Tokyo 2021 Olympic Relay Qualification Update — Men’s 400 Medley Relay

SwimSwam’s look at the relay qualification for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics continues with the last men’s relay of the field, the 400 Medley Relay. For those of you just joining in, relay qualification has a separate process:


  1. The top 12 teams from prelims of each Olympic relay at the World Championships are selected to the Olympics. The finish order from prelims is what matters, so if a team is disqualified in the final (like the Dutch mixed 400 medley relay was), the team’s spot at the Olympics is secure.
  2. The next 4 best relays from the qualification period, March 1st, 2019 through May 31, 2021, will receive a spot – if the relay is swum at a FINA approved Olympic qualifying event. This includes most Olympic Trials meets, the Southeast Asian Games, the World Championships, World Juniors, Euro Juniors, the World University Games, the FINA World Cups (where a few countries have actually swum times that will get them selected), and a selection of other important international meets.
  3. If any of the top 12 teams from the World Championships, or any of the next 4 best teams during the selection period, decline their spot, then the next-fastest team during the selection period goes. So, if a top-12 team at the World Championships declines their spot, it’s not necessarily the 13th team from the World Championships that is selected.

Prior episodes:

A few notes:

  • Countries can swim any athlete that is entered in any individual event in a relay, even if they have not achieved the OST/”B” standard for the corresponding stroke and distance of the relay in which they are entered.
  • Each NOC gets additional relay-only athletes, but those athletes must have hit the OST/”B” standard for the corresponding stroke and distance of the relay in which they are entered. So, if a swimmer is racing the breaststroke leg of the medley relay, that swimmer must have at least a “B” cut in the 100 breaststroke, if they are a relay only swimmer. If that breaststroker on the medley relay has no cut in the 100 breaststroke but is swimming, say, the 1500 free, they’re still eligible for the relay.
  • Countries must confirm their participation in a relay no later than June 11th, 2021 and must confirm their relay-only athletes by no later than June 27th, 2021.
  • No ‘aggregate relay times,’ the relay must actually be raced to be considered.

Relay-only swimmers, if a country has:

  • 1 qualified relay – 2 additional athletes
  • 2 qualified relays – 4 additional athletes
  • 3 qualified relays – 6 additional athletes
  • 4 qualified relays – 8 additional athletes
  • 5 qualified relays – 10 additional athletes
  • 6 or 7 qualified relays – 12 additional athletes

These relay-only athletes that are chosen for a specific event must swim that event in prelims or finals, or the nation will be disqualified in that relay.

SwimSwam visited relay rankings a year ago in anticipation of the originally scheduled games. As the coronavirus pandemic has forced the rescheduling and cancellation of swim meets, we would like to revisit the rankings for changes that have occurred in the past year. We will be looking at each relay over the next few weeks and plan to update the rankings as needed throughout the qualification period.

Editor’s note: FINA doesn’t officially publish an up-to-date ranking for relay qualifying, so we’ve done our best to compile the current rankings manually.

Men’s 4oo Medley Relay

Country Criteria Time
Great Britain Worlds #1 3:28.10
United States Worlds #2 3:28.45
Russia Worlds #3 3:28.81
Japan Worlds #4 3:30.35
Australia Worlds #5 3:30.42
Brazil Worlds #6 3:30.86
China Worlds #7 3:31.61
Germany Worlds #8 3:32.86
Belarus Worlds #9 3:34.56
Canada Worlds #10 3:34.79
Lithuania Worlds #11 3:34.88
Hungary Worlds #12 3:35.11
Italy Wildcard #1 3:32.66
Ireland Wildcard #2 3:35.86
South Korea Wildcard #3 3:36.53
France Wildcard #4 3:36.61
Netherlands Out #1 3:36.77
Turkey Out #2 3:36.85
Switzerland Out #3 3:36.98
Croatia Out #4 3:37.18

There have been no changes from last year’s rankings. Italy leads the wildcard spots with a time that ranks them in eighth place overall.  Italy is all but guaranteed a spot in Tokyo as over three seconds separate the Italians from Ireland in the second wildcard spot. 

Six countries are competing for the last two wildcard spots as South Korea, France, the Netherlands, Turkey, Switzerland, and Croatia are all separated by less than a second. All but South Korea will be racing at the European Championships in May and a lot of eyes will be on the 400 Medley Relay.

France’s relay should benefit from the rescheduled games. Mehdy Metella, who underwent shoulder surgery a year ago, is back in the pool. Metella marked his competitive return by racing this past October and used it as an opportunity to test the condition of his shoulder. While no guarantee, having Metella back certainly improves France’s chances of improving their wildcard time and securing a spot in Tokyo.

That year has also given the country’s top young backstroker, 20-year old Yahonn Ndoye Brouard, another year to develop – and he’s done that, dropping a few tenths already from his best time in a meet in November.

Turkey, which has had a general rise in power, could take an Olympic qualification spot too if they choose to – and in the development of that country’s swim-industry, it’s likely they’ll view a relay as important.

With Emre Sakci breaking out in short course in the ISL, though we don’t know exactly what that will look like in long course, but he’s been 58-seconds anyway, and it seems unlikely his short course success will hurt.

The best Turkish relay has best flat-starts that aggregate to 3:36.42, which would qualify. Sakci and Gueres are legit, finals-caliber legs. The Turks need to find a solution on backstroke, and they need to find either a freestyle or a breaststroke leg – because, remember, that Sakci is also his country’s fastest 100 freestyler with a best of 49.43.

Right now, it actually seems equally likely that he’ll emerge as this relay’s freestyler, with Berkay Oemer having been 59.54 in 2019 and already 1:00.00 in late December.

Leg Lifetime Best
Backstroke – Metin Aydin 55.27
Breaststroke – Emre Sakci 58.85
Butterfly – Uemitcan Gueres 51.97
Freestyle – Jermoe Basikoglu 50.33
Aggregate 3:36.42

Great Britain leads the rankings and are followed closely behind by the US and Russia. The Brits main advantage is that they have Adam Peaty, the World Record holder in the 100 breaststroke in long course (and it’s not that close).

The reality is that everyone else in the world is playing catchup to that split. The next-best breaststroker at Worlds was 1.3 seconds behind, and was James Wilby, Peaty’s countrymate. Behind that is Yan Zibei of China, Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands, and Yasuhiro Koseki of Japan, all good relays but none of which seem to have enough pieces to put together to make a real run.

Duncan Scott split a ridiculous 46.14 at the World Champs and the British will need something similar to ensure gold. The weak area for the British is backstroke. Luke Greenbank led-off in 53.95 in Gwangju, over a second behind the Americans and the Russians.

The Americans, ranked second, have half of the world records in the 100 stroke events as Ryan Murphy and Caeleb Dressel hold the WRs in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly respectively. At the 2019 World Champs, Murphy led-off this relay over a second slower than his WR time of 51.85 and the Americans will need to see him closer to that time to help win gold. The breaststroke and freestyle legs for the US are in question. The Americans lack a sure-fire number one breaststroker with Andrew Wilson, Cody Miller, Michael Andrew, among others all vying for this spot. The US is also very deep in the 100 freestyle and will have a number of choices for the anchor spot.

Russia lacks the world record pedigree of the British and the Americans but are consistently fast. Evgeny Rylov had the fastest backstroke leg in Gwangju (52.57) and Russia had the second fastest butterfly and freestyle splits of the field with Andrei Minakov (50.54) and Vlad Morozov (47.02).

On the breaststroke leg, Kiril Prigoda was just 0.02 behind Wilson of the US. If either Great Britain or the US have an off-swim, the Russians could certainly challenge for gold in this relay. 

Minakov’s continued rise and emergence over the last year, after winning Worlds silver in the 100 fly in 2019, is what gives the Russians a puncher’s chance in this race.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

The US have so much room to improve on their relay splits from Gwangju that it’s gonna be tough for the UK to repeat and I think that split from Scott was a once in a lifetime split. The UK have a better chance at winning the 4×200 than the medley relay again.

Last edited 2 years ago by Troyy
Reply to  Troyy
2 years ago

Back & free should be a lot faster for the USA this year, but breast & fly? Not so sure. Peaty was .3 slower on the relay than he was individually, so he should mitigate Scott inevitably splitting a lot slower. I think GBRs backstroke leg will be the key; Greenbank was hammering home PBs in the ISL and is pre-selected, so he can focus 100% on the Olympics now. USA are faves, but the margin for error definitely isn’t big.

2 years ago

If Greenbank goes a 52 it’s gonna be a world record medley relay. Though the medley relay from Ireland of just Dean Ferris might have something to say about that.

Reply to  Khachaturian
2 years ago

Greenbank has the potential for 59

Reply to  Khachaturian
2 years ago

Greenbank has the potential to go 56.5. It would make history.