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 4×200 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 Yufei, who will have the 200 fly final in this same session. That’s a really brutal double, but Zhang is a tough talent
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).
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 Kapas, will 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 Haughey, who sits 5th in the world this year.
TOP 8 PICKS
2019 Worlds Finish