Tokyo 2020 Olympic Swimming Previews: Brits Seeking Breakthrough In M 4×200 FRR

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Men’s 4×200 freestyle relay

  • World Record: USA (Phelps, Berens, Walters, Lochte) – 6:58.55 (2009)
  • Olympic Record: USA (Phelps, Lochte, Berens, Vanderkaay) – 6:58.56 (2008)
  • World Junior Record: USA (Magahey, Urlando, Mitchell, Foster) – 7:08.37 (2019)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: USA (Dwyer, Haas, Lochte, Phelps) – 7:00.66

The Schedule

As with all of these relays, one major factor to consider is the schedule and where it will force event doubles or affect relay lineups. Here’s a look at all the events sharing a Day 4 Finals session with this men’s 4×200 free relay (men’s events bolded):

  • 100 Free M (Semifinals)
  • 200 Free W (Final)
  • 200 Fly M (Final)
  • 200 Fly W (Semifinals)
  • 200 Breast M (Semifinals)
  • 200 IM W (Final)
  • 1500 Free W (Final)
  • 4×200 Free M (Final)

Fortunately, this relay fits pretty well in the jigsaw puzzle that is the Olympic swimming lineup. The 100 free semifinals should have a lot of crossover with this relay, but the two events are at complete opposite ends of the session lineup and, based on session start and end times, there should be roughly an hour and a half between the two races.

The Favorites

The listed aggregate times are composed of season-best times from the top four legs per country. We’ll note where a leg is expected to be significantly faster or slower, or where another swimmer could ultimately be on the finals relay.

Great Britain
Swimmer Split
Duncan Scott 1:44.47
Tom Dean 1:44.58
Matt Richards 1:45.77
James Guy 1:46.04
TOTAL: 7:00.86

Great Britain comes in with the best aggregate time by a wide margin – but it’s also hard to consider them the clear favorites after finishing 4th at 2019 Worlds and second to Russia at Euros just a few months ago. The Brits have the top two individual 200 freestylers in the world this season in Duncan Scott and Tom Dean

The Euros loss probably hangs on the fact that Dean was just 1:46.4 on the leadoff and Scott 1:45.2 on the anchor despite going 1:45.3 and 1:45.1, respectively, in the individual 200. But both were dealing with tough doubles that session. Dean had the 100 free final earlier in the session and Scott the 200 IM semifinals. Neither will have a double for this session of the Olympic Games.

Matt Richards could potentially double with the 100 free semifinals, but he’s only the 17th seed there and if push really comes to shove, he might wind up scratching the semis to key in on a gold opportunity in this relay. James Guy has been a very reliable relay leg, splitting 1:45.8 at Euros and 1:45.4 back at 2019 Worlds.

Swimmer Split
Kyle Chalmers 1:45.48
Elijah Winnington 1:45.55
Alexander Graham 1:45.22
Thomas Neill 1:45.70
TOTAL: 7:01.95

Australia won the 2019 Worlds title, crushing a 7:00.85 – so they can definitely swim faster than this aggregate. They won’t have Clyde Lewis, though, who led off that relay in 1:45.5.

The Aussies will really roll on depth in this relay. They have no one at the level of Scott/Dean for now, but they’ve got four really good legs without a weak spot. Kyle Chalmers split 1:45.3 at Worlds in 2019 and Alexander Graham split 1:45.0. Chalmers will almost-certainly have the 100 free semis before this race, but might have the luxury of shutting it down early in that race if he (the defending Olympic champ) gets out front.

The question mark is Mack Hortonwho split a wild 1:44.8 on the gold-winning relay in 2019. He was just 6th at Australian Trials (1:46.3) in this event and is a relay-only swimmer entered only in this event. But the ceiling is obviously extremely high, so look for him to use a prelims leg to try to bump one of the top four off the finals relay.

Zac Incerti (1:46.1 this season) is another depth piece who should allow Chalmers and others to rest up through heats.

Swimmer Split
Martin Malyutin 1:44.79
Ivan Girev 1:45.49
Aleksandr Shchegolev 1:45.82
Aleksandr Krasnykh 1:45.88
TOTAL: 7:01.98

Did somebody say “depth”? Enter Russia, where relay freestylers have started growing on trees. Russia has seven men in the top 50 in the world this season, including all four names above in the top 20. European 200/400 free champ Martin Malyutin is the headliner, with 1:44.7 speed that beat Scott (silver) and Dean (bronze) head to head at Euros.

Aleksandr Shchegolev split 1:45.3 at Euros as Russia trounced Great Britain by a second. Back in 2019, Aleksandr Krasnykh split 1:45.3 on this relay. Russia hasn’t always trusted Ivan Girev on this relay. He was the slowest of the four splits in prelims of this relay at 2019 Worlds, and got bumped for the final. Two years later, the same exact thing happened at Euros, with Girev struggling to a 1:48.1 prelims split and not making the finals relay.

If he gets the quick hook again, Russia has several other great options. Mikhail Vekovishchev split 1:45.4 on that 2019 Worlds relay and 1:46.4 at Euros. Mikhail Dovgalyuk led off in 1:45.5 at 2019 Worlds. And 200 back world champ Evgeny Rylov has also been 1:46.5 this year.

Other Contenders

Swimmer Split
Kieran Smith 1:45.29
Townley Haas 1:45.66
Drew Kibler 1:45.92
Andrew Seliskar 1:46.34
TOTAL: 7:03.21

The U.S. has some outside-the-box lineup options – and they may need them, sitting solidly fourth in aggregate times. Trials champ Kieran Smith should be a lock. Townley Haas has been a mainstay of this relay for years and split 1:45.1 at Worlds in 2019. He’s maybe best-known for a heroic 1:43.8 anchor at 2018 Pan Pacs – speed that would come very much in handy for Team USA this year.

Andrew Seliskar led off in 1:45.7 at 2019 Worlds, so he may have some room to drop from his Olympic Trials time. Haas and Drew Kibler will continue representing Texas on this relay, a long streak in American swimming.

Alternate options: Patrick Callan of Michigan is a relay-only swimmer who has to make an appearance in prelims. Zach Apple split 1:46.0 on this relay at 2019 Worlds and could be a realistic candidate to make the finals relay, though he might have a double with the 100 free semis. Blake Pieroni didn’t make the team in this event, losing to Callan by 0.08 seconds. But Pieroni (on the team for the 4×100 free relay) could be given a prelims swim here after putting up the best split on the American relay in 2019 (1:44.9).

And, of course, star sprinter Caeleb Dressel is a Hail-Mary-type option who went 1:46.6 in prelims of U.S. Trials – though he’ll have the 100 free semifinals earlier in the session. The way the field breaks down, though, Team USA might not have a lot to lose by throwing Dressel into the mix here. They’ll probably need a spark to unseat any of those top three powerhouses.

Swimmer Split
Fernando Scheffer 1:46.28
Breno Correia 1:46.72
Murilo Sartori 1:46.81
Luiz Altamir 1:47.76
TOTAL: 7:07.57

Better known for the 4×100, Brazil would be sneaky-good here. Breno Correia gave up his individual 200 free spot to focus on the 4×100 free relay – but that also means extra rest for him leading up to this race. Fernando Scheffer and Murilo Sartori will swim the individual 200 free, where we’ll get an idea of how this relays stars are swimming. Scheffer split 1:45.9 at Worlds in 2019, where Brazil finished 7th.

Swimmer Split
Katsuhiro Matsumoto 1:44.65
Kosuke Hagino 1:47.72
Kotaro Takahashi 1:47.93
Konosuke Yanagimoto 1:47.45
TOTAL: 7:07.75

Japan just missed the 2019 Worlds final in 9th place, so we don’t know how much better they could have been. Katsuhiro Matsumoto is a difference-maker on a level with Scott, Dean, and Malyutin. 17-year-old Konosuke Yanagimoto is a bright young star to watch – he placed second at Japan’s Olympic Trials.

Fan favorite Kosuke Hagino is a vet who should draw a lot of excitement from the home-nation crowd, and the versatile talent has really pared down his event lineup for 2021. This should be his first event of the entire meet, keeping him completely fresh.

Swimmer Split
Wang Shun 1:46.55
Ji Xinjie 1:46.75
Hong Jinquan 1:47.30
Zhang Ziyang 1:47.92
TOTAL: 7:08.52

6th at Worlds in 2019, China is much less scary with Sun Yang (1:44.9 split) out on a doping suspension. Still, Ji Xinjie led off this relay in 1:45.4 at 2019 Worlds, so the relay should be quite a bit faster than this aggregate. Backstroker Xu Jiayu has occasionally played a role on this relay, too.

Swimmer Split
Stefano Ballo 1:46.76
Filippo Megli 1:47.35
Stefano di Cola 1:47.45
Marco de Tullio 1:47.83
TOTAL: 7:09.39

Italy is another one with a much higher ceiling than these flat-start times indicate. They took bronze at Euros in May (behind Russia and Great Britain). Filippo Megli led off in 1:45.8 at 2019 Worlds, and Stefano di Cola split 1:45.5 and Stefano Ballo 1:45.6. Add in a 1:46.0 split from Marco de Tullio at Euros and the aggregate looks more like 7:02-7:03

Swimmer Split
Dominik Kozma 1:48.14
Nandor Nemeth 1:47.40
Balazs Hollo 1:48.54
Kristof Milak 1:45.74
TOTAL: 7:09.82

Hungary swam an off lineup at Euros and finished 15th, but don’t let that fool you. They broke their national record in 7:07.67 at Hungarian Nationals in March. Kristof Milak split a wicked 1:44.8 on that relay and Nandor Nemeth was 1:46.6. That relay featured Gabor Zombori leading off in 1:48.7, but Dominik Kozma is almost-certainly faster, even if he doesn’t get back to the 1:45.5-flat-start-level he was at in 2017.

The only issue is that 200 fly final shortly before this relay. That’s a really bad turn of scheduling for Milak, the favorite to win that 200 fly gold.

Swimmer Split
Lukas Martens 1:46.41
Jacob Heidtmann 1:46.98
Poul Zellmann 1:47.53
Damian Wierling 1:49.48
TOTAL: 7:10.40

Germany should be a finals candidate here. The aggregate really isn’t accurate, as Damian Wierling doesn’t swim this much from a flat start, but split 1:47.1 on the 2019 Worlds relay. He might double with the 100 free semis, though.

Swimmer Split
Jordan Pothain 1:46.91
Enzo Tesic 1:48.24
Mewen Tomac 1:48.32
Jonathan Atsu 1:47.47
TOTAL: 7:10.94

France had a bunch of stellar splits at Euros, including a 1:46.3 from Jordan Pothain and a 1:46.4 from Jonathan Atsu. In fact, all four legs were between 1:46.3 and 1:46.9, though they just missed out on medals in fourth place.


Place Country
2019 Worlds Finish
1 Great Britain 5th
2 Australia 1st
3 Russia 2nd
4 USA 3rd
5 Italy 4th
6 Japan 9th
7 Hungary 15th
8 Brazil 7th

In This Story

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1 year ago

I think this is the best of the relays, some are 1 country to beat W4X100, W4x200, others are 2 horse race M4x100, W4X100Med, M4X100med.
This race 4-5 countries can win.
However, GB with top 2 swimmers & a couple of strong back up are favourites, best team, but lack depth, I tipping GB gold. Much will depend on Malyutin on Russia, they could challenge & Australia, who has solid 1.45 swimmers, but like others talk of Dressel going 1.44, well we Chalmers and Horton who could also do 1.44s
US & Italy missing the podium but could also win.

  1. GB 2 Aus & 3 Russia
1 year ago

The scope of potential outcomes for this GBR relay is huge. Get James Guy back to his best, or get some improvement from 18yo Richards, and the WR is an outside possibility. Conversely, if Dean or Scott misfire they could miss the podium completely. Similar story for the US – Dressel drops a 1.44 and suddenly they’re where they need to be to fight for gold, if he doesn’t, bronze will be a good result and missing the podium would be fairly likely. Australia & Russia look the most predictable – But predictably very, very good – I can’t see either off the podium, but I can’t decide which colour medal… I can’t wait for this one!

Last edited 1 year ago by Dee
Scuncan Dott
Reply to  Dee
1 year ago

Agree with most of this, but I think GBR miss the podium if Dean AND Scott misfire. I think if just one of them is off, that could still be a solid 1 45 mid split, which wouldn’t exactly be game over for the team.

I know we Brits are Brits, but we are all talking about GBR misfiring while in the same breath talking about USA finding a number of seconds across the board for a podium (or even gold) finish. I know USA has a history of relay successes here, but equally GBR have 2015, 2017 and 2016 success of the podium in this event, so I think that must count for something! Agree with you that I… Read more »

Reply to  Scuncan Dott
1 year ago

You’re right on the misfire thing – A nation of pessimists ha.

Reply to  Dee
1 year ago

I’m British but I’m not pessimistic at all! We win both the Mens 4x100m Medley Relay and 4x200m Freestyle Relay without a shadow of a doubt – Easy Work 👍

1 year ago

1.GBR 2. RUS 3. AUS

1 year ago

Most of the teams have their spots already chosen and fixed.

The last two USA spots are still up in the air.

How do you choose between Kibler, Seliskar, Callan, Pieroni, Apple, and Dressel?

I hope Dave Durden has a “process” for making this decision. I know Seliskar is his swimmer but he shouldn’t play favorites and give him an automatic spot in the finals.

Reply to  Marklewis
1 year ago

They usually do time trials in camp to help sort out relays. You probably save Smith, Haas, and whoever looks nicest for finals, swim four others in prelims, and leave off one of Dressel or Pieroni.

Reply to  Reid
1 year ago

There’s no room for error unfortunately.

Pieroni did swim the fastest split for the USA at 2019 Worlds – a 1:44.9.

Seliskar opened that relay in 1:45.8, which put them in 4th. Then Pieroni swam and moved them into 2nd.

USA could win gold if they can stay close to the lead, and then get a big anchor leg.

What they don’t want is to be in 4th or 5th going into the anchor leg.

1 year ago

The order looks right to me. The only question mark I have about GBR is that it’s always the same four names. If one of them is not quite on song the picture changes dramatically whereas the other main contenders have options.

1 year ago

If Dean or Scott are off they are screwed, if not they have other 1.46 options that could cover.

Reply to  Lopez
1 year ago

Agree. If Scott & Dean are on song, GBR will win gold. If not, game on.

Scuncan Dott
Reply to  Lopez
1 year ago

Going on the rationale of the article, where GBR’s 5th place finish at 2019 is reason for concern, you could argue they actually have 2 ‘other’ 1:45 swimmers in Richards and Jarvis (Jarvis was a 1:45 in 2019 on the relay).

I also think if anyone is off, both Scott and Dean wouldn’t be at the same time. They are from different training centres and although both quite young, are at different stages of their careers. Even if one of them is off, I’d still expect that to be only a net loss of a second to aggregate times of the team after factoring in relay starts.

At the end of the day we can speculate about ‘what ifs’… Read more »

1 year ago

Switzerland had two 1.45 splits in Mityukov and Liess at Europeans, Djakovic was 1.46.1 from a flat start and they have Ponti or Desplanches that should be able to go 1.46-1.47 from a flying start. Realistic 7.05 team that should final.

Coach Rob
1 year ago

I’m the most confident about GBR winning gold in this race out of all the individual and relay events at the games. Only Kristof Milak’s 200 fly might be the only other race that’s a “sure thing” for gold.

Reply to  Coach Rob
1 year ago

Peaty 100 breast isn’t a sure thing? I guess Kamminga has been 57.9 this year, but hard to see anyone being competitive with Peaty this week

Reply to  Coach Rob
1 year ago

You think the Brit 800 free relay is a more sure thing than all of: Peaty, Dressel in fly, Ledecky in 1500, and the Aussie women 400 free relay?

I’d love it to be true but it’s a bold claim.

Reply to  Togger
1 year ago

Also Aussie women’s 800 free relay.

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Coach Rob
1 year ago

it’s not even gbr’s safest gold, let alone for any country

Last edited 1 year ago by Old Man Chalmers

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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