Rio Roll Call: How The Women’s Relays Are Shaping Up 100 Days Out

We’ve been examining the current Olympic relay outlook on the men’s side, but let’s take a look at what the women’s landscape looks like now that we’re 100 days away from Rio’s Opening Ceremony.

The European Championships are slated for May, which means the rankings and times may shake-up a tad from where they stand today. But, by looking at the performances at World Championships and beyond, we’re able to get a handle on the major players within each race and identify the key threats among the top teams.

As a refresher, here are the FINA qualification rules concerning relays:

  • There shall be a maximum of sixteen (16) qualified teams in each relay event, for a total of 96 relay teams.
  • Each NOC may enter only one (1) team in each relay event.
  • The first 12 placed teams in each relay event at the 16th FINA World Championships in Kazan (RUS) in 2015 shall automatically qualify for the relay events at the 2016 Olympic Games.
  • The remaining four (4) teams per relay event will be the teams with the fastest times in the FINA World Rankings as of 31 May 2016 achieved during the qualification period, in the qualifying events approved by FINA, from 1 March 2015 to 31 May 2016.
  • All swimmers entered in individual events can be used in relays, even if they have not achieved the OST / “B” Time for the corresponding stroke and distance of the relay in which they are entered.
    • Each NOC may enter additional swimmers for relays only (Relay-Only Swimmers), provided that they have achieved at least the OST / “B” Time for the corresponding stroke and distance of the relay in which they are entered.
    • If an NOC enters relay-only swimmers for a specific event, these swimmers must swim either in the heat or final of that relay event. Should a relay-only swimmer not compete, this will lead to the disqualification of the respective team in the final.

*Note, as reported earlier this week, there is an item up for FINA Bureau member vote that has to do with the penalty if a relay-only swimmer fails to compete, which you can read about here.

Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay

1. Australia 3:31.48* 9. Japan 3:38.47*
2. Netherlands 3:33.67* 10. Russia 3:38.63*
3. USA 3:34.61* 11. Brazil 3:40.24*
4. Sweden 3:35.71* 12. Poland 3:40.89*
5. Canada 3:36.44* 13. Belarus 3:40.37
6. Italy 3:37.16* 14. Germany 3:41.56
7. China 3:37.64* 15. Hong Kong 3:42.11
8. France 3:38.46* 16. Switzerland 3:43.70

The Australian women simply set the pool on fire in Adelaide, as 3 swimmers threw down sub-53-second swims in the 100m freestyle final at the Australian Olympic Trials.

Cate Campbell established herself once again as the world’s sprint queen, scoring a 52.38 for a new All Comers Record and the top time in the world heading into Rio. Just two tenths of a second behind was younger sister Bronte who registered a time of 52.58, followed by 21-year-old breakout swimmer Emma McKeon in 52.80.

Those 3 speedsters, teamed up with Trials’ 4th place finisher Brittany Elmslie (53.54), collectively scored a flat start relay time of 3:31.30, which means the current World Record of 3:30.98 is most certainly at risk.

The time the Aussies clocked in Kazan last summer (3:31.48) included a lead-off by Emily Seebohm (53.92), however, Seebohm didn’t make it into the 100m freestyle final at Trials. McKeon split 53.57, Bronte 51.77 and Cate in 52.22 at the World Championships. If McKeon can replicate her performance from Trials with a 52-second split, the Aussies look primed to take the gold in a history-making feat in Rio.

Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay

1. USA 7:45.37* 9. Russia 7:55.19*
2. Italy 7:48.41* 10. Brazil 7:57.15*
3. China 7:49.10* 11. Canada 7:57.31*
4. Sweden 7:50.24* 12. Germany 8:01.48*
5. GBR 7:50.60* 13. Netherlands 7:52.06
6. Australia 7:51.02* 14. Hungary 7:59.41
7. Japan 7:54.62* 15. Austria 8:05.23
8. France 7:55.08* 16. Hong Kong 8:06.51

The American women certainly have the depth to make any number of 4×200 combinations lethal against the likes of other nation’s stand-out splits sure to come from the likes of Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom and Italy’s Federica Pellegrini.

The combination of Missy Franklin (1:55.95), Leah Smith (1:56.88), Katie McLaughlin (1:56.92) and Katie Ledecky (1:55.64) was enough to get the job done for the stars and stripes in Kazan, but since then several breakthrough swims have emerged.

Sweden’s Michelle Coleman, who scored a 3rd leg split of 1:57.36 in Kazan, has since scored 2 1:56-low swims to position her as a growing threat on her nation’s 800m freestyle relay. Coleman first dropped a time of 1:56.07 in January at the Miami Super Challenge, then followed that up with a stout 1:56.17 at the Australian Championships. Coleman’s new-found speed, paired with Sjostrom, a consistent 1:54-high flat start 200m freestyle swimmer, makes Sweden more and more credible as a medal contender for Rio in this event.

Although ranked 14th in terms of qualifiers as they stand today in the women’s 4x200m free relay, Hungary was without superstar Katinka Hosszu when it earned their time trial mark of 7:59.41. With the Iron Lady having a best time of 1:55.41, four seconds better than Hungary’s average on that relay, they go from qualifiers to finalists if she joins the relay in Rio.

The Netherlands also sneaked into the top of the 4 remaining spots with its monster time of 7:52.06 from Eindhoven. Young Marrit Steenbergen led-off with 1:57.95, while veteran Femke Heemskerk anchored in 1:56.06 to give the Dutch a solid hope of making the Olympic final

Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay

1. China 3:54.41* 9. Italy 4:00.92*
2. Sweden 3:55.24* 10.Russia 4:01.12*
3.Australia 3:55.56* 11. Germany 4:01.40*
4. USA 3:56.76* 12. France 4:02.13*
5. Denmark 3:57.61* 13. Finland 4:02.30
6. Canada 3:57.96* 14. Brazil 4:02.52
7. GBR 4:00.02* 15. Czech Republic 4:03.44
8. Japan 4:00.43* 16. Spain 4:03.91

China leads the world with its mark of 3:54.41 from last year’s World Championships, composed of splits to the tune of 59.29 for Fu Yuanhui in backstroke, 1:05.56 for Shi Jinglin in breaststroke, 56.56 for Lu Ying  in butterfly and 53.00 for Shen Duo in freestyle.

America holds the 4th-fastest time out of the automatic qualifying marks from Kazan, however, the U.S. relay from Pan American Games actually clocked a swifter mark by just over two tenths of a second. The comparison of those two relay outcomes is below.

Pan American Games team – 3:56.53 

World Championships team – 3:56.76 

Taking the quickest swimmers from each relay would give the U.S. a total time of 3:55.74, just as an example of one of myriad combinations that may result from Trials in Omaha.

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For the women’s 400 Medley Relay the US team might be able to use Dana Wollmer who swam 56.94 flat start at Mesa that is another 3/10 of a second faster than either of those relay splits.


Put in a sub 56 fly with Dana, or Kelsi and a sub 1:05 breast with Lilly King you have got a pretty fast relay.


I think Australia can also have a sub 56 flying start fly leg with Emma McKeon. Georgina bohl is always improving so I see a fast breast leg from her. Then cate Campbell can swim a sub 52 free leg ( flying start). The Australian trials was in 3 rounds so it,s more difficult to swim fast there.

About Loretta Race

Loretta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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