2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
- When: Pool swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Open Water swimming: Wednesday, August 4 – Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Where: Olympic Aquatics Centre / Tokyo, Japan
- Heats: 7 PM / Semifinals & Finals: 10:30 AM (Local time)
- Full aquatics schedule
- SwimSwam Event Previews
- Start Lists & Results
Women’s 4×100 freestyle relay
- World Record: Australia (Jack, Campbell, McKeon, Campbell) – 3:30.05 (2018)
- Olympic Record: Australia (McKeon, Elmslie, Campbell, Campbell) – 3:30.65 (2016)
- World Junior Record: Canada (Ruck, Oleksiak, Smith, Sanchez) – 3:36.19 (2017)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: Australia (McKeon, Elmslie, Campbell, Campbell) – 3:30.65
The women’s 4×100 free relay is the first relay in the Olympic program, taking place right away on day 1. That’s going to create plenty of uncertainty, with teams still guessing at who is swimming well and who is struggling to maintain a taper. Still, Australia’s dominance doesn’t leave a lot of uncertainty as to who should win gold. The minor medals, though, are wide open.
Since taking nearly a full second off a super-suited world record in 2014, Australia has been next to unbeatable in this event, winning the two most recent Olympic golds, the most recent World Championships gold, and setting two more world records in 2016 and 2018.
What’s most impressive is that their 2021 roster might be the best one yet for this relay.
|Emma McKeon||52.19||Emma McKeon||52.19|
|Cate Campbell||52.43||Madison Wilson||52.76|
|Madison Wilson||52.76||Meg Harris||52.92|
|Meg Harris||52.92||Cate Campbell||50.93|
In terms of flat-start best times for the 2020-2021 season, Australia has the top three times in the entire world. Emma McKeon leads the way, with former world record-holder Cate Campbell second and Madi Wilson third. Meg Harris, the presumptive slowest leg on the team, would be the fastest swimmer for any other nation besides Canada and China in season-bests.
Campbell’s 50.9 split above is from a mixed medley relay in 2018, but she was 51.4 at 2019 Worlds and should still be likely to split 51-something. Campbell has a long track record of success as a relay anchor. McKeon probably makes sense as the leadoff leg, but she’s also been 52.0 from a flying start as of 2019. Bronte Campbell could be an option too – she split 52.3 in 2019 and 52.0 back in 2018.
|Penny Oleksiak||52.89||Penny Oleksiak||52.89|
|Kayla Sanchez||53.57||Kayla Sanchez||53.11|
|Maggie MacNeil||54.02||Maggie MacNeil||53.18|
|Rebecca Smith||54.44||Taylor Ruck||52.19|
Of the remaining teams, 2019 Worlds bronze medalists Canada may have the highest ceiling. Penny Oleksiak ranks #4 in the world this year (and #1 among non-Australians). Taylor Ruck didn’t swim great at Canadian Trials, but also didn’t have to, as she was pre-qualified for the Olympic team. If she can return to 52-low form, Canada has two top-tier bookends.
Maggie MacNeil should be on this relay… but she also has semifinals of her all-important 100 fly in the same session. That will leave Canada with a choice between MacNeil, Kayla Sanchez and Rebecca Smith, who is a relay-only entrant in all three women’s relays and will have to swim at least one of them at some point between prelims and finals.
|Femke Heemskerk||53.05||Ranomi Kromowidjojo||53.13|
|Ranomi Kromowidjojo||53.13||Marrit Steenbergen||53.95|
|Marrit Steenbergen||54.18||Kira Toussaint||54.06|
|Kim Busch||54.28||Femke Heemskerk||51.73|
The Dutch were fourth in this relay at 2019 Worlds, and came within a tenth of the European title in May. Like Canada, they’ve got two top-notch bookends: Ranomi Kromowidjojo has already been 53-low from a flat start this year, and Femke Heemskerk anchored this relay in 51.9 and a medley relay in 51.7 at Euros.
The splits from Marrit Steenbergen and Kira Toussaint above come from prelims at Euros. They lost to Great Britain by a tenth with both women swimming slightly slower in the final. Kim Busch could be another option based on her 54.2 flat start time.
|Abbey Weitzeil||53.52||Abbey Weitzeil||53.18|
|Erika Brown||53.59||Natalie Hinds||53.55|
|Olivia Smoliga||53.55||Olivia Smoliga||53.55|
|Natalie Hinds||53.55||Simone Manuel||51.86|
The big question mark for Team USA is if reigning Olympic champ Simone Manuel will get a swim on this relay after missing the Olympic team. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the team give her a shot in prelims – but there’s also a case to be made for keeping her event load light and letting her focus on the 50 free later in the week.
Even if Manuel mostly returns to some form, another 51-high might be too big an ask for Team USA, which will need its depth to step up in a big way. Abbey Weitzeil is the only returning leg of their 2019 Worlds silver medal-winning relay, where she split 52.6. Erika Brown, Olivia Smoliga, and Natalie Hinds are basically in a dead heat for relay spots if Manuel is in the mix. Both Hinds and Smoliga have their flat start times listed above, as there’s not a good recent relay result for them.
With relay-only Catie DeLoof required to swim at least once, the U.S. coaches will really have to strategize out their options for getting DeLoof a prelims swim and potentially giving Manuel a go, while also making figuring out which of Brown, Smoliga, and Hinds should make the finals relay – all without accidentally missing the top 8.
|Freya Anderson||53.40||Lucy Hope||53.89|
|Anna Hopkin||53.43||Anna Hopkin||52.65|
|Lucy Hope||53.89||Abbie Wood||53.90|
|Abbie Wood||54.40||Freya Anderson||52.79|
We’ve got Great Britain back here based solely on aggregate math. But as we noted above, they beat the Netherlands for European Championships gold in May. Following the theme, they’ll build around a top duo of Freya Anderson and Anna Hopkin, who might also be swimming off for the anchor duty on the medley relay. Both have plenty of 52-mid data points: Hopkin split 52.6, 52.6 and 52.8 at Euros this year and 52.6 at Worlds in 2019. Anderson split 52.7 and 52.8 at Euros this year and 52.9 at 2019 Worlds.
We used their order from the European Championships, with Lucy Hope leading off. Wood split 53.9 at that meet, a fair bit faster than her flat-start season-best.
|Zhang Yufei||52.90||Zhang Yufei||52.90|
|Yang Junxuan||53.21||Zhu Menghui||53.36|
|Cheng Yujie||53.76||Yang Junxuan||53.21|
|Wu Qingfeng||53.84||Cheng Yujie||53.76|
China was fifth at 2019 Worlds. But they should add 16-year-old Cheng Yujie to that lineup after she went 53.76 from a flat start earlier this year. Zhang Yufei is the key piece on the relay, but will probably double with the 100 fly semifinals in the same session.
Zhu Menghui has split 53.3 on several occasions, but China has the depth to swim an off-lineup in prelims and figure out which of Zhu, Cheng, Wu Qingfeng and Yang Junxuan should join Zhang on the finals relay.
France took bronze at Euros in 3:35.92. Marie Wattel is #9 in this season’s world ranks with a 53.32.
Right behind France, Denmark broke a national record in 3:36.81, with Signe Bro leading off in 53.73. If Pernille Blume can return to anywhere near her career-best 52.6, they’ve got a shot to join that medal-contending field.
Sweden‘s hopes ride on world record-holder Sarah Sjostrom and how she’s recovering from elbow surgery. The blessing in disguise to Sjostrom’s broken elbow might be that the longtime butterfly superstar can finally focus on relays instead of extending her energy across a busy fly/free individual event lineup.
Similarly, Japan has a solid shot to make the final if Rikako Ikee is back to form after beating leukemia. They made the Worlds final in 2019 without Ikee, and the last time she was on this relay, they beat China by two-tenths to win the Asian Games gold with Ikee leading off in 53.60.
TOP 8 PICKS
2019 Worlds Finish