The last in a series of articles for SwimSwam looking at the relay qualification standings for Tokyo, we turn our eyes to the newest Olympic swimming event, the mixed medley relay. A quick reminder of the relay qualification and selection process for Tokyo:
OLYMPIC SWIMMING RELAY SELECTION PROCESS
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Women’s Relays: 400 Free, 800 Free, 400 Medley
- Men’s Relays: 400 Free, 800 Free, 400 Medley
- Mixed Medley Relay
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.
Mixed Medley Relay
|United States||Worlds #3||3:39.10|
|Great Britain||Worlds #4||3:40.68|
|South Korea||Wildcard #3||3:47.92|
|South Africa||Out #3||3:49.90|
Note: the times have been updated to reflect China’s WR
The biggest change from last year is China setting a new World Record in October. As the mixed medley is making its Olympic debut in Tokyo, it is unclear how countries will approach the relay. Japan DQ’d in prelims at Worlds but have since put-up a time that would rank them in the Top-8.
China, Australia, the US, Great Britain, and Russia should all be competing for the medals. The unique nature of the mixed relay general results in large leads and large comebacks depending on how teams have chosen to swim their athletes. Of the top four teams at Worlds, there were three different strategies in terms of where they swam their men and women. A closer look at the final heat at Worlds shows that the general consensus is to have women swim freestyle and men to swim breaststroke:
The table reflects the number of teams that swam a woman or men on that respective relay leg
Teams will be crunching numbers to determine which lineup and swimmers will give them the best opportunity to final and to medal. Regardless of lineup strategy, the mixed medley should be a fun event to watch in Tokyo.