#Tokyo2020 Men’s 800 Free Relay: Will the US Gamble in Relay Final?

2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Great Britain didn’t make the same mistake in the 800 free relay as they did earlier in the 400 free relay and used their Olympic champion Tom Dean in the preliminary heat, advancing comfortably into the final as the top overall seed.

With the top 2 finishers in the individual event, the British team will feel confident going into the final, with the World Record likely a closer bet than a silver medal.

Below, check out the medal contenders for the upcoming final and what changes they might be able to make to run down the Brits, and for the Brits what changes they might be able to make to run down the World Record.

Great Britain (1st Seed)

Great Britain Prelims Substitutions
Matt Richards – 1:46.35
Duncan Scott – 1:44.26
James Guy – 1:44.66
Calum Jarvis – 1:45.53
Tom Dean – 1:46.71
Prelims Time – 7:03.25

Great Britain was only 5th at the 2019 World Championships but have already grown to prohibitive favorites. The World Record to chase is 6:58.66. For starters, they’ll get 2 seconds for swapping in Duncan Scott in favor of Matt Richards or Callum Jarvis. Richards was faster on paper coming in, and dropped the 100 free to focus on this race, but Jarvis was better in the prelims. Then, they’ll expect another 2-3 seconds from Tom Dean going full speed (in heats he just coasted with qualification clear by the time he left the block). Guy’s swim is probably maxed out, but that adds up to about the four-and-a-half seconds they’ll need for the record.

As SwimSwam’s James Sutherland laid out on Twitter:

Australia (2nd seed)

Australia Prelims Substitutions
Alexander Graham – 1:45.72
Kyle Chalmers – 1:45.48
Mack Horton – 1:47.51
Thomas Neill – 1:45.70
Elijah Winnington – 1:46.19
Zac Incerti – 1:45.58
Prelims Time – 7:05.00

Australian coaches have a little bit of a decision to make here, but it appears straight-forward that Kyle Chalmers and Thomas Neill will join the team for finals. Barring a Chalmers breakout – entirely plausible given his 400 free relay split in his first appearance at this meet – Australia doesn’t have a 1:44 ace (let alone two) to keep up with the Brits, but their depth makes them a favorite for silver.

Chalmers taking Horton’s spot gets them 2.5 seconds, Neil taking the spot of (probably) Incerti gets them a few tenths, Alexander Graham has a half-a-second to give if he gets back to his best. So Australia is looking all day at around a 7:02.00.

With the Russian men continuing to struggle, unless the USA gambles and puts Dressel on the finals relay (and he does something really fast), that might already be good enough for silver.

Italy (3rd seed)

Italy Prelims Substitutions
Stefano di Cola – 1:47.00
Stefano Ballo – 1:45.80
Matteo Ciampi – 1:45.64
Marco de Tullio – 1:46.78
Filipo Megli – 1:45.63
Prelims Time – 7:05.05

Italy has one serious change to make here, and that’s swapping in Stefano Ballo likely for Marco de Tullio. Matteo Ciampi would have been the odds-on to be dropped coming into the meet, but his split, a second-and-a-half better than his flat start best entering the meet, has earned him a spot in finals.

That change only gets Italy to a 7:04-low or 7:03-high, which won’t be enough to medal. They’ll need to find at least another  second from the rest of their returning swimmers, and it’s not obvious that those seconds exist. Italy is probably fighting for 5th in the final, though a 1:45.80 for Ballo in the individual event earlier this week at least gives them a shot.

Russia (4th seed)

Russia Prelims Substitutions
Mikhail Dovgalyuk – 1:46.56
Martin Malyutin – 1:44.79
Aleksandr Krsanykh – 1:46.78
Aleksander Shchegolev – 1:45.82
Ivan Girev – 1:45.71
Mikhail Vekovishchev – 1:46.11
Prelims Time – 7:05.16

Russia showed some signs of life in this 800 free relay in what has been a tough meet for their relays so far. Martin Malyutin, who was 5th in the individual 200 free final in 1:45.01, will come on, which should buy them a second-and-a-half at least off prelims. They’ll also bring on Aleksander Shchegolev – even though he wasn’t great on Russia’s prelims 400 free relay, he’s still probably a better option here than Dovgalyuk, who swam in prelims. That gets Russia down to a 7:03-low. The rest will have to come from a better swim by Girev, who has flat-started 1:45.4 this year.

United States (5th seed)

USA Prelims Substitutes
Drew Kibler – 1:46.12
Kieran Smith – 1:45.07
Andrew Seliskar – 1:46.16
Townley Haas – 1:45.66
Patrick Callan – 1:47.12
Zach Apple – 1:46.22
Blake Pieroni – 1:46.21
Caeleb Dressel – 1:46.63
Prelims Time – 7:05.62

We’ve seen the US coaches stay pretty conservative in their finals relay selections so far this meet, with the exception of Simone Manuel in the women’s 400 free relay (which wound up being a positive choice).

So do they go bold here?

Kieran Smith, who has raced well, will obviously join the relay in place of Patrick Callan, who did his part in prelims. Townely Haas will come on too – though it’s unclear who the US will drop. Andrew Seliskar had a fantastic 150 meters in prelims before falling apart on the final 50. By the “book” that the US has historically used, he’ll get the spot based on time – reaction time being a little faster than Pieroni.

But the bigger question is will either get a chance? Or Drew Kibler, who was the best split of the prelims relay on the leadoff leg? Caeleb Dressel swam 1:46.63 in prelims at the US Olympic Trials before scratching later rounds. Zach Apple has been 1:46.22 and was 5th at Trials.

It would be unusual for the US to leave a top 6 finisher off this relay altogether, so we have to assume Apple is on. Then the question becomes whether it’s Dressel or Kibler for the final spot. It’s hard to not picture Dressel being able to swim 1:45 on a flat-start, even if this event is not in his primary specialty and even after the 100 free semi-finals earlier in the session (Chalmers has the same for Australia).

So the best relay for Team USA for finals probably is a wholesale change: Dressel-Smith-Haas-Apple. That relay probably goes 7:01-mid and takes silver Will the coaches be bold enough to stick Dressel on that relay, or trust Kibler to fight with Australia for that spot? Based on the full-coast that Dressel had in prelims of the 100 free, it felt like maybe he was saving some energy for something, but we’ll find out this evening.

Well, NBC thinks so, at least:

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Dressel will come 3rd in 100 free
1 month ago

I think the fact Manuel was put on the women’s 4×100 on day 1 shows that the US coaches are in gambling mood, so I would expect to see Dressel brought in. I’m not sure if that’s the choice I’d make, but everyone seems to think he can drop something special.

25Backstroke

I think Smith, Kibler, Dressel, Haas is the best relay lineup, with the order of Kibler and Dressel interchangeable. Haas is historically a monster on the anchor when it matters, and Smith should be able to get to relatively clear water from lane 2.

Ol' Longhorn

I’d say bringing in the defending Olympic and World champ in that event to join the relay is a LOT different than having the World champ in HALF the distance join the relay.

Dressel will come 3rd in 100 free
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 month ago

Yep, like I said – I wouldn’t do it, but there seem to be loads of people who think Dressel is gonna pull off some inner Agnel or something.

Cate

It doesn’t have anything to do with “gambling mood”. Simone Manuel wasn’t really a gamble and the US has substituted in swimmers before. Look at past Olympic games.

Coach
Reply to  Cate
1 month ago

I agree. It wasn’t much of a gamble when only one swimmer on the prelims relay broke 53.5.

BilesnoGravity
Reply to  Cate
1 month ago

If she’s shown a linear recovery through trials and camp I don’t think it’s a gamble to put her on the 4×200 free relay either.

Both these relays have to gamble to be in contention! Dressel’s upside in a 200 with the adrenaline of a relay is far greater than what we’ve seen from the others.

Who gets it? Adrian Gets it

Who gets it!?!?!? Adrian gets it!!!!

Facts
1 month ago

Normally I’d say relay spots are earned but we’re dealing with a generational talent

Justhereforfun
Reply to  Facts
1 month ago

True, but just imagine swimming your head off with 3 rounds of 2free in Trials to earn a top 6 spot, dog-fighting with your teammates on the prelims to earn a finals spot only to be dropped because that said generational talent MIGHT go a faster time. Doesn’t sound that fair to me tbh

Last edited 1 month ago by Justhereforfun
Thomas
Reply to  Justhereforfun
1 month ago

Phelps swam on the 4×100 and 4×200 relays in Rio but didn’t swim either event at trials. He’s more proven in the 200 than Dressel, but it’s the same premise. I forget if it was Rio or London, but the coaches added Lochte to the 4×100. It happens often and something that the swimmers who earned the finals spots at trials *might* expect.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Thomas
1 month ago

Lochte on the 4×1 was this sorta thing going a bit too far imo. He didn’t have any more upside than the guys in the morning, while Dressel certainly isn’t a lock to be faster than any of them, his upside is muuuuch higher.

Splashanddasher
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

I think I’d take Dressel in the 200 over quite a few guys just by virtue of how good he is when he’s on. He’s also got some pretty fresh legs, why not let him go for it.

Lochte cost the USA that relay that year, I honestly think if Greavers is on that Relay they can win it, but that’s revisionist history. Lochte swam an AWFUL leg.

Michael Schwartz
Reply to  Splashanddasher
1 month ago

I mean, to be fair, Lochte split a 47.74 on that relay. The only one to out-split him in the morning was Greavers who went a 47.54 in prelims. Better, yes, but only by .30 and they lost by .45. Could Greavers had gone a 47.0…maybe…but it’s always hard to say “this person would have been able to do this if they just put them in the race” because it’s all speculation at that point.

And yea, this would certainly be speculation to put Dressel in. But that’s not really what I’m saying or arguing here. I just don’t think Greavers for Lochte would have made that much of a difference on this relay against a 2012 Agnel at his… Read more »

Jack
Reply to  Justhereforfun
1 month ago

Imagine working in the gym endless hours per day, managing your whole life around improving your basketball skills, knocking it out of the park in the NCAA, then finally making it to the NBA only to sit on the bench because Lebron might score more points than you.

Oh wait, that’s just how elite-level sports work.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jack
Justhereforfun
Reply to  Jack
1 month ago

FYI I’m not saying that I doubt Dressel’s ability to swim fast, chances are he probably will, but swimming is a much more transparent sport than other team sports like basketball, where playing “style” may be very subjective. In swimming, times don’t lie (except in Uzbekistan), and it just sucks that one of the most possibly transparent sports in the world can also be subjected to favoritism. Not trying to argue or anything thanks for reading my rant haha

Last edited 1 month ago by Justhereforfun
Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Facts
1 month ago

He’s not a “generational talent” in the 200 free. 1:46.6 is his best time from a month ago, right?

Muricá
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 month ago

Ok but Seli’s 1:46.1 relay = CD’s 1:46.6 flat. So there’s no downside. CD can throw a 1:44 low absolute best case. Likely a 1:45. I think it’s worth a shot if nothing else than to add a medal to the Dressel legacy. Dude knows high pressure and makes it happen. Seli is not a bad option and is reliable n experienced but isn’t going 1:44.

If I’m the USA coaches I’m going Smith, Haas, Apple, CD in that order. CD’s start isn’t as important as his upside in the pressure seat imo. Apple is the man point blank period we need him if we want a chance at a win (ik… I’m delusional sorry). Haas in second separates himself… Read more »

96Swim
Reply to  Muricá
1 month ago

Unless you’re leaving off Apple who was top 6 at trials, you’re already bringing in Smith, Apple, and Haas, so isn’t the choice Kibler (146.1 flat start) v Dressel rather than Seli v. Dressel?

Stoobie
Reply to  96Swim
1 month ago

I agree. I think it’s going to be Kibler, Smith, Haas and Apple tonight. Haas has a history of putting up huge relay splits and Apple is a reliable relay guy that always steps up. I also think it makes sense not to add this swim to Dressel’s schedule.

Coach Chackett
1 month ago

When do we see the entries?

Philip Johnson
Reply to  Coach Chackett
1 month ago

Usually an hour or 30 minutes before the session.

N P
1 month ago

I feel like they have to take the gamble to have a shot at silver. Might not pay off of course, but go bold or go home I suppose.

Thomas
Reply to  N P
1 month ago

Go bold and go for gold, or go home

Admin
1 month ago

Kinda funny NBC has him down for the 4×200 and mixed medley but not the men’s medley

Coach Chackett
Reply to  Coleman Hodges
1 month ago

Well, they are knowledgeable. HAHAHA.

rice
Reply to  Coleman Hodges
1 month ago

NBC should have bought the Swimming Stats Olympic guide.

JVW
Reply to  rice
1 month ago

Couldn’t swing it with their budget.

Sub13
Reply to  Coleman Hodges
1 month ago

Yeah I’m not sure I’d trust their schedule when he is obviously going to be on the men’s medley but is still a question mark for the mixed final.

Kelly M Zhou
Reply to  Sub13
1 month ago

He is definitely gonna be in the mixed medley. He’s great at free and fly.

bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

1:44 for the big man on the lead-off tomorrow!!

Last edited 1 month ago by bobthebuilderrocks
Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

I’d love to see it, but in both his relay and his prelim swim here, there was zero separation from the field after the start, and guys were gaining on him at the end. How that projects to an almost 2-second drop from his swim at OTs does not compute.

ooo
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

Thinking about Tom Deam here ? He might even be faster than this.

TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

The real question is this:

How much was the US sandbagging in order to qualify for the final? And how much is left in the tank for the finalists?

How many times have we seen this before where another team looks strong on paper going into a final, and they end up losing, and the US comes out ahead? This is nothing new

Dressel will come 3rd in 100 free
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

I mean if they swim as well as people like you talk they will break the world record

TheSwimCritic

It doesn’t matter if you’re top qualifier. If you can’t back up your time with something equally fast, or faster, then being ‘fastest on paper’ doesn’t mean anything

Dressel will come 3rd in 100 free
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

I have made no comments about anyone being fastest on paper. However, you on the other hand are seemingly suggesting the US are going to be fastest despite being neither fastest on paper nor fastest in the water.

They don’t give out gold medals for arrogance, but if they did the United States would already have topped the medal table with an insurmountable lead.

TheSwimCritic

At what point did I say specifically, that you, “Dressell will come 3rd in 100 free” commented that the fastest team on paper will win with no exception? No, the author is predicting that GB will beat the WR, based off adding best case scenario times

How long have you been watching swimming? How many previous Olympic games have you seen where going into a race someone was the ‘favorite’ to win on paper, and they ended up not delivering? I’ve been watching this sport for the better part of 17 years, and I’ve seen some crazy upsets. You must not be aware of the historical precedent this race has. Know your history

Dressel will come 3rd in 100 free
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

You’re right. I’m actually 4 years old and this is my first Olympics. You make a fallacy in assuming because the favourites on paper have lost before, that someone sets a precedent here.

Of course anything is possible, but when you have to suggest the majority of the US team will go PBs by a margin of 1-2 seconds each, and that the team with the Olympic champion and runner up (not to mention James Guy, arguably one of the most consistently clutch 200 relay swimmers active today) will lose, then I don’t care how many other Olympic Games you’ve seen, you’re clearly deluded, or worse, a biased American who can’t accept the fact they’re not going into a final… Read more »

TheSwimCritic

I’ve seen races won from all lanes in a final. Like I said, it doesn’t matter if you’re the top qualifier from the prelims or semifinals. If GB can back their times up, then I will be proven wrong, and I will happily admit it. But I don’t think the US will let GB win just because they’re in Lane 4 and look fast on paper

Togger
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

True, 2000 400 free relay, 2004 400 free relay, 2012 400 free relay.

Now I think about it the favourite has been beaten a fair amount.

Thomas
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

US might have a better history as the underdog on paper vs top seed. That 08 4×100 was incredible

Dean team
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

Get a grip America

TheSwimCritic
Reply to  Dean team
1 month ago

Cope, seethe, and dilate

Dean Team
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha

Togger
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

How many times was the other team bringing in the individual silver medallist (and in practical terms the gold medallist, given Dean split 1.46.7 flying start literally the same day he went 1.44.2 flat start)?

The US has pulled off some big finals swims, but there is no combination of US swimmers I can see which matches 1.44/1.45/1.44/1.44 (which assumes a guy who went 1.44.2 flat start can’t do a 1.43 flying start).

Last edited 1 month ago by Togger
Ratio
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

I mean Townley has done a 1:43 before. And I see no reason why the US can’t find two 1:44s from Smith and the rest.

Dressel is the real wildcard.

Togger
Reply to  Ratio
1 month ago

If “he’s done it a few years ago” qualifies you could include Jimmy Guy’s 1.43 relay split from 2017 in the GB times but it’s not realistic.

Smith I think will do 1.44.

At Trials Apple was 1.46.45, it’s a hell of a drop to be 1.44.9 flying start now.

Kibler could do, but it’d take a half second drop from today, when he was presumably all in to try and get a finals spot.

If Dressel could do a 1.44 low flat start he’d be swimming this individually, he’s probably a 1.45 low to mid.

It’s all possible, but it’s not probable.

Human Ambition
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

It is USA and Relay. They have delivered before.

It is so tempting to set the alarm at 3.30AM.

TheSwimCritic
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

It rests on the assumption that Dean and Scott can repeat their times from the final. The weakest leg is from Jarvis; he’d need to he 1:45.0 or 1:44.xx

Shadia
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

No it rests on the assumption that the Brits can’t repeat their times and the US some how drop 2 seconds off each leg which is hard to believe and also assuming the Aussies and Russians flunk too

Dressel will come 3rd in 100 free
Reply to  Shadia
1 month ago

I’m not sure if this guy is trolling but he’s not worth it. The logic where GB swimmers can’t repeat times they’ve done literally in the last 48 hours but USA can somehow PB by up to 2 seconds each across the board is just stupid

Shadia

honestly more nervous about the Italians then the US bringing in Dressel in and the rest somehow dropping the performance of their careers

TheSwimCritic
Reply to  Shadia
1 month ago

You think the Italians will do major PBs to be in medal contention, but the US won’t perform?? Come on man you can’t have it both ways

TheSwimCritic

I can sit here and say you aren’t worth it, but based on your attitude you’re all in that GB will win

Dressel will come 3rd in 100 free
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

Nope, I have made no definitive statements, I even said anything can happen above.

All I can say is I hope the best team wins.

TheSwimCritic

But of course you’re gonna bash me and call me a biased American because I didn’t agree with you

Nice logic 👌

ooo

Voice of reason

TheSwimCritic
Reply to  Shadia
1 month ago

I mean, everyone thought France was gonna beat the US back in 2008 in the 400 free relay, but look what happened…

Togger
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

The one where the US qualified fastest, subbed in the GOAT and was anchored by the fastest relay split in history?

Seems a pretty run of the mill relay which makes a solid precedent for future predictions.

Shadia
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

True that was a great race but just feel like if there’s going to be an upset its more that the Aussies or Russians could pull something off. I do think the US can medal though

Togger
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

Two guys who went 1.44.2 literally yesterday being 1.44 splits is an assumption, but the US guy who’s never swum an international 200 free relay or individual going 1.44 low is a nailed on certainty?

I don’t think Jarvis will swim it, they’ll use Richards.

TheSwimCritic
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

Richards??? He went a 1:46.3. That’s slower than Jarvis

Togger
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

He led off, Jarvis had a point 1 reaction time and went 1.45.5. Given Richards did a 1.45 .7 flat start at trials, I think they’ll go with him and trust him to repeat it.

lol
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

you’re making a ton of sense here. other replies to this comment are coming off as quite delusional honestly.

Right Dude Here
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

This is the right answer. I can’t see the US having more than two 1:44s, and I don’t think Dressel’s one of them.

TheSwimCritic
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

That’s because the final swim matters, not the prelims

Jon Herbert
Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

And Guy with the pressure of an Olympic final relay can go 1:43.5

TheSwimCritic
Reply to  Jon Herbert
1 month ago

You don’t think that the US would perform under pressure?

shah
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

You’re delusional

TheSwimCritic
Reply to  shah
1 month ago

You’re late to the discussion

Greg
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

This situation is a little different with the proven dominance of the Brits in the 200 frees. Also, just in this meet we saw a dominant-on-paper non-American team hold up just fine (women Aussies in the 400 free relay).

Tomek
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

Yeah, Seliskar sandbagged his last 50 because he did not want to swim the finals….

eagleswim
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

i mean do you think they were sandbagging the individual too? we are just not good in that event right now

Justhereforfun
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

Wow of course! All the Americans must be sandbagging so much, Haas and Smith purposely sandbagging their individual 2frees just so that people can lower their guard on them and they can magically drop another 1.5 seconds, why didn’t anyone think of that?

TheSwimCritic
Reply to  Justhereforfun
1 month ago

You must not have watched the US win a relay before…

Justhereforfun
Reply to  TheSwimCritic
1 month ago

Name me ONE relay where all Americans drop 1 second from their individual PBs in a relay, because that’s literally what needs to happen for them to win here…

TheSwimCritic
Reply to  Justhereforfun
1 month ago

You act like the impossible hasn’t happened before

PFA
1 month ago

I have a feeling that one of the lead off swimmers is gonna break 1:44 idk why but I feel it’s going to happen

PhillyMark
Reply to  PFA
1 month ago

Bold to pick a 1:43 for Remel!

PFA
Reply to  PhillyMark
1 month ago

I mean maybe depends on what Greg Meehan wants to do as well but if Poseidon goes 1:43 on a lead off I will lose it. Has anyone ever been 1:43 47. and 21.?

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Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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