings at 53.54. With 4 women in the top 10 this years, the Australians are, without a doubt, the favorites heading into Rio.


Ranomi Kromowidjojo (Photo: Tim Binning)

Looking to knock the Aussies from the top of the podium will be the women from the Netherlands, who were 2nd in this race in London and at the 2015 World Championships. Olympic veterans Ranomi Kromowidjojo (53.12) and Femke Heemskerk (53.72) will make the dutch women hard to beat, sitting 5th and 15th in the world this year, respectively. Kromowidjojo swam the flat start leg of the race last summer, but she’s proven herself as a valuable anchor before with a sub-52 split in London, closing the race in 51.93. Heemskerk has also posted scorching times from a rolling start, anchoring last summer’s relay with a 51.99 split to move ahead of Team USA.

The Netherlands’ medal chances depend heavily on their other two legs, which will be filled by Inge Dekker, Maud van der Meer, or Marrit Steenbergen. Van der Meer and Steenbergen swam the middle two legs of the relay at Worlds last summer, with splits of 54.50 and 53.88, respectively. To get a top 2 finish in Rio, they’ll likely have to have all 4 women swim sub-54.

Coming off a bronze at the last Olympics, Team USA will be looking to move up on the podium. This summer, Abbey Weitzeil and Simone Manuel bring fresh sprint talent to the American table, having finished in the top 2 in the 100 free at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. Weitzeil has been inching closer to the 52-mark, posting a personal best 53.28 at Trials. Manuel has a similar best of 53.25 from 2014, but her season best so far is a 53.52 from Trials.

Joining those two will be Lia Neal, Allison Schmitt, and Amanda Weir, who were all a part of this relay in London. All 3 women finished in the 53.7-53.8 range at Trials, and should be able to improve those times from a rolling start. Also on the squad will be Dana Vollmer, who swam a textile best time in the 100 free this year with a 53.59 at Charlotte PSS. The Americans have the potential to be significantly faster than they were last summer, posting a 3:34.6 with a pair of 53-highs, a 54-low, and a 53.09 anchor from Manuel.


Sarah Sjostrom (Photo: Tim Binning)

Also a medal threat in this race is the team from Sweden, which will bring in Sarah Sjostrom, Michelle Coleman, and Louisse Hansson. Sjostrom and Coleman give the team two 100 freestylers ranked in the top 10, with Sjostrom at 3rd and Coleman (53.54) tied for 10th. Sjostrom has a season-best 52.78, and rolled to a 52-low on the relay last summer. Hansson hasn’t broken 55 yet this year, but she’s proved herself as a valuable member of the relays, splitting a 53.84 on the 2nd leg at Worlds.

The big difference maker for Sweden will be their 4th swimmer, as they’ll need their next fastest member to swim at least a 54 split. Anchoring the relay at Worlds was Magdalena Kuras with a 55.04, but she won’t be on the relay as she didn’t make the roster this summer. The most viable options on the roster are Ida Marko-Varga and Ida Lindborg. Marko-Varga is their 3rd fastest so far in 2016, with a 55.14 from the Swim Open in Stockholm that puts her a couple tenths ahead of Lindborg (55.36). With 55-low flat starts, we could see either of them split sub-55 on the relay, which would go a long way in helping the Swedes to a medal.

Penny Oleksiak 2016 Swimming Canada Olympic Trials.

Penny Oleksiak (Photo: Chris Tanouye)

Also in contention for finals spots in Rio are the teams representing Canada, Italy, China, and France. Each of these 4 nations were in the final at the 2015 World Championships, with Canada leading the way in 5th. Canada will bring Chantal Van Landeghem, Michelle Williams, and Sandrine Mainville to Rio after all 3 were a part of that Worlds relay. The fresh face joining them this summer will be up and comer, Penny Oleksiak, who is the fastest Canadian this year with a 53.31 for 8th in the world rankings. Van Landeghem has also been sub-54 this season, posting a 53.91 at Canadian Olympic Trials.

The fastest French swimmer in the 100 free this season has been Charlotte Bonnet, who currently holds a season-best time of 53.80 from the Monaco stop of the Mare Nostrum tour. Bonnet will head to Rio with Beryl Gastaldello, her teammate from the Worlds relay. Gastaldello currently sits in the world’s top 30 with a 54.10 from the 2016 French Championships.

Federica Pelligrini, ITA, was top qualifier in the women's 200 freestyle semi-finals. Day 3 of 2015 World Championships. (courtesy of Tim Binning,

Federica Pelligrini, (Photo: Tim Binning)

Italy will bring in Olympic veteran Federica Pellegrini on this relay, who makes a dangerous relay weapon for the Italians as she’s currently 6th in the world with a 53.18. That time, which she swam at the Settecolli Trophy, was a new Italian National Record for Pellegrini, breaking her own previous mark of 53.55. One of the women joining her in Rio will be Silvia Di Pietro, who had the fastest split for the Italians at Worlds last summer with a 53.63 on the 2nd leg.

Interestingly, China will not bring their fastest 100 freestyler of the year, Qiu Yiuhan, to Rio for this relay. Qiu has been the only Chinese woman to swim sub-54 in 2016, posting a 53.90 at the 2016 Chinese National Championships. Instead, the Chinese 4×100 free relay roster includes Shen Duo, Tang Yi, Sun Meichen, Tang Yuting, and Zhu Menghui. The fastest of the group so far this year is Menghui, who holds a season-best 54.19 from the 2016 Aquatic Super Series meet in Australia.

Women’s 4×100 Meter Free Relay Top 8 Predictions:

Place Team Predicted Time
1 AUS 3:30.7 WR
2 USA 3:33.2
3 NED 3:33.5
4 SWE 3:35.0
5 CAN 3:35.4
6 FRA 3:36.4
7 ITA 3:36.6
8 CHN 3:36.8

In This Story


  1. 5wimmer says:


    USA will miss the podium by 0.06

  2. Irviner says:

    1st – Australia
    C Campbell – 52.0 (goes first to get some clean water)
    McKeon – 52.5
    Elmslie – 53.0
    B Campbell – 51.8
    2nd – USA
    Manuel – 53.3
    Neal – 53.0
    Weir – 53.2
    Weitzeil – 52.5
    3rd – Netherlands
    Kromowidjojo – 52.7
    Steenbergen – 53.6
    Decker – 53.7
    Heemskerk – 52.5

  3. 5wimmer says:

    Aus WR, sub 3.30

    USA misses the podium by 0.06

  4. Prickle says:

    It will be the first day of the meet and the first gold medal in women competition. The great start is so important for the team’s spirit. Will Australians target world record or will swim safe for the win? The order of swimmers in relay can be important factor. In Kazan after two legs Australian team had slight advantage and Bronte Campbell standing next to Sjostrom on the blocks practically DQed the entire team’s effort with the RT = 0.06sec. Relays are so unpredictable. Who could think in Barcelona that American team will beat Australians with Megan Romano swimming 52.60 having (to this day) personal best of 53.9

    • robbos says:

      Only chance if the Aussies break!!! Otherwise everyone swimming for silver.

    • commonwombat says:

      AUS will have been drilled to play it as safe/conservative as humanly possible with changes. A WR is not required to win this one comfortably so why take the risk; its fairly certain that the near miss at Kazan will have been highlighted and stressed “no repeats”.

      A break is probably the only way AUS is likely to lose this one. Whilst they have the potential for 2 sub52 splits, that is unlikely. C1 may well produce one on anchor but C2 may not be in quite that shape. They may start with Elmslie but if she’s in sub54 shape, she should still have them close enough. If she is at Trials pace, then she may indeed have them in the lead, unless NED/CAN open with RK or Oleksiak.

      Minors could be interesting. In RK & Heemskerk, NED have a capacity 2nd only to the Campbells but they fall away considerably after that. Steenbergen hasn’t been at her 2015 levels & neither Dekker or DeMeer are likely to split sub54.

      USA have a ruck of 53mid-high performers but only one sub53.5 in Weitzell. She would also appear to be their only real likely sub53 split but even then she is still some distance from the sub52 capacity of both C1/C2/RK/Heemskerk & probably SS. They could snag silver if they have no 54+ splits and the Dutch lower seeds swim 54+.

      CAN are not without a shot, Oleksiaks advance certainly gives legitimate hope of a sub53 split and if the rest of the team split sub54, they may be snapping at the heels of either USA or NED. SWE possess the sub52 potential of SS & a 53mid performer in Coleman but they fall away too far with the other 2 to be realistic contenders.

      • robbos says:

        I reckon they should start with Mckeon who would easily give the Aussies a lead, no matter who leading off for other countries apart from Sjostrom. Australia can build from there.

        • commonwombat says:

          Very plausible scenario.

          I wouldn’t necessarily “bank on” her swimming a sub53 off the gun but a 53.3 would see off nigh everyone bar RK/SS.

          That would mean that NED/SWE have expended their no1s for 52high/53low splits rather than potential 52low/51high “flyers” whereas AUS has only expended its no3/no2 (if C2 is “wonky”). Even a “wonky” C2 should be able to deliver a sub53 flying start.

          Elmslie is unlikely to ever deliver a sub53 flat start but she’s probably on par with Manuel with regards to capacity for a sub53 flying start.

          • robbos says:

            Why not? McKeon is in the top 4 swimmers in the world in this event, I think she has RK pretty well covered.

          • commonwombat says:

            She will have swam 2 fairly hard 100flys on that days. She MAY be at the same level she was at Trials, she may not which is why I wouldn’t be betting the farm on a sub53 flat start. I’m looking at reasonably likely scenarios rather than banking on a best case one.

            Whilst a sub53 WOULD be great, 53.3 is a time she has shown she can turn out on a number of occaisions ….. and would essentially do the job required; that of putting them at/near the front. To combat her, others would be needing to expend their best asset whereas AUS isn’t.

            Re RK, so far this year she is in her best form since 2014. If anyone is going to crash the sub53 party or even disturb the expected podium it will be her …. although I prefer her chances in the 50.

          • robbos says:

            See this is the difference, I look at recent form, RK’s best was 2013 & only just better then McKeon’s time swam this year & she is on the improve, whereas RK’s best is 2012/13.

          • commonwombat says:

            You are assuming that she will just pop out a sub53 flat start “as a matter of course” when her training will have been centred around her actual individual events. I’m certainly not saying she cannot or will not swim such a time but nor we should not assume its a given thing. Probably the only Australian you could slug with that label is C1 !

            Yes, RK’s fastest times were back in that period and no, I didnt say that she WOULD swim a sub53 flat start; just that if any one else was going to crash that party in Rio, she looks the most likely suspect as her times this year have been her fastest since that time. Relevance …. NED sometimes “front end load” by swimming her off the gun so as to give their slower legs some leeway

            I frankly think your tactic is a good one and should work just fine. Why … because it’s NOT reliant on her performing amazingly or a PB, but just at her “very good”level which is in advance of the PBs of all bar the “guns” of 2 other nations. IF she swam as you hope she does, then that’s an absolute bonus

        • Prickle says:

          Letting McKeon swimming first will also give her a chance to prove that she is a legitimate contender for the medal in individual 100 race. Same way as Sjostrom did in Kazan at 800 relay.

  5. Iain says:


    AUS – C. Campbell, B. Campbell, E. McKeon, B. Elmslie
    52.06, 52.58, 52.80, 53.54 – 3:30.98
    USA – A. Weitzeil, S. Manuel, D. Vollmer, A. Weir
    53.28, 53.52, 53.59, 53.72 – 3:34.11
    NED – R. Kromowidjojo, F. Heemskerk, M. Steenbergen, M. van der Meer
    53.14, 53.72, 54.43, 54.44 – 3:35.73
    CAN – P. Oleksiak, C. Van Landeghem, S. Mainville, M. Williams
    53.31, 53.91, 54.14, 54.45 – 3:35.81
    SWE – S. Sjostrom, M. Coleman, I. Margo-Varga, L. Hansson
    52.78, 53.54, 55.14, 55.23 – 3:36.69
    FRA – C. Bonnet, B. Gastaldello, M. Cini, A. Santamans
    53.80, 54.10, 54.44, 54.93 – 3:37.27
    JPN – M. Uchida, R. Ikee, Y. Matsumoto, M. Yamaguchi
    53.88, 53.98, 54.43, 54.99 – 3:37.28
    ITA – F. Pellegrini, E. Ferraioli, S. Di Pietro, A. Pezzato
    53.18, 54.70, 54.77, 55.03 – 3:37.68
    CHN – M. Zhu, D. Shen, Y. Ai, Y. Tang
    54.19, 54.53, 54.62, 54.63 – 3:37.97
    DEN – J. Ottesen, P. Blume, M. Nielsen, J. Jensen
    53.66, 54.26, 54.47, 55.60 – 3:37.99
    BRA – L. Oliveira, E. Medeiros, D. De Paula, M. Lyrio
    54.03, 54.50, 55.02, 55.07 – 3:38.62
    RUS – V. Popova, V. Andreeva, R. Nasretdinova, A. Openysheva
    54.33, 54.44, 54.84, 55.07 – 3:38.68
    ESP – F. Gallardo, M. Gonzalez, P. Castro, M. Costa
    55.21, 55.40, 55.49, 55.67 – 3:41.77
    POL – K. Wilk, A. Dowgiert, A. Urbanczyk, D. Sokolowska
    54.38, 55.52, 56.27, 56.49 – 3:42.66
    SUI – M. Ugolkova, D. Villars, N. Girardet, S. Touretski
    55.07, 55.98, 56.08, 56.22 – 3:43.35
    ISR – A. Murez, K. Siebner, Z. Shikler, A. Ivri
    54.57, 55.42, 56.18, n/a – n/a

    • Prickle says:

      I doubt it that Vollmer swims final just one hour after her 100 fly semi-final. I think that prelim race will decide between Neal, Schmitt and Weir for two spots in final.

  6. Iain says:

    IMO you seriously underestimate Canada relative to USA, NED, SWE

    Relay splits for Swedes from Europeans:
    Marko-Varga – 54.90, 54.98
    Lindborg – 54.40, 54.45, 54.45, 55.13, 55.57

    The key for the Swedes is Hansson. She has improved throughout the season, but Rio may still come too early. She looks unlikely to make it down to last year’s times, but at least a low-54 would serve Sweden well.

  7. tm71 says:

    My picks

  8. King in da norf says:

    The Ladies from Down under
    The Ladies from the Great White North
    The American Ladies

  9. Jim C says:

    The USA could afford to rest more than two of their swimmers like the Aussies do.

  10. Daza says:

    1: Aus WR
    2: Ned
    3: Sweden.

  11. Joe says:

    I’m a little more confident about Sweden’s chances now compared to a few months ago, but medal will probably be too tough. Marko-Varga will probably be in 54.5 flat shape come Rio. However I don’t think Hansson will go all the way down to her best, there’s not enough time, so she’ll split about 54.3-54.5 rolling. It’s still a better team compared to when Kuras was on it the last couple of years. The fighting chance is probably the Sarah can swim a 51-split and Colema either PB or do a 52 high split. Can they go 3.33? I don’t think so, but 3.34 is possible and then it will be up to what the other teams do.

  12. DogPaddler says:

    Canada’s Penny O is also scheduled in 100 fly and therefore will have also swum twice already that day so similar to others who may also been swimming both events. So canadas chances may be impacted by that. To be consistent, the analysis should be same for all countries with swimmers in that circumstance unless there are proof and or/ (experience that some will handle it better than others.

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About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona and the University of Florida. She got her M.S. in Criminology from Florida State and seems exceptionally confused about which team she should cheer for during the college football season. Lauren is currently working on her M.A. in …

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