What Does Erin Gemmell’s 1:54.86 Split Mean for the U.S. Women’s 4×200 Free Relay?

by Spencer Penland 74

August 26th, 2022 National, News

2022 JUNIOR PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS

GIRLS 4×200 METER FREESTYLE RELAY – TIMED FINALS

  • Jr World: 7:51.47 – Canada (Sanchez, Oleksiak, Smith, Ruck) (2017)
  • Jr Pan Pac: 7:57.93 – USA (Tuggle, Ivey, Walsh, Nordmann) (2018)

Podium:

  1. United States (Kayla Wilson, Jillian Cox, Cavan GormsenErin Gemmell) – 7:54.70
  2. Australia (Jamie Perkins, Amelia Weber, Olivia Winsch, Milla Jansen) – 7:55.85
  3. Japan (Hinata Umeki, Misa Okuzono, Karin Ninomiya, Ruka Takezawa) – 8:01.38

American 17-year-old Erin Gemmell put on a show in the girls 4×200 free relay tonight at the 2022 Junior Pan Pacs in Honolulu. Facing a seemingly insurmountable Australian lead, Gemmell dove in for the anchor, rocketing to a stunning 1:54.86 split to carry the U.S. to victory and a new Championship Record. The performance comes after Gemmell won the individual girls 200 free last night in 1:56.15 shattering the Championship Record in that event. That wasn’t Gemmell’s personal best in the 200 free, however, as she swam a 1:56.14 at U.S. Nationals last month, taking 2nd to none other than Katie Ledecky.

With a pair of flat-start 1:56.1s and now her 1:54.86 split all in the last month, it’s safe to say Gemmell is cementing herself as one of the USA’s current top female 200 freestylers. Her times from Nationals and Jr Pan Pacs would have put her on the U.S. World Champs roster in the individual 200 free as well as the relay.

We know that 1:54.86 is of course a fast relay split, but how exactly does it stack up in the context of an elite senior international meet? Well, the short answer is that it stacks up very well. Let’s take the two most recent worldwide major championships: the 2022 World Champs and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which of course, took place in July of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the 2022 World Championships just 2 months ago, only 4 swimmers in the final split faster than Gemmell did tonight. Here is the breakdown of those splits:

  1. Katie Ledecky (USA) – 1:53.67
  2. Yang Junxuan (CHN) – 1:54.18
  3. Bella Sims (USA) – 1:54.60
  4. Summer McIntosh (CAN) – 1:54.79

Incredibly, Gemmell’s swim tonight actually compares more favorably against the splits from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic final. Only 3 swimmers in that field swam faster than Gemmell did tonight:

  1. Katie Ledecky (USA) – 1:53.76
  2. Yang Junxuan (CHN) – 1:54.37
  3. Ariarne Titmus (AUS) – 1:54.51

As for other major international competitions that have taken place this summer, Gemmell would have fared quite well in those meets too. At the Commonwealth Games, only Australians Ariarne Titmus (1:52.82) and Mollie O’Callaghan (1:54.80) split faster than Gemmell. Gemmell’s split tonight would have been the fastest at the European Championships, which took place just over a week ago.

So, what does this mean for the USA’s prospects in the women’s 4×200 free relay going forward? Well, it’s obviously a positive development. Of course, Katie Ledecky can be counted on to provide a sub-1:55 split at any major meet, and more often than not, it’s a sub-1:54. Fellow teenager Bella Sims splitting 1:54.60 at World Champs this summer is a huge as well, since now that she can be paired with Gemmell, the U.S. has 2 young girls who have proven to be able to split 1:55 on a relay. 15-year-old Claire Weinstein, Sims’ teammate on the Sandpipers of Nevada, also led Team USA off at the World Championships in 1:56.71. Given how young Weinstein is, she provides another bright spot for the Americans in terms of potentially being able to get down to that 1:55 range.

After the top 3 teams at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics last summer all broke the World Record, Australia lowered that mark again this summer at the Commonwealth Games, bringing the record mark under 7:40 for the first time ever. That’s why 1:55 is suddenly such an important mark for the women’s 4×200 free relay, as the World Record stands at 7:39.29, which is an average split of 1:54.82.

For the USA’s purposes, we know that Ledecky can reliably be under that mark on the biggest stages. In fact, she can even be counted on to lead off in that time or faster on a fairly consistent basis. That’s not to say we should expect to see Ledecky leading off the relay, since she’s proven at recent meets to be a very effective anchor. Simply for the math purposes though, with Ledecky’s consistency on the table, every swimmer who has proven to be able to split under 1:55, (Gemmell and Sims) increases the chances the U.S. has to break the World Record.

The women’s 4×200 free relay has suddenly become one of the most competitive events out there currently. Australia set the World Record just a month ago, and China set the previous record last summer in Tokyo. The U.S. was just 0.40 seconds behind China at the Olympics last summer, and now they’re looking stronger than ever in the event. It’s sort of hard to believe, but it now looks like either at the 2023 World Championships or the 2024 Olympics in Paris, we could see 3 teams all under 7:40 in the event at the same time, which would truly be an incredible race to watch.

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Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
28 days ago

It means that it will be highly unlikely that Hali Flickinger, Alex Walsh will qualify for top six in the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay at the 2023 USA Swimming International Team Trials especially with the future upside of Weinstein, Grimes, Sims, Gemmell.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
28 days ago

Ok.

Swimfan
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
27 days ago

As long as Walsh and flickinger make it in the 200 IM and 200 fly they could swim the prelims😉

Susan
29 days ago

Congrats to the new record breaking team!!

Joel Lin
29 days ago

Not to throw a dead fish into the chat, a real question for the SwimSwam overlords:

Has the intensity of the toxic political scene in Texas caused any pause, any second thoughts for recruits?

(I’m rooting for this Texas women’s staff to keep building up a powerhouse program…but, every effing day it is just one clownish gambit after another to own the libs, punch down on poor people & immigrants or religious fanaticism. That seems like a risk to me for Texas higher education institutions.)

Retired Swimmer
Reply to  Joel Lin
29 days ago

Um considering recruits are typically 17 – 18 I think they are more worried about having fun and going to a school with good academics and athletics than the state’s political scene.

What a weird comment for this thread.

Last edited 29 days ago by Retired Swimmer
Joel Lin
Reply to  Retired Swimmer
29 days ago

I don’t believe for one second young women in 11th or 12th grade are so vapid they’d not consider these matters, particularly the attacks on women’s autonomy in the recent 3-6 months.

Also goes as a given without added particulars that there is an abundance of schools with good academics and athletics in 49 states + commonwealths not Texas.

I don’t see how the point could be dismissed as a material risk for institutions like UT Austin, which is world class in every way situated in the great city of Austin. The issue & concern is the crazy goes 11 demagogues who run the state.

Retired Swimmer
Reply to  Joel Lin
29 days ago

They might think about it but I highly doubt politics make a significant difference in college swimming recruiting. These recruits care more about getting a good education and improving in swimming than state’s politics. It may affect some but it is not a significant enough factor to move the needle.

Regardless, this initial comment and discussion are completely irrelevant to the article.

Last edited 29 days ago by Retired Swimmer
Admin
Reply to  Retired Swimmer
29 days ago

I think 17-18 year olds are more civically engaged as a whole than previous generations’ 17-18 year olds.

Which doesn’t mean they all are, but it’s not outside of the realm of reason to believe that a handful of recruits every year will choose to go/not to go to a certain state’s colleges for political reasons – whether that be their political reasons or their parents’. That cuts in both directions.

Retired Swimmer
Reply to  Braden Keith
29 days ago

Sure, maybe a handful of recruits are “taking it into account” but not at a significant level to move the needle. Recruits are still going to prioritize academic and athletic potential of the university as well as how well they connect with the team and coaches over which political party the governor is from. This is a factor that would be far down on the pros/cons list. You’re going to UT Austin to try and make the Olympics/compete for national titles while also getting a top notch education.

Swimfan1000
Reply to  Braden Keith
29 days ago

For what it’s worth. I am a mom of a daughter who will be swimming at a top 20 program. She isn’t a “ranked” recruit (so her swim development was not our #1 priority), but she is listed as a BOTR so she did have opportunities at programs in red states. Attending school in a state where she will feel safe and where laws are not targeting women was a priority for us & she did turn down opportunities at programs in deep red states for that reason. Not knocking anyone who doesn’t take this into their calculation – as each person has different priorities, circumstances and opportunities, but I have to imagine we are not the only family out… Read more »

Last edited 29 days ago by Swimfan1000
Klyn
Reply to  Swimfan1000
28 days ago

Same for my daughter. She actually brought it up to me and it hadn’t even crossed my mind.

NCAA swimmer
Reply to  Swimfan1000
28 days ago

Targeting women? What about women having to race and change with biological males? Is this not considered targeting women? And something that actually directly affects college athletes? Not that this is has to even be a political topic, but typically blue states are supportive of this and actually encouraging it.

Go the Distance
Reply to  Braden Keith
29 days ago

So with all the great stuff you do on this website for the swim community why go out on Twitter to promote political hot takes from Barb? Please keep SwimSwam a sanctuary from political discourse.

Last edited 29 days ago by Go the Distance
ScovaNotiaSwimmer
Reply to  Retired Swimmer
29 days ago

You must be a dude

Meeeee
Reply to  Joel Lin
29 days ago

You seem to be talking jibberish. Be specific.

Joel Lin
Reply to  Meeeee
29 days ago

Oh, just off the top of my head; heartbeat laws, busing indigents to blue cities to own the libs, book bannings, pretending circa 1790-1870 US history is a game of narrative ping pong, laws protecting knuckleheads who want to do their grocery shopping with high capacity rifles.

You know, like, specific stuff, man.

Barb
Reply to  Joel Lin
29 days ago

Erin’s actual mom here. I have no idea about the other recruits, but Erin is well aware that Texas is our very own $hithole country within the country. She is also aware that Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and every other red state are no better. Quite honestly if the new governor of Virginia has his way, they will be grouped in there as well. Ultimately she made what she felt was the best decision for her swimming career in choosing Texas. (She actually asked me if I would forbid her to go to Texas and I gritted my teeth and told her it was her decision to make.)

The situation in those states will not improve if everyone flees.… Read more »

Joel Lin
Reply to  Barb
29 days ago

Thank you for this, Mrs. Gemmell. The comment is appreciated in context. I wish your for your daughter (not needed ) luck in the pool & a great life experience out of the pool at Texas. Austin is a great great great place to be, absent the political animus that may bubble up at times.

Yikes
Reply to  Joel Lin
29 days ago

We eat sleep and breathe political division in this country, I can’t turn on the radio or look at my phone notifications without reminders of how much infighting an unproductive “conversation” is being hurled in both directions all day. Can I please at least just have swimswam without a side of identity politics???

zyzz brah
Reply to  Barb
29 days ago

Calling texas a “$hithole” country is insane 😂😂

Big Daddy
Reply to  Barb
28 days ago

Barb,
Rhetoric like that is what is dividing this country. If you are that unhappy with things, take your family to Russia and see how that works out for you. There are a lot of fine people in the South that are both red and blue.

Sub13
Reply to  Big Daddy
28 days ago

Yes, rhetoric is what divides countries. Not actions.

Swifter
Reply to  Barb
28 days ago

Dear Barb,

I trust Erin to enjoy and excel in the pool.
I trust you, to have raised a sharp, aware young woman.
Youv’e got me rooting for her already.

Brian Tobin
Reply to  Barb
28 days ago

Barb,
good school, great coach, crappy politics. My hope for your daughter is the third one never gets in the way of the first two, or her pursuit of excellence. As a coach and as a parent, I appreciate your take and hope my daughters grow up to be moms like you.

cacarul
Reply to  Barb
27 days ago

Barb,

Thank you for your input, as a Texas resident I can assure you, it is a “$hithole country,” do not under ANY circumstance come here (for Erin’s own interest, of course)

Regards

ScovaNotiaSwimmer
Reply to  Joel Lin
29 days ago

I think this is a very important point and it is one that my favourite gymnastics podcast has been bringing up lately as well with regards to recruiting and striking down of Roe V Wade.
(The below is NOT directed at Erin, just a general statement)
No high-level high school age female athlete or her parents plan on her getting pregnant while in college but it happens and decisions made in Grades 10/11/12 on where they go to school can have a pretty big impact if they do happen to get pregnant in a state that doesn’t allow women bodily autonomy.

There’s been only 1 coach of a Division 1 gymnastics program that has publicly stated that… Read more »

NW Coach
Reply to  ScovaNotiaSwimmer
28 days ago

It’s completely naive to think that idealistic high achieving young women that are looking to swim or play other sports at the D1 won’t take into account how a state deals with a women’s right to chose or how the treat their LGBTQ citizens. Of course they are thinking about it and taking it into account. There will be schools in those states that lose athletes because of the decisions of the governors and state legislatures and they may never know it.

PhillyMark
29 days ago

1:56.7 Claire
1:54.8 Gemmell
1:54.6 Bella
1:53.7 Ledecky
7:39.8 AR

Miss M
Reply to  PhillyMark
29 days ago

So? Australian women on PB’s

1:54:01 MOC
1:55:68 Wilson
1:54:55 McKeon
1:53:31 Titmus
7:37:55

Buttafly
Reply to  Miss M
29 days ago

Weird reply. He was listing out a potential American record based on splits and literally mentioned nothing about Australia lol

Miss M
Reply to  Buttafly
28 days ago

More trying to highlight that getting everyone to fire at the same time is really hard. Australia hasn’t been anywhere near that time … even when they broke the WR at Comm Games Wilson and MOC were off their PBs

Swam6
Reply to  Miss M
29 days ago

Australian women’s PBS don’t count towards American records FYI. That’s what this comment was about

Swimfan
Reply to  Miss M
29 days ago

Let’s not forever put in Schmitt American record 1:53.6 would hypothetically lower your prediction by 3 seconds

Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Reply to  Swimfan
28 days ago

Sour grapes from the Aussie fan base.

Weinstein – DOB 03/01/2007
Sims – DOB 05/25/2005
Gemmell – DOB 12/02/2004

Lisa
Reply to  Miss M
29 days ago

Moc PB is actually on individual race which is different from relay.

Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Reply to  Lisa
28 days ago

Let’s not forget that Australia achieved the objective of eight bronze medals in the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics.

LOL!

Robbos
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
28 days ago

But the Aussies did win 6 individual golds in the women’s side in Tokyo & taking out the 4 major premier events 50, 100, 200 & 400 free in Tokyo, very impressive stuff.

Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Reply to  Robbos
28 days ago

Calendar Year 2021 is ancient history. Australia came crashing down to earth in Calendar Year 2022 at the 2022 FINA World Aquatics Championships.

Furthermore, USA won the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay at the 2022 FINA World Aquatics Championships with a Championship Record (CR).

Sub13
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
28 days ago

The Australian women missing from the 2022 world champs won more gold medals at the last Olympics than the entire American team lol

Swimfan
Reply to  Sub13
27 days ago

That’s what happens when this is morning finals same thing happened in Beijing when it was morning finals the Aussie won 6 gold (2 of them relays) and the American women won only 2 gold and zero relays

Lisa
Reply to  Robbos
28 days ago

All those freestyle is impressive including one american who is unbeatable right now in 800 and 1500

Troyy
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
28 days ago

And the US also got smashed by the Chinese.

Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Reply to  Troyy
28 days ago

Meanwhile, USA smashed CHN in the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay at the 2022 FINA World Aquatics Championships.

IOC Country Codes
CHN – People’s Republic of China
USA – United States of America

Yikes
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
28 days ago

can you please just stop? Your comments make absolutely zero sense and your tone is demeaning and mean-spirited. As an American, it’s embarrassing to see the way you talk about other swimmers, particularly the Australians. There is absolutely no need for your commentary.

Sub13
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
28 days ago

12 Australian women won a gold medal in Tokyo. 5 won multiples golds.

2 American women won a gold medal. 1 won multiple golds.

Your rude and delusional rants are honestly the worst part about SwimSwam. This website would be so much better for everyone if you stopped participating.

Lisa
Reply to  Sub13
28 days ago

It’s just one Olympics and I’m pretty sure us gonna do much better in the next one

Sub13
29 days ago

It doesn’t really change much. Australia, USA, China and Canada are all close enough that any of them could win depending on who pulls it together on the day.

Lisa
Reply to  Sub13
29 days ago

But actually what we seen this year it’s between USA and Aus cause they both are the top 2 right now with China and Canada as the dark horse

Sub13
Reply to  Lisa
29 days ago

Australia and USA are definitely the top two. But that was the case before this split as well. Even taking the top 4 American splits from this year would be slower than the Aussie WR they just set. However, Australia has fumbled this relay 2 out of the last 3 times they have swum it.

While China hasn’t done anything special this year, it is an off year especially for them and they are the reigning Olympic champions. I wouldn’t dismiss them.

Canada is potentially a dark horse. But if Summer keeps going on the trajectory she’s on she could get down to a 1:53 split, and Ruck and Oleksiak both have 1:54 mid flat starts. Admittedly, Savard is their… Read more »

Lisa
Reply to  Sub13
29 days ago

I think there’s more to that wr and 1.56 is their slowest split and yes the us times is more slower than the aus wr but I also think these four team have the potential to break that wr going forward

Robbos
Reply to  Lisa
28 days ago

MOC swam 1.54.01 in the 200 free & is 18 years old. So the potential is there to swim a lot faster in the relay in the coming years.

Last edited 28 days ago by Robbos
Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Reply to  Sub13
28 days ago

Hogwash!

Jackson
Reply to  Lisa
29 days ago

I sure hope you meant “what we HAVE seen”.

Lisa
Reply to  Jackson
29 days ago

Actually I really have doubt about whether Canada can win because when was the last time they won women 800 relay in major international meet and sure they have McIntosh who can still improved a lot but I’m not sure about the rest.

Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Reply to  Lisa
28 days ago

Canada does not have a fourth relay swimmer in the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay:

McIntosh (1:54.79)
Oleksiak (1:55.83)
Ruck (1:56.75)
????

Furthermore, Erin Gemmell’s relay split was faster than the relay splits posted by Oleksiak (1:55.83) and Ruck (1:56.75) in the final of the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay at the 2022 FINA World Aquatics Championships.

Lisa
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
28 days ago

They really need their swimmer to deliver and going forward I think you need at least 1.55 for the slowest split to have a chance to challenge for the win and I need somebody to tell me when was the last time Canada set the wr record or even win the world championship or the Olympics in 800 free relay cause right now they need another swimmer that can go to the level of McIntosh to have a chance to win

Last edited 28 days ago by Lisa
Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
29 days ago

What does it mean? It’s a major upgrade to 27 year old Leah Smith (DOB 04/19/1995), who is on the downslope of her swimming career. In addition, Erin Gemmell’s relay split is faster than the relay splits of Katie McLaughlin (1:55.38) and Paige Madden (1:55.25) posted in the final of the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. Furthermore, Erin Gemmell’s relay split (1:54.86) is faster Katie McLaughlin’s personal best relay split (1:55.36) in the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay.

MCH
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
29 days ago

You gonna change your username?

Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Reply to  MCH
28 days ago

Let’s wait until after the 2023 FINA World Aquatics Championships.

Yikes
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
29 days ago

Why did you include Leah’s birthdate? And just hers? So weird.

Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Reply to  Yikes
28 days ago

To confirm that Leah Smith is 27 years old.

As for the rest, Allison Schmitt has not swam since the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, Katie McLaughlin has not swam since the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, Paige Madden has been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.

commonwombat
29 days ago

Quite obviously strengthens USA’s hand. Anyone would take another 1.54 leg gleefully.

A game changer ? Not really, in that it doesn’t rewrite the overall picture to a major extent. 1.54 legs are certainly very valuable but sub 1.54s are the “wtf” gamechangers and there are currently only 2 of those in the picture with Ledecky and Titmus.

At this point, neither CHN or CAN possess one; McIntosh could potentially bring CAN into that club. Should either USA or AUS gain an additional such leg; ie via Sims/Gemmell (USA) or MOC (AUS); and no one else counters; then its certainly Adv whomever unless their other legs fall away terribly …. and both appear to have solid depth in that regard.

Robbos
Reply to  commonwombat
29 days ago

MOC swam 1.54.01 in the Commonwealth final as an 18 year old, give it a flying start equates to about 1.53.5 flying start in relay. But you like to sleep on her.
Claire Winestien (spelling) 1.56.74 as a 15 year old, big upside.

commonwombat
Reply to  Robbos
29 days ago

An amazing performance by MOC; it categorically places her as an enormous medal contender (or even title contender for that matter) in the individual race.

However, we are talking relay rather than individual race; and in particular actual relay performances that have been delivered rather than just potential to do so. As yet MOC, or McIntosh for that matter, have not done so.

Do I think she can join that club ? Certainly

Liklihood ? Would like to think so given that 1.54flat swim. However, this was only her 1st year as part of the “A” quartet so inexperience was most likely a factor in her 4X200 outing this year.

If she can maintain form, let alone trajectory, going… Read more »

ooo
Reply to  commonwombat
29 days ago

McIntosh did lead the relay in Budapest and pretty much delivered. (1:54.79 WJR). She had good CG performances as well in the medlay.

Lisa
Reply to  commonwombat
29 days ago

Yes but it’s definitely a boost to the us in this relay and that’s why I never bought they gonna be off the podium like the prediction they made before this year wc

REL
Reply to  commonwombat
29 days ago

McIntosh has lots of scope to improve her 200 time. She said after the 4×200 at the Commonwealth Games that she wasn’t happy with her own swim in the relay, but saw it as a learning experience, never mind improving as she gets a little older. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h56DkNRgLzA Then she blasted a 100 free split in the medley relay right after a 400 free (53:33.

jeff
Reply to  commonwombat
29 days ago

I don’t know, improving by x amount of time on a slower leg helps the relay just as much as improving the same amount on a faster leg. MOC dropping a second from her relay best and going a 1:53.8 would be very helpful, but Kiah Melverton dropping a second and going a 1:54 mid would help just as much.

The world record right now would be beaten by a 1:54.8 average so having a full team of sub 1:55s is absolutely a game changer right now, at least until we get to the point where teams both have that depth and star power like Titmus or Ledecky

swimgeek
Reply to  commonwombat
28 days ago

This is true in a literal CURRENT sense — i.e., 154.8 is not a game-changer from a 155.2 Madden/McLaughlin swim. However, Madden and McL are deep into their careers and not likely to get faster. Gemmell is a 17-yr-old kid on a massive improvement curve. For looking at Paris 2022, Gemmell has a legit shot to be one of those 1:53 rarities – where the vets do not. This IS a big deal – b/c of the potential.

Lisa
Reply to  swimgeek
28 days ago

Yeah but both of them is a veteran and I take 1.55 cause that at least minimum a slowest split and can make a difference as we seen last year at the Olympics and they not gonna always get that mid 1.54 split.

Robbos
29 days ago

Edit.

Last edited 29 days ago by Robbos