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

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4 years ago


USA will miss the podium by 0.06

4 years ago

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

Reply to  Irviner
4 years ago

Correction: 3:32.0 for the Americans

Reply to  Irviner
4 years ago

McKeon and Heemskerk will be much faster than Weitzel

4 years ago

Aus WR, sub 3.30

USA misses the podium by 0.06

Reply to  5wimmer
4 years ago

sorry for the double post! it wasn’t showing after the send

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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