Underwhelming Heats Of Mixed Medley Relay Raise Questions Surrounding The Final

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

So, the mixed medley relay at the 2022 FINA World Championships just got off to a very slow start. In the prelims, the United States recorded the top time of 3:43.16, which would have finished seventh in the Olympics prelims. In addition, it was also nearly five seconds slower than the top qualifying time from Tokyo. Germany clocked a 3:46.54 to finish eighth and make it into finals, and had they put that up in the Tokyo prelims they would have been tied for 13th.

That being said, many of the top teams such as the United States and Australia were likely using completely different lineups than what they will use in finals, meaning that we cannot take everything we saw in prelims as a sign for what’s coming tonight. In addition, other teams such are missing one or two major X-factor stars in their prelims lineup, such as Great Britain leaving out flyer James Guy.

In this article, we take a look at some of these mixed medley relays that most likely will need to make big lineup changes headed into finals.

United States

Prelims In reserve (flat start PBs)
Back Ryan Murphy – 52.40 Hunter Armstrong – 51.98/Regan Smith – 57.57/Claire Curzan – 58.39
Breast Lilly King – 1:06.79 Nic Fink – 58.37/Annie Lazor – 1:05.37
Fly Michael Andrew – 50.69 Caeleb Dressel – 49.45/Torri Huske – 55.64
Free Erika Brown – 53.28 Caeleb Dressel – 46.96/Torri Huske – 52.96
Total 3:43.16

The United States have the hardest lineup decision out of any of the other teams, as they have so many different options to choose from.

So let’s start off with the no-brainers. First, I don’t see any reason why anyone should be put on breaststroke over Nic Fink in this final. Obviously, Lilly King hasn’t been at her best all week, and we don’t know where Annie Lazor is at too with her DQ from the individual 100 breast. Either way, with the gap between an average man and woman being the largest on breast, using a female breaststroker in the finals is a risky gamble. Michael Andrew, the other American male breaststroker, had a disappointing individual swim where he failed to make the finals of the 100 breast. So all things considered, going with Fink, the men’s 100 breast bronze medalist, would be the best choice.

The other legs of this relay are going to be a little harder for the U.S. to decide. Their best option in an ideal scenario would be to use Regan Smith, the fastest female backstroker on the team. However, Smith has to race the 50 back and 200 fly semifinals before this relay, and she might be much slower after two different individual swims. Smith has handled multiple events in one session well before, such as when she won the 200 back, finished second in the 200 fly, and helped Stanford finish second in the 400 free relay all on the last day of NCAAs this year. However, if she’s not on form, the alternative option would be to use Claire Curzan on back. Yes, the U.S. has Hunter Armstrong, who swam a massive best time of 51.98 in the 100 back final yesterday. However, using him would mean leaving Caeleb Dressel out on the back end of this relay, which wastes a major weapon that the U.S. has over other teams. In addition, Curzan has a best time of 58.39 that would probably be faster than most of the female backstrokers in the field, and she was just off that by a few tenths to collect bronze in the women’s 100 back.

Then, there’s the debate of where to use Dressel and Torri Huske on the back end. Dressel’s best fly split of 49.03 is 6.61 seconds faster than Huske’s 55.64, and his best free split of 46.99 is only 5.97 seconds faster than Huske’s 52.96 flat start time. In a scenario where both are at their best, Dressel on fly and Huske on free would be the way to go. However, Huske is having a better meet than Dressel so far, having gone best times in both the 100 free and fly while Dressel has been well off his own. Dressel does tend to get better as the meet goes on though, and he hasn’t swam the majority of his individual races yet, so the decision of who to put on which stroke is really up to the coaches and who they think fits better on free and fly.

Australia

Prelims In reserve (flat start PBs)
Back Isaac Cooper – 53.77 Kaylee McKeown – 57.45
Breast Matt Wilson – 1:00.27 Zac Stubblety-Cook – 59.51
Fly Brianna Throssell – 57.51 Matt Temple – 50.45
Free Meg Harris – 53.03 Mollie O’Callaghan – 52.49
Total 3:44.58

The Aussies can easily be faster than their prelims time, as the aggregate flat start best times of their projected finals lineup is a 3:39.90. In addition, Zac Stubblety-Cook has been as fast as 58.67 off a relay start and Mollie O’Callaghan has potential to be quicker than her best time while anchoring. The only question surrounding this team is Kaylee McKeown‘s current backstroke form. She withdrew from the individual 100 back race to focus on the 200 IM, and has yet to break 58 seconds this year. However, even if she doesn’t go near her best time, she’s still likely to be the fastest woman on backstroke if Smith isn’t racing.

In a scenario where the Americans mess up their lineup, Australia could easily be a favorite to run away with the title here.

Great Britain

Prelims In reserve (flat start PBs)
Back Medi Harris – 1:00.09
Breast James Wilby – 58.94
Fly Jacob Peters – 51.49 James Guy – 50.67 (50.00 relay split last year)
Free Anna Hopkin – 53.12 Freya Andrerson – 53.31 (52.70 relay split this year)
Total 3:43.64

Without Adam Peaty and Kathleen Dawson, Great Britain probably won’t be the top dogs in this relay like they were at the Olympics. However, their third-place finish in the prelims with a team similar to their finals squad signifies that they still could be in the running for a medal.

Replacing Jacob Peters with James Guy will be a huge boost for the Brits, as Guy is known to be extremely strong on relays. The one other potential change that they could make would be to swap Freya Anderson with Anna Hopkin. Hopkin has a higher ceiling, having gone 52.00 on the Tokyo mixed medley relay, but Anderson has had a very good meet so far this year. Anderson anchored in a 52.70 on the women’s 4×100 free relay (a second faster than Hopkin’s flat start time in the same race), and is currently the top seed headed into the finals of the women’s 200 free. If Hopkin isn’t capable of producing what she did last year, Anderson may be the way to go.

Italy

Prelims In reserve (flat start PBs)
Back Michele Lamberti – 54.40 Thomas Ceccon – 51.60
Breast Arianna Castiglioni – 1:05.82 Nicolo Martinenghi – 58.26
Fly Elena di Liddo – 57.83
Free Manuel Frigo – 48.39 Silvia Di Pietro – 54.11
Total 3:46.34

The Italian men are red-hot right now, coming off of Thomas Ceccon‘s 100 back world record and Nicolo Martinenghi‘s win in the 100 breast. If they lead off with two males in the finals, they could have a substantial lead over everyone else at the halfway mark. However, Italy lacks options on the women’s side. Elena di Liddo didn’t have a good showing in the 100 fly, finishing 13th in a time of 58.44 that is nearly two seconds slower than her 56.62 split on this relay last year. In addition, her prelims fly split wasn’t very fast either.  Silvia Di Pietro has been as fast as 53.84 before on a relay in freestyle, but likely won’t be faster than the other female freestylers in the field.

Yes, Martinenghi could be replaced with women’s 100 breast champion Benedetta Pilato while Di Pietro gets replaced by Alessandro Miressi on free. That puts Italy at a disadvantage though, as Miressi’s best time of 47.45 is only 6.66 seconds faster than Di Pietro’s 54.11, while Martinenghi’s 58.26 is 7.67 faster than Pilato’s 1:05.93 from yesterday. In addition, Miressi hasn’t been in peak form recently, having led off the 4×100 free relay in a time of 48.38, which will minimize the gap between him and Di Pietro even more.

If Ceccon and Martinenghi get off to a strong start and the women can build off of that, they could keep up with the leaders throughout the race. However, don’t expect to see them contending for the top spot.

China

Prelims In reserve (flat start PBs)
Back Xu Jiayu – 53.33
Breast Yu Jingyao – 1:06.73 Yan Zibei – 58.63
Fly Wang Changhao – 51.23 Zhang Yufei – 55.62
Free Cheng Yujie – 53.63 Yang Junxuan – 53.02
Total 3:44.92

China is not having a good meet so far, with Xu Jiayu failing to make the finals of the 100 back and Yan Zibei being over half a second slower than his best time in the 100 breast. In addition, while Zhang Yufei did end up medaling in the 100 fly, she was also slower than her PB and took bronze when she was favored by many to win gold. The one big upgrade that China could have would be swapping Cheng Yujie with Yang Junxuan, the only big-name Chinese swimmer at this meet that seems to not be underperforming. Yang split 52.70 anchoring the 4×100 free relay and secured herself a spot in the 200 free final, and could be a silver lining to China’s otherwise disappointing performances.

Even with Xu, Yan, and Zhang not being at their best, swapping them in for the prelims swimmers would still be the best option. Their individual times from this meet plus Yang’s relay anchor split is a 3:41.78, still over three seconds faster than what China put up in the heats.

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Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
1 month ago

Armstrong – Fink – Huske – Curzan

Curzan (58.67) – Armstrong (51.98) = 6.69

Huske (55.64) – Dressel (50.2) = 5.44

Josh
1 month ago

How about just dumping these pointless relays?

Swimmer
1 month ago

Teams that switch out their entire lineup are using this race as an opportunity for more swimmers to receive medals. Keep the relay. Do away with prelims

Mediocre Swammer
Reply to  Swimmer
1 month ago

I think they are equally trying to lower, by one, the number of swims their busiest swimmers have to do….

Swimmer
Reply to  Mediocre Swammer
1 month ago

Totally agree. Do away with prelims

Brandon Franklin
1 month ago

Smith 57.8
Fink 58.8
Dressel 50.0
Huske 52.7

Taa
1 month ago

You have to use fink and Armstrong. Huske, brown I guess. Give Dressel a rest. If you insist on using Dressel then let Berkoff or White lead off…probably White she has no event today.

Meathead
1 month ago

Regan, Fink, Dressel, Brown. Gold

Ajthomas
Reply to  Meathead
1 month ago

Problem 1: Reagan is doing 2 events tonight already.
Problem 2: your fastest women isn’t on your relay.

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
Reply to  Ajthomas
1 month ago

In addition, there is only one event between the semifinals of the women’s 200 meter butterfly and the final of the 4 x 100 meter mixed medley relay.

Oceanian
1 month ago

If we Aussies get a bronze in this we will be happy enough. Comm Games are the priority for us this year and mickey mouse events like mixed relays or 50m form-strokes are never considered important. Mixed relays will become more of a consideration in future years however.

Personal Best
Reply to  Oceanian
1 month ago

There was a time when the form strokes were considered important in Australia, but I think as the selection process changed, they became less relevant. I remember Jade Edmistone and Danni Miatke winning WC gold in the 50s, and that was (at least in Danni’s case) the only event she was really great at and was going to swim.

It seems that they’ve become less prioritised in Australia since then – they’re non-selection events after all.

Bailey
1 month ago

They need to get rid of these mixed relays all together, keep these more fun events for isl or pro swim series meets. Just tires out star swimmers even more and is huge for medal inflation

Fobby Binke
Reply to  Bailey
1 month ago

Except that general audiences (non-swimming people) liked mixed relays in the Olympics. Check out YouTube videos. and FINA (and broadcaster) knows this. They’re here to stay.

THEO
Reply to  Fobby Binke
1 month ago

4×50 medley same gender would be equally fun in my personal opinion, and definitely less redundant. But maybe the gender mixing is what these non-swimmer ppl like.

Olympian
Reply to  Bailey
1 month ago

Yesssss!!! Thank you for stating the obvious.
Also…. Who has time for the mile???

iLikePsych
Reply to  Olympian
1 month ago

Distance swimmers, since they aren’t doing many relays

Carlo
Reply to  Bailey
1 month ago

The medal inflation in swimming is ridiculous.

Just throwing more events in for medals.

commonwombat
Reply to  Bailey
1 month ago

There is an easier solution. Get rid on the meaningless, schedule-clogging wasters of time and exertion called semi-finals !!

Fastest 8 to finals, those not quick enough sit and watch certainly seems cut throat but international swimming ticked along quite fine without them when they were axed between 1980 & 2000. Only ONE medallist from last year’s Olympics was outside the fastest 8 from heats and only 1, sometimes 2 finalists per event.

The reality is that the only country with sufficient spread and depth that EVERY relay is a likely medallist. For most others, it often comes down to making cold blooded cost/benefit assessments as to whether a relay is sufficiently competitive and thus worth expenditure of peak… Read more »

Tony
Reply to  Bailey
1 month ago

The mixed medley relay is fine. The mixed free relay needs to go. All events should have just heats and finals, no semis.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tony

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming through scoring countless dual meets, being a timer, and keeping track of her teammates' best times for three years as a team manager. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in …

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