Tokyo 2020 Olympic Swimming Previews: Australia Chasing WR in W 4×200 FRR

Click here to see all of our Tokyo 2020 Olympic Previews.


Women’s 4×200 freestyle relay

  • World Record: Australia (Titmus, Wilson, Throssell, McKeon) – 7:41.50 (2019)
  • Olympic Record: USA (Franklin, Vollmer, Vreeland, Schmitt) – 7:42.92 (2012)
  • World Junior Record: Canada (Sanchez, Oleksiak, Smith, Ruck) – 7:51.47 (2017)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: USA (Schmitt, Smith, DiRado, Ledecky) – 7:43.03

Aggregate times below are the sums of each swimmer’s season-best for 2020-2021, merely to give a rough baseline of how things look right now. We’ll note key relay results in the paragraphs when relevant.

The Schedule

The women’s 4×200 free relay sets up some tricky doubles that will almost-certainly affect the final results. Here’s a look at the events that share a finals session with this relay, with the women’s races bolded:

  • 800 Free M (final)
  • 200 Breast M (final)
  • 100 Free W (semifinals)
  • 200 Back M (semifinals)
  • 200 Fly W (final)
  • 100 Free M (final)
  • 200 Breast W (semifinals)
  • 200 IM M (semifinals)
  • 4×200 Free W (final)

We’re probably not going to see a 200 breast/4×200 free relay double. But we will almost-certainly see some doubles with the 100 free semifinals and 200 fly finals.

It’s also worth noting that the individual 200 free takes place on days 3-4, with this relay happening on day 5, so teams will be able to use the individual event results as a key data point in deciding their finals lineups.

The Favorites

Swimmer Split
Ariarne Titmus 1:53.09
Emma McKeon 1:54.74
Madison Wilson 1:55.68
Leah Neale 1:56.08
TOTAL: 7:39.59

The U.S. had won 4 straight world titles in this event before Australia ended their streak in 2019. The margin that year was three-tenths of a second, but momentum is clearly trending in Australia’s favor since then.

For the season, Australia has four women ranked in the top 7 worldwide. And beyond that foursome, they could also add Brianna Throssell, who split 1:55.6 on that winning relay in 2019 – Throssell co-holds the world record from that swim, with Titmus, Wilson, and McKeon.

Ariarne Titmus is the difference-maker. She’s the first swimmer in nearly a decade to turn Katie Ledecky into an underdog, taking over as the gold medal favorite (in many fans’ eyes, at least) in the 200 and 400 frees. Titmus went 1:53.09 at Australian Trials, the second-fastest swim of all-time, the fastest in textile, and a half-second faster than the top Americans of all-time.

Emma McKeon will probably be coming off of the 100 free semifinals, which is the only real concern for Australia. Still, there’s a very good chance this team can challenge its own world record if McKeon can split another 1:54 or better. That aggregate time is almost two full seconds under the world record.

Swimmer Split
Katie Ledecky 1:54.40
Allison Schmitt 1:56.79
Paige Madden 1:56.44
Katie McLaughlin 1:57.16
TOTAL: 7:44.79

Team USA will return just two legs from their silver medal-winnig relay in 2019. Katie Ledecky can be a massive difference-maker, but it’s hard to tell how tapered she was for U.S. Trials beyond “not very much.” Ledecky went 1:53.73 back at the 2016 Olympics, and she’ll probably need to swim back into the 1:53s to keep Team USA within striking distance of Australia.

Interestingly, the past three Olympic 200 free champions will be competing in this relay – and two of them will be on this U.S. relay. 2012 champ Allison Schmitt will have the advantage of focusing pretty much entirely on this relay. She wasn’t great at 2019 Worlds (1:59 leadoff in prelims) and got bumped from the finals relay, but seems much more on track after going 1:56.0 at U.S. Trials.

Katie McLaughlin will also focus entirely on this relay with no other Olympic events, and the saving grace for Team USA is that none of its likely four legs will have another event in this session, including Ledecky.

Swimmer Split
Summer McIntosh 1:56.19
Penny Oleksiak 1:57.07
Rebecca Smith 1:57.43
Katerine Savard 1:57.79
TOTAL: 7:48.48

14-year-old Summer McIntosh is a rising sensation, making the Canadian Olympic team in the 200, 400, 800, and 1500 frees. She’ll get to get some of the Olympic nerves out of the way earlier in the meet and should be ready to go for this relay.

Penny Oleksiak is the other individual 200 freestyler, but should swim the 100 free semis in this same session. The likely replacement would be Taylor Ruck, who is on the team for both backstrokes, but has been 1:54.4 in this race back in 2018. Ruck has not looked great in this event lately, though, and went just 1:59 at Canadian Trials.

Swimmer Split
Yang Junxuan 1:54.57
Li Bingjie 1:56.64
Tang Muhan 1:57.83
Zhang Yufei 1:57.36
TOTAL: 7:46.40

China missed the medals in 4th place at 2019 Worlds – their depth was fine, but it was a lack of a true 1:54 split that left them behind Australia, the U.S., and Canada. Yang Junxuan looks to be the fix for that deficit, though, after going 1:54.5 in March.

There are plenty of options to fill out the relay. Li Bingjie split 1:56.2 at 2019 Worlds. Fellow distance swimmer Wang Jianjiahe split 1:56.5 on that team. A lineup made mostly of distance types has a silver lining, as none of them will have event conflicts with this relay.

The exception is Zhang Yufeiwho will have the 200 fly final in this same session. That’s a really brutal double, but Zhang is a tough talent

Swimmer Split
Isabel Gose 1:56.93
Annika Bruhn 1:57.17
Leonie Kullmann 1:57.64
Marie Pietruschka 1:58.46
TOTAL: 7:50.20

Without a pool swimming Olympic medal since Britta Steffen in 2008, Germany has become a surprising force in this event – though they’ll need a really good swim to unseat two of the teams above for a medal. The Germans have four swimmers in the top 50 in the world this year, led by 1:56.9 Isabel Gose.

This relay is a bit odd because the top two likely contenders from Europe did not even enter this relay at the European Championships in May. And the European champions (Great Britain) are not contesting this event at the Olympics).

Swimmer Split
Anna Egorova 1:57.58
Anastasia Guzhenkova 1:57.75
Veronika Andrusenko 1:57.97
Valeria Salamatina 1:57.98
TOTAL: 7:51.28

Russia should join Germany as the top European contenders. They’ve got good depth in the world ranks, but will need someone to cut into the 1:56s. Anna Egorova is currently closest, after going 1:57.5 back in December.

Hungary should return from the 2019 Worlds final. They were 6th that year and took silver at Euros in the spring without star Katinka Hosszu on the relay. But the schedule doesn’t break well for them as their fastest split from Euros, 1:57.5-Boglarka Kapaswill swim the 200 fly individually, as will Hosszu.

Japan was also in the 2019 Worlds final. Chihiro Igarashi has been 1:57.4 this year. From Euros, we’d keep an eye on Italy, where 2008 Olympic champ and world record-holder Federica Pellegrini should buoy the relay. She was 1:56.2 in June.

France earned the top wild card spot with a 4th-place finish at Euros in the spring. Charlotte Bonnet led off in 1:57.3 on that relay.

Keep an eye on Hong Kong, which has never won an Olympic medal, but has rewritten its national record books in the past few years. That includes an April 2021 national record 1:54.89 in the 200 free from Siobhan Haugheywho sits 5th in the world this year.


Place Country
2019 Worlds Finish
1 Australia 1st
2 USA 2nd
3 Canada 3rd
4 China 4th
5 Germany 7th
6 Russia 5th
7 Italy N/A
8 Japan 8th

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Canada will improve substantially. Oleksiak has been 1:54 multiple times on relays and I think McIntosh has a huge drop in her

1 year ago

Australia have a potential clean sweep of the womens relays I still believe the USA are the favourites in the medley but if Hodges drops time in her breaststroke which I believe she will, the other three legs are already strong enough to match the USA’s legs, Australia give themselves a strong chance

Reply to  Tyson
1 year ago

There should be a 4×200 Medley Relay.

Reply to  jim
1 year ago

No there shouldn’t.

Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

What if there is no provision for relay only swimmers to be added for the relay?

1 year ago

Similar scenario to 4X100; AUS isn’t losing this unless they “do it to themselves”.

Unless USA can conjure another 1.54 split, then despite any Ledecky heroics, its essentially shut the gate with AUS having 2 swimmers with consistent 1.54 splits with at least 1 capable of significantly below. If Wilson is at Trials level, then thats a 3rd leg significantly faster than anyone else’s. Neale is a suspect performer internationally but they have a number of preferable options available.

USA should be secure for silver unless Ruck somehow regains her mojo. If not then CAN may well be pipped for bronze by CHN. Relays can often be influenced by which teams have positive momentum or not. The minor medals here… Read more »

Reply to  commonwombat
1 year ago

Quick! Hop in the time machine and bring back Missy Franklin from the 2013 FINA World Aquatics Championships.

Reply to  commonwombat
1 year ago

A carefree Titmus could do a 1:52.7 or 1:54.5 and AUS still romps in.
When you can supply a 2 x 1:55, 1 x 1:54
and a 1 x 1:52 The WR gone.
Personally I hope they do enough to win. Get that WR another day.

1 year ago

I’m mostly interested in seeing how much more time can bella sims drop for the relay. She’s only been swimming for 6 years and she dropped 2 seconds from her best over the course of 3 months.

1 year ago

No Manuel really hurts the US. I forget if the 4×100 is before it, but if she’s placed on it and swims well, I think they should swim her on this one. High risk, high reward

Bobo Gigi
Reply to  Thomas
1 year ago

4X100 free relays are always before 4X200 free relays at worlds and olympics.
At least since I watch swimming on TV.

Reply to  Thomas
1 year ago


Simone Manuel may not be in any condition to swim the women’s 100 meter freestyle.

Reply to  Thomas
1 year ago

Unlikely, even if Manuel is in better, 52 high shape. The longer event, the worse position she’s in to swim it. Probably would drop a 1:58 even if she’s looking better.

Drama King
1 year ago

Gold – Australia (WR)
Silver – USA
Bronze – China

4. Canada
5. Germany
6. Japan
7. Great Britain
8. Italy

Reply to  Drama King
1 year ago

GBR didn’t send a team

Reply to  Dee
1 year ago

Heck of a performance if we come 7th then.

Reply to  Emg1986
1 year ago

Biggest upset of the Games incoming

Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

One of bankers here mate.

Reply to  Robbos
1 year ago

I wasn’t talking about the winners haha. I meant if UK gets 7th despite not entering the event that would be the biggest upset of the Games.

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 …

Read More »