2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
- When: Pool swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Open Water swimming: Wednesday, August 4 – Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Where: Olympic Aquatics Centre / Tokyo, Japan
- Heats: 7 PM / Semifinals & Finals: 10:30 AM (Local time)
- Full aquatics schedule
- SwimSwam Event Previews
- Entry Lists
- Live Results
- Day 5 Prelims Heat Sheet
- Day 5 Prelims Recap
- Full 800 free relay prelims results
The women’s 800 free relay final seems, on paper, like a four team race for three medals.
One of those teams, Australia, is shaped up to run away with the relay: they were almost three seconds ahead of the field in prelims, even without using their four best relay options. The World Record holders should win this race going-away, just like they did in the 400 free relay earlier in the meet.
But the USA, China, and Canada will be locked in a war for finals. All three countries have substantial changes to make for finals. Check out their options below.
Australia (1st seed)
|Mollie O’Callaghan – 1:55.11||
Ariarne Titmus – 1:53.09
|Meg Harris – 1:57.01||
Emma McKeon – 1:54.74
|Brianna Throssell – 1:56.46||
Madi Wilson – 1:55.68
|Tamsin Cook – 1:56.03||
Leah Neale – 1:56.08
|Time – 7:44.61|
Update: Australia has confirmed a four swimmer swap for finals. They haven’t actually named the foursome, but we presume it will be the substitutions list above. Read more here.
On paper, Australia probably entered this meet thinking that they were going to make 4 changes for finals. For an Australian team that really hasn’t missed much at this meet, though, they might have made their first error here: Mollie O’Callaghan split 1:55.11 on a flat start on the leadoff leg in prelims.
On paper, that should earn her a spot in finals, probably over Leah Neale, but Neale has not yet swum a race. Olympic rules require that every athlete who travels to the meet be used. Unless the Australians plan to jam her onto a prelims relay of the mixed or women’s 400 medley later in the meet, they can’t leave her off this relay.
The coaches could drop Madi Wilson, who finished 8th in the individual 200 free, from the finals relay. On paper, that might be the fastest play – but for the Australians, it will come down to whether they’d rather have 8 gold medalists or 7 gold medalists and a shot at the World Record.
United States (2nd seed)
|Bella Sims – 1:58.59||
Katie Ledecky – 1:54.40
|Paige Madden – 1:55.96||
Allison Schmitt – 1:56.79
|Katie McLaughlin – 1:56.02||
Olivia Smoliga – 1:57.04
|Brooke Forde – 1:57.00|
|Time – 7:47.57|
The US can definitely improve in this relay by leaps-and-bounds with the most obvious change: inserting Katie Ledecky for the young Bella Sims, who played her role in prelims. Based on Ledecky’s form in the individual 200 free, where she was 5th in a 1:55-low, that would get team USA down to a 7:44-low.
After that, the decisions get tougher.
Allison Schmitt was just 1:56.87 in the semifinals of the 200 free and missed the semi-finals. But, based on the conservative and traditional selections by American coaches this week, we have to believe that she’ll be put in the finals relay. That makes sense, replacing Forde, who split 1:57.00 in what will be her lone Olympic appearance. That’s six-tenths faster than she swam in the individual final at the US Olympic Trials.
That saves the American coaches from an excruciating decision between Paige Madden and Katie McLaughlin, who were separated by just .06 seconds in prelims. Those two splits are probably both good enough to keep the US coaches from considering Simone Manuel in the final, like they did in the 400 free relay earlier in the meet. Manuel’s best flat-start of all time was a 1:56.09 at the 2019 World Championships, and while her first appearance here in Tokyo was definitely better than she was at Trials, there’s no good reason to believe that she’s a better choice here than Madden or McLaughlin.
China (3rd seed)
|Tang Muhan – 1:57.29||
Yang Junxuan – 1:54.57
|Zhang Yifan – 1:57.63||
Wang Jianjiahe – 1:57.02
|Dong Jie – 1:57.77|
|Li Bingjie – 1:56.29|
|Time – 7:48.98|
China, on paper, has two upgrades to make that could net them as many as 4 seconds in the final. But, after they opted to not make the changes to chase medals in the 400 free relay earlier in the meet, it’s hard to guess what they’re going to do here.
Yang has the 100 free semifinal on Thursday morning, the same session as this relay final, and if they weren’t going to use her in the 400 free relay, hard to see them using her here. Our guess is that China will punt and miss another medal.
Canada (4th seed)
|Katerine Savard – 1:58.18||
Summer McIntosh – 1:56.19
|Rebecca Smith – 1:55.99||
Penny Oleksiak – 1:55.21
|Mary-Sophie Harvey – 1:57.53||
Kayla Sanchez – 1:57.23 (2018)
|Sydney Pickrem – 1:59.82||
Taylor Ruck – 1:54.44 (2018)
|Time – 7:51.52|
Update: Katerine Savard has confirmed on Instagram that she won’t swim the final and that the relay will be Oleksiak, McIntosh, Sanchez, and Smith.
The Canadians have the replacements in tow to fight with the Americans for silver. They made an interesting choice to stick Sydney Pickrem, who skipped the 200 breast individually in the same session, on the prelims anchor of this relay. That felt like a place-holder, so she’ll be off finals.
Kayla Sanchez has opted to scratch the semifinals of the 100 free, where she was the 10th seed, presumably to focus on this relay. So we have to assume that she’s in to the finals relay.
Penny Oleksiak is the country’s star, so she’ll be in for sure as well. The 14-year old Summer McIntosh has been swimming very well at this meet, so we have to assume that she’s also in to the finals relay.
The big question mark then is whether Canada sticks with Rebecca Smith or swaps in Taylor Ruck for finals. Smith made the choice hard for the coaches with a 1:59.99 prelims split even with a conservative .41 reaction time. Meanwhile, Ruck, who has a tantalizing personal best of 1:54.44, has struggled in this meet.
Ruck’s best time since April 2019 on a flat-start is just 1:59.44, and she hasn’t had good results so far at these Olympics. So, as much as it hurts, it seems like she’s probably going to be off the finals relay. If that is the decision, then it is a little peculiar that Canadian coaches chose not to use her, instead of Pickrem, on the prelims relay to give her a shot at a medal. Ruck does still have the 200 back left, but that’s not the same medal shot as this relay is.
Russian Olympic Committee (5th seed)
|Russian Olympic Committee Prelims||Substitutions|
|Anastasia Guzhenkova – 1:57.26||N/A|
|Valeriia Salamatina – 1:58.87|
|Veronika Andrusenko – 1:57.77|
|Anna Egorova – 1:58.14|
|Time – 7:52.04|
Germany (6th seed)
|Isabel Gose – 1:57.29||N/A|
|Leonie Kullmann – 1:59.00|
|Marie Pietruschka – 1:58.73|
|Annika Bruhn – 1:57.04|
|Time – 7:52.06|
Neither Russia nor Germany have any swimmers to swap in for finals, which probably means they’re out of the medals. Germany can swim better than that time for sure (Kullmann, for example, has a flat-start best of 1:57.64 from earlier this year), but neither country will clear the gap to the 7:43-or-better it will probably take to medal.