Tokyo Relay Splits: Dressel’s 49.0 Fly Leg Leads U.S. Men To World Record


Men’s 400 Medley Relay

The U.S. men took down the 12-year-old world record in the 400 medley relay final to close out the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Sunday morning, winning gold in a time of 3:26.78 to extinguish the previous mark of 3:27.28.

Great Britain gave them a run for the win, ultimately finishing second in a European Record time of 3:27.51, and four other nations cracked 3:30.

Let’s dive into the splits.


Swimmer Country Back Split
Ryan Murphy USA 52.31
Thomas Ceccon Italy 52.52
Xu Jiayu China 52.77
Evgeny Rylov ROC 52.82
Ryosuke Irie Japan 53.05
Mitch Larkin Australia 53.19
Luke Greenbank Great Britain 53.63
Markus Thormeyer Canada 53.69

Ryan Murphy set the world record in the men’s 100 backstroke leading off the medley relay at the 2016 Olympics, and while he didn’t quite hit that time here, he still gave the Americans the early lead in 52.31. That time is essentially right on what Murphy has been going all week, with his fastest swim coming in at 52.19 in the individual event.

Thomas Ceccon put Italy in second, clocking 52.52 to fall just over two tenths shy of his National Record set earlier in the meet, while individual 100 back winner Evgeny Rylov (52.82) was more than eight tenths slower than he was individually.

Luke Greenbank was three tenths off his PB in 53.63, putting the Brits in an early 1.32-second hole.


Swimmer Country Breast Split
Adam Peaty Great Britain 56.53
Nicolo Martinenghi Italy 58.11
Yan Zibei China 58.35
Michael Andrew USA 58.49
Zac Stubblety-Cook Australia 58.67
Ryuya Mura Japan 58.94
Kirill Prigoda ROC 59.06
Gabe Mastromatteo Canada 59.67

Adam Peaty dropped the fastest relay split of all-time on the breaststroke leg, recording a time of 56.53 to launch the Brits into the lead. Peaty’s previous best leg came at the 2016 Games in 56.59.

Italy’s Nicolo Martinenghi, who has now split sub-58 on multiple occasions, had the second-fastest leg in 58.11, moving the Italians ahead of the U.S. at the halfway mark of the race. Michael Andrew was 58.49 for the Americans, slightly under his fastest flat-start swim from the meet (58.62).

Yan Zibei sizzled for China in 58.35, though they were ultimately disqualified.


Swimmer Country Fly Split
Caeleb Dressel USA 49.03
James Guy Great Britain 50.27
Andrei Minakov ROC 50.31
Matthew Temple Australia 50.78
Naoki Mizunuma Japan 50.88
Josh Liendo Canada 51.02
Federica Burdisso Italy 51.07
Sun Jiajun China DQ

Caeleb Dressel was the difference-maker for the Americans, out-splitting GBR’s James Guy by 1.24 seconds with the fastest fly leg ever: 49.03.

Dressel’s split improves on his previous fastest-ever leg, 49.28, and gave Zach Apple a cushion on six-tenths on the free leg.

Guy split a strong 50.27, having put up what is now the seventh-fastest split ever on the mixed relay (50.00).

Andrei Minakov produced an elite time of 50.31 for the Russian Olympic Committee, while Federico Burdisso (51.07) had the field’s slowest split (not including the DQed Chinese), which loosened Italy’s grip on bronze coming into the final exchange.


Swimmer Country Free Split
Zach Apple USA 46.95
Kyle Chalmers Australia 46.96
Kliment Kolesnikov ROC 47.03
Katsumi Nakamura Japan 47.04
Duncan Scott Great Britain 47.08
Alessandro Miressi Italy 47.47
Yuri Kisil Canada 48.04
He Junyi China DQ

Zach Apple had a massive rebound swim after a rough split on the 4×200 free relay, throwing down a time of 46.95 to out-split everyone else in the field.

Apple was 46.69 on the 400 free relay at the beginning of the meet, also as the anchor, showing he can come up clutch when the pressure is on.

Duncan Scott had engineered an epic come-from-behind win for the Brits in this event at the 2019 World Championships, splitting 46.14 on the end, but only mustered a 47.08 here—still a fast time, though it surprisingly only ranked fifth in the elite field.

Kyle Chalmers churned out another sub-47 for the Aussies in 46.96, and Kliment Kolesnikov brought the Russians home in 47.03, but Italy’s Alessandro Miressi (47.47) did just enough to land the team it’s first-ever medal with a bronze.

Japan’s Katsumi Nakamura, who missed the 100 free semis in 17th, was also very fast in 47.04.


Country Aggregate Exchanges
USA 0.45
Great Britain 0.84
Italy 0.87
Russia 0.67
Australia 0.93
Japan 0.43
Canada 0.42
China DQ (not for exchange)

The U.S. gained 39 one-hundredths on Great Britain on relay exchanges alone, with their three swimmers that had a takeover combining for a 0.45 RT. Apple had the fastest exchange for the Americans at .04.

The Canadians have been sharp all week on relay exchanges, and that trend continued here, though they were well back in seventh.

ROC gaining two tenths on Italy on exchanges was almost the difference in winning a medal, as the Italians ended up only holding on by .05.

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1 month ago

That 49.03 has to go in the books as one of the epic splits of history, along with Jason Lezak’s 46.06 and Sun Yang’s 1:43.16. Oh, and all of Peaty’s splits.

Reply to  Notanyswimmer
1 month ago

I disagree. Dressel is so fast this split will not be looked at as one of his best swims for long. He’ll be 48 with a flat start eventually

1 month ago

Zapple lives dangerously on the exchanges, the mad lad

Swim nerd
Reply to  Ragnar
1 month ago

He’s trying to master the -.03 relay exchange

Reply to  Ragnar
1 month ago

how its done!

Reply to  Ragnar
1 month ago

He had the same RT as Cate Campbell. So ballsy but they got the job done!

Reply to  Sub13
1 month ago

Campbell’s RT was the difference in the women’s race

That jerk Mitch
1 month ago

The margin Peaty has over his rivals even makes Dressel look like school boy. It’s filthy.

Reply to  That jerk Mitch
1 month ago

He singlehandedly makes GB competitive in the relay

Martin McEvoy
Reply to  Cornbread
1 month ago

In a sense, yes, though I think that might be a bit unfair on guy whom but for the freak that is Dressel would be lighting the pool up himself. The Free splits were relatively slose – the GBR issue is backstroke, where Greenbank is a game tryer, but he’s not a 100 backstroker really. USA deserved the win, they outsplit GBR on 3 legs to 1, but this is a rivalry that could entertain for several years yet, along with the mixed medley where Dawson is much more competitive on the first leg.

1 month ago

What caused China’s dq?

Masters Swimmer
Reply to  Marsh
1 month ago

Yes, what was cause of DQ? It was not an exchange, so breaststroke pull out?

Reply to  Masters Swimmer
1 month ago

It was the fly swimmer who caused the DQ, I’d say maybe passing the 15m in underwater or the turn

Reply to  Marsh
1 month ago

Br dolphin kick into the finish…

1 month ago

I did not know Markus Thormeyer swam breast according to swimswan he swam the first two legs for Canada

Bill G
Reply to  Anon5
1 month ago

Gabe Mastromatteo was the Cdn breastroker.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Anon5
1 month ago

Finally, someone to challenge MA in the 150 IM.

1 month ago

Saw way too many negative comments on michael Andrew before this race. Unacceptable.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Fan
1 month ago

I thought it was cute he didn’t really know how to celebrate. Feel like he sorta looked at the rest of the relay and was like oh ya, snarl and flex that’s the move.

1 month ago

We won. They all did awesome. Now, it’s Miller time!!!

Thomas Selig
1 month ago

Some great swims across the board. Dressel and Peaty obviously the stand outs with brilliant swims. I think this may be the fastest ever men’s medley relay overall too: 6 teams under 3:30 (2009 had five, which I assume was the previous fastest). Shows how much the rest of the world is moving on. Indeed, US here were quite close to mis-judging prelims and being out of the finals. I wonder if they’ll need to re-think the “change the whole team” strategy moving forward: we’re seeing more and more teams go all out in prelims, and the margins are getting tighter at the top.

DCC Parent
Reply to  Thomas Selig
1 month ago

You are right. The USA no longer has the luxury of holding the best swimmers for finals. The rest of the world has caught up AND using top swimmers in prelims. Need to modify our approach on relays going forward.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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