SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side.
Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers if China’s recent performance in the men’s medley relay makes them the frontrunner for next year’s Olympics:
Question: Who wins the men’s medley relay in Paris?
- USA – 66.0%
- China – 26.3%
- Great Britain – 3.2%
- Italy – 3.0%
- Other – 1.6%
The U.S. men have had several relay hiccups in recent years. Long gone are the Peak Phelps days where a relay sweep was a forgone conclusion at major international events—between 2005 and 2009, they won every single relay between the Olympics and World Championships, save the 2007 medley relay where they were disqualified in the prelims.
And although the American men are still very much in contention for gold every time out, wins are far from a lock…unless it’s the medley relay at the Olympics.
Dating back to the 1960 Games in Rome, when the event was first introduced, the Americans have gone undefeated in the men’s medley relay, with them only lending the gold medal over to the Australians in 1980 when the U.S. boycotted the Games.
The American dominance in the event has been punctuated in recent years, as they rolled to a new world record at the Tokyo Olympics in 3:26.78 before crushing the field this past summer at the World Championships in 3:27.20.
In 2022, the Italians caught fire and handed the Americans an upset loss, with Caeleb Dressel notably missing from the U.S. team, though both teams still went incredibly quick in the 3:27-range.
In Fukuoka, the Americans won gold by 1.80 seconds, with Ryan Murphy, Nic Fink, Dare Rose and Jack Alexy all delivering in the relay final after winning individual medals in their respective 100-meter events.
That performance seemingly made them the bonafide favorite for gold in Paris, with the streak seemingly safe as ever, and the potential of Dressel returning to form making them seem even more unbeatable.
However, China, the runners-up at Worlds in 3:29.00, shook things up a bit at the Asian Games in late September, producing the second-fastest time ever, 3:27.01, to put them in the conversation for gold in Paris.
|USA – Tokyo Olympics (WR)
|USA – 2023 Worlds
|China – 2023 Asian Games
|Ryan Murphy – 52.31
|Ryan Murphy – 52.04
|Xu Jiayu – 52.05
|Michael Andrew – 58.49
|Nic Fink – 58.03
|Qin Haiyang – 57.63
|Caeleb Dressel – 49.03
|Dare Rose – 50.13
|Wang Changhao – 50.68
|Zach Apple – 46.95
|Jack Alexy – 47.00
|Pan Zhanle – 46.65
The emergence of Qin Haiyang and Pan Zhanle as two of the fastest 100 breaststrokers and 100 freestylers, respectively, this year couples with the perennial 100 back contender Xu Jiayu being on form and up-and-comer Wang Changhao putting up a 50.6 relay leg that was nearly a second quicker than he was at the World Championships.
With that being said, when Italy upended the Americans in 2022, it was with Federico Burdisso punching above his weight on fly (50.63 split, went 51.45 individually). Could that be the case with Wang for China? Or will he prove to be a legitimate 100 fly threat moving forward?
The Italians misfired in the prelims and didn’t even final in Fukuoka, so we don’t quite know what they’re capable of this year when firing on all cylinders, but it’s not encouraging that neither of their 100 fly swimmers made the semis individually.
Our latest poll shows that two-thirds of readers are still picking the U.S. to reign supreme in Paris, while more than a quarter, 26.3 percent, are backing China to end the historic streak.
The Brits, who won the 2019 world title and challenged the U.S. in Tokyo, also picked up some votes given Adam Peaty‘s return to competition, while Italy was close behind them.
Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Poll, which asks: What if NCAA swimming was formatted like football?
The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner.