SwimSwam Pulse: 67% Wanted Phelps, Conger on 4×200 Free Relay

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, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers whom they believe Team USA should have selected to swim the 4×200 free relay:


Question: Who should the U.S. have used on the men’s 4×200 free relay?

  • Phelps & Lochte – 22.3%
  • Lochte & Conger – 9.9%
  • Phelps & Conger – 67.8%

Before Ryan Lochte and Jack Conger became the headlines of the now-infamous gas station bathroom incident, they were both a part of one of the bigger personnel controversies of swimming in Rio.

Team USA had to select 4 swimmers to compete in the 4×200 free relay final. Conor Dwyer and Townley Haas were all but locks after going 1-2 at Trials and swimming the 200 free individually in Rio and performing well.

Based on Olympic Trials results, Clark Smith and Gunnar Bentz were set to swim on the relay in prelims, with Jack Conger and Ryan Lochte qualified as the last two finals swimmers.

But then there’s Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer of all-time, who was undeniably swimming a whole level above where he was at Trials. Phelps was added to the 4×100 free relay without swimming the event at Trials and swam outstandingly well, helping Team USA reclaim gold for the first time since 2008.

That left Phelps, Lochte and Conger fighting for 2 spots, with Lochte and Conger essentially swimming off for position in prelims.

Trials Orders and Relay Exchanges

More than two thirds of SwimSwam voters suggested Phelps and Conger should have gotten the two spots. Phelps is understandable: the most decorated Olympian in history was already red-hot in Rio, and it’s hard to keep that off a relay.

But voters (and many of those in our comment section) supported Conger over Lochte, which is an interesting take based on prelims results.

In prelims, Lochte split 1:45.80, Conger 1:45.73 – but factoring out relay reaction times (which is very commonly done in prelim relay ‘swim-offs’ to keep either swimmer from risking a false start DQ just to earn a finals spot), Lochte was faster through the water (1:45.31) than Conger (1:45.45) by about a tenth.

67.8% of voters picked Phelps & Conger, seemingly based on either (a) a belief that the younger Conger would be able to recover and swim finals better than the 32-year-old Lochte, (b) a dogged insistence that Team USA base its lineup 100% on Trials results and not on how swimmers are actually competing in Rio or (c) a fundamental misunderstanding of relay exchange reaction times and the importance of safe prelims exchanges.

The first rationale is certainly important (and Lochte did regress a little by his finals swim, only going 1:46.03), but the other two would seem far less defensible from the viewpoint of USA Swimming’s coaches, who are tasked with putting forward the nation’s best lineup – not necessarily the exact lineup of Olympic Trials finish orders.

22.3% of voters supported the old guard, Phelps & Lochte, and that’s the duo that wound up swimming at night. Phelps was 1:45.26 (1:44.99 factoring out the exchange), which is faster than either Lochte or Conger. Lochte, as mentioned above, did slide about four tenths in his “through the water” time, but Team USA still won a comfortable gold. Conger still earned a gold medal of his own for his prelims contribution.

9.9% voted for Lochte & Conger, which would mostly represent the Trials purists or those who didn’t feel Phelps wasn’t capable of a great 200 at age 31 or that an extra swim for Phelps might wear him out for his individual races. Phelps did win the 200 fly earlier in the same night and won the 200 IM two days later, but did slip to silver in the 100 fly on day 7 as his aggressive event lineup appeared to catch up with him.


Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks voters to weigh in on whether Ryan Lochte should be suspended for the incident in Brazil:

Should Lochte be suspended for the incident in Brazil?

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A3 Performance was founded in 2004 and is based in Wisconsin. A3 Performance was founded on the ideals that great products could be made and offered at great prices. Innovation and purpose is the focus of all product development. The swimmer is the focus of everything we do.

The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner

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4 years ago

Yup. That’s about right.

Steve Nolan
4 years ago

Commenters LOVE Conger. Unsurprisingly it’s a big part of poll voting, too.

This is just a comment on other commenters, I think he is fine and good.

Yabo Squandrant
Reply to  Steve Nolan
4 years ago

Conger is one of the most loved swimmers of the swimswam community

4 years ago

Coaches made the right choice and the finals were not even close

Reply to  Votehillary
4 years ago

They wouldn’t have been close regardless. The US is so dominant in this event that any combination would have likely resulted in a win.

Reply to  SwimNerd
4 years ago

ohh yessss

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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